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BC rescue- training for backcountry travel


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Hello!

I’m new to border collies and rescues and I’ve been following these discussions for the last few months.
About two and a half months ago, we adopted a ~6 yo male BC, named Rooster. We found him abandoned in the desert at our campsite, and luckily he had a collar. 
 
It’s quite the backstory, but we discovered: 
-he’s had at least 3 owners prior to us, all of them ranchers
-He became uninterested in cattle and sheep
-Was kenneled for longer periods of time later in life (we had to pull five teeth)
He’s such a sweet dog but generally only allows me and my partner to give him love. With others he’s rather skittish and becomes afraid when people pet him for too long, especially men.(were practicing “doggy consent” now)
 
I’m going to obedience classes with him (he is excelling!), we will start agility this week and we are training him as a backcountry dog (I.e. hiking, backpacking, skiing, etc) 
 
Top things we’re working on are:
Confidence
Socialization
Recall and staying CLOSE
 
Recognizing that he herds and is used to operating at a distance, he hasn’t a clue that his new owners do not prefer the wide berth he gives while traveling in the backcountry. His recall within 30 yards on trail is stellar but the farther we’re out, the more wild he gets. We absolutely cannot have him far ahead of us, or lurking in the distant periphery and ignoring us, due to the nature of our objectives and tight navigational boundaries. 
I give him lots of praise for checking in, we play hide and seek, and I will also change directions on him when he hasn’t checked-in to keep him on his toes. I’ve learned to trust that he will find me (the nose goes!), but after heavily practicing recall, we need the next level up.
I’ve purchased a remote collar(beep vibrate shock, likely only will use the beep) and am learning how to use it before I put it on him. 
I would love all of the tips and tricks to get Rooster to stay close with and without the ecollar.
[Side note: we regularly work on lead, and he excels with this. I truly need recommendations, stories, successes, challenges, etc for off leash training]
Thank you all!

P.s. he is very cute 

399CC6EA-BA17-42C8-9100-BFFA68B03143.jpeg

58FF2D12-3082-4CB8-9092-533DE95A2616.jpeg

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  • Rooster changed the title to BC rescue- training for backcountry travel

Why can’t you call him every time he hits the boundary? That’s exactly how I taught all my dogs and is what I do with all my guest dogs (I am a dogsitter). 
 

I don’t see the difference in calling him back and hitting the button on the collar. 

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2 hours ago, Flora & Molly said:

Why can’t you call him every time he hits the boundary? That’s exactly how I taught all my dogs and is what I do with all my guest dogs (I am a dogsitter). 
 

I don’t see the difference in calling him back and hitting the button on the collar. 

To be honest, I get tired of calling him back so frequently. And of course I’m doing this. I’m hoping to gain insight to other tactics people have used that have taught their dogs to stay close. 

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Thank you for rescuing Rooster. He sounds like a gem.

You have only had him for a very short time, and are expecting too much from him. It is too much to expect the type of connection and obedience you are currently asking for after only 2 1/2 months, when he has had 6 YEARS to practice unwanted behavior. I wouldn't expect the level of distant connection that you want for at least 6 months to a year.

Just be patient. Continue to do everything you are doing to increase confidence and to build a connection. IMHO, using a collar at this stage may backfire. Again, PATIENCE will be your friend.

Until he can respond at a greater than 30 foot distance, just keep him on a long line. It sounds like if you keep up the positive training, he will eventually respond at 35, 40 and 50 feet, and so on - but it will take time. (There is that pesky patience again.)

**I’ve purchased a remote collar(beep vibrate shock) and am learning how to use it before I put it on him. I just can’t call him or tell him to wait every time he hits my personal boundary for proximity.**  Again, at this point in time, don't take the lazy way out. It may break the trust you have built so far. (Note, I am not against e-collars, but only consider them for life and death situations.

I understand that you may grit your teeth when he won't respond as you had hoped after putting all that training into him (although 2 1/2 months is nothing). I adopted a 13 month old that had been allowed to run the fence with the neighboring horses. She had definitely developed an OCD complex about chasing/running. She would just run for the joy of it. To make a long story short, it was about 16-18 months before I could trust her (on my own land) to stay within sight. Whenever I went off my land, she was always on a long line. Unfortunately, I lost her to epilepsy when she was 3 years old so never did see her potential.

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1 hour ago, gcv-border said:

Thank you for rescuing Rooster. He sounds like a gem.

You have only had him for a very short time, and are expecting too much from him. It is too much to expect the type of connection and obedience you are currently asking for after only 2 1/2 months, when he has had 6 YEARS to practice unwanted behavior. I wouldn't expect the level of distant connection that you want for at least 6 months to a year.

Im so sorry to hear that you lost your dog.

Thank you for your words. He really is a gem. I’ve completely fallen for him.
I realize I’m asking a lot of him, but we are building slowly. I know that patience is key. 
In addition to the “games” I’ve been playing while on trail, I’m seeking other opportunities to engage him to be mindful of me while we’re out. I want to have these in my tool box for now and in the future, and I love to hear other people’s stories and ways in which they train.

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Not that this will help in actual training...but perhaps in training you! 

I adopted a dog about two years ago, about two years old,  who probably had never been allowed to run free.  I hike a *lot* so a recall was important.  Like yours, he was good when he was close.  (BTW, he never had access to livestock, so no herding instinct there.)  We did lots of "up close" work to start with.  Now, after two years, if I call him and he comes back, he gets treats!  (He *is* very food motivated!)  I have two other dogs, one of whom does have an excellent recall, so I do think that helps.  

Just to point out that time is your friend.  Or your enemy.  Or your frenemy!

Good luck and keep us posted!

diane

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4 hours ago, Rooster said:

To be honest, I get tired of calling him back so frequently. And of course I’m doing this. I’m hoping to gain insight to other tactics people have used that have taught their dogs to stay close. 

I can imagine! Unfortunately I don’t really know another way of doing this. Although when you keep it up he might get tired of it too and stay a bit closer. One thing that keeps my dog really close is the tennis ball, I don’t really have to throw it often, as long as I have it she stays close in case I do throw it. Might be something to try if he is toy motivated. Although I’m not sure it translates to learning to stay close without the ball :P

Lovely dog by the way, he looks a bit like mine with that thin stripe plus the adoring look in the first picture :wub:

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1 hour ago, diane allen said:

Not that this will help in actual training...but perhaps in training you! 

I adopted a dog about two years ago, about two years old,  who probably had never been allowed to run free.  I hike a *lot* so a recall was important.  Like yours, he was good when he was close.  (BTW, he never had access to livestock, so no herding instinct there.)  We did lots of "up close" work to start with.  Now, after two years, if I call him and he comes back, he gets treats!  (He *is* very food motivated!)  I have two other dogs, one of whom does have an excellent recall, so I do think that helps.  

Just to point out that time is your friend.  Or your enemy.  Or your frenemy!

Good luck and keep us posted!

diane

Thanks Diane! He LIVES for food so I always have treats on hand. I have a shepherd who already stays very close and as soon as he seems me whip the bag out he’s giving me the stare for his reward. So needless to say, I go through a lot of treats, lol. 

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7 hours ago, Rooster said:

To be honest, I get tired of calling him back so frequently. And of course I’m doing this. I’m hoping to gain insight to other tactics people have used that have taught their dogs to stay close. 

Have you considered adding noise-makers to your tool-kit?

NOT an air horn !

Something that is JUST sufficient to carry over the distance in question and be heard by the dog's superior senses.  A sound that is non-startling, pleasant and distinctive amongst competing sounds within the environment.

Two general types might be in order:  a) the "Here I am" version and b) the "Rooster, come NOW" version.  Success with the former might negate need for anything for the latter other than your voice/whistle.

The purpose of the "Here I am" noisemaker is to provide a point of reference.  YOU wear the noise-maker and the dog registers your location subconsciously, ideally aligning its course/progress with yours instinctively.

A simple example of the HIA-Nm can be assembled using a small lightweight carabiner of the sort sold for keys at hardware & convenience stores. Add two or three metal washers of different sizes/materials (steel, brass, aluminum) to the carabiner, then clip the carabiner to the laces of one boot.  When you walk, you will sound like Cap'n Ahab.

  • Cheap & durable
  • Self-actuating
  • Secure, yet nonpermanent
  • The washers are FAR easier to clean after mud immersion than bells
  • No batteries

To overcome the absence of sound from the boot-mounted HIA-Nm while standing still, consider creating a similar device with a grip strap (or some means of attaching to outwear.)  Then it is a simple matter to continue broadcasting your location just by idly manipulating the second noisemaker in your hand.  (I don't recommend walking w/o a collar in the back country, but I do this in my non-b/c environment.  I carry the collar & its tags on the end of a 5m (15ft) leash coiled in my hand, wrist movement shakes the collar links and tags.)

As for a "come NOW" noisemaker.  Although I am confident that one can be developed through selection of a suitable device and the application of reward-based training, fortunately this hasn't been necessary in my circumstances.  (I am pleased not to need to carry additional stuff.)

For us, introduction of the passive "Here I am" noisemaker essentially eliminated most of the recurring active communication required previously.   My dog began to remain in closer proximity and I was not compelled to call him as often.  I believe this relieved us BOTH from "command fatigue."

When I DO need to call my BC in closer now, the infrequency of the task assists with putting some vigor into the command, making the command distinctive from my conversational voice and increasing the "Signal" portion of the "Signal-to-Noise" ratio in the dog's auditory environment.  For his part, I find my BC is more responsive.  As he is complying, I reward with verbal encouragement and physical affection.   The net result is that it is rare for me to call more than once.

Of course, YMMV.

 

 

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Hi there. It sounds as though you are giving this rescue dog a good home. I agree with the above posts that say you are expecting too much too soon with this dog. 2.5 months is no time at all. Be patient, and you will get to where you want to be with him. Push the issue, especially with the use of an electronic collar, even if you only use the beep, and you may lose the ground you already have. Really, what does it matter if it takes three months or six months or more for your dog to bond to you enough to learn this? Your relationship with the dog should always come first, not what you think should be happening at a certain time.

Seriously, I cannot stress enough how important patience is with this. My border collies all came to me as adults and all of them became perfect hiking dogs. They would run ahead of me, but always check back regularly. If I needed for them to come, they came. But this didn't happen in only two or three months! The patience I used in training them is, I am certain, responsible for their solid loyalty to this behavior no matter where we were. I could camp in the wilderness and let them loose, and even if I didn't see one of them for a half hour I would never worry, knowing he or she would return. I think if I had tried to hurry this process along it would have been disastrous. And these dogs had not been trained, as yours has, to leave their handler to herd livestock.

The transition you seek will happen, and it will be much more solid if you let it happen on the dog's time table and you don't push your own time table on the dog. Respect the process and the amount of time your dog needs, and in time you will get there. 

 

 

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** I give him lots of praise for checking in, we play hide and seek, and I will also change directions on him when he hasn’t checked-in to keep him on his toes. I’ve learned to trust that he will find me (the nose goes!), but after heavily practicing recall, we need the next level up. **

I have re-read your OP and the replies.  In response to one reply, you say that he loves food, and you also say (above) that you give him lots of praise for checking in.  TBH, giving him praise is sort of a ho-hum reinforcement.  When I train recall (which is of critical importance), I pull out the REALLY AWESOME reinforcements in the beginning, and intermittently even once the recall is pretty solid.

Each dog will have a hierarchy of reinforcements. You should note which reinforcements the dog will accept, but are so-so about, vs the reinforcements that they go crazy over. For some dogs, treats are the best, and for other dogs, toys are at the top of the hierarchy. (For example, I have a dog that is so toy-focused that I can drop chicken on his head while he stares at a toy, never budging to eat the chicken.)

Also, note that running away from your dog will activate their chase instinct and add even more excitement and fun to recall training.

To be specific, when I start recall training, I bring out the awesome treats or toys. I will work somewhat closely and note which reinforcers excite the dog the most. Then I will wait until the dog starts wandering away, call his name and your recall word (Spot Come) and run like heck in the opposite direction. With a puppy, I will wait until they are only about 5-10 feet away and then I only have to run away for a few steps. When they catch up to you, keep up the energy in your voice when you praise them and give them awesome treats (or play tug with a tug toy). Since you are training an older dog that already knows recall, but you want to get a better/faster/more consistent recall, wait until he is about 20-30 feet away, then try the "Spot Come" and run away. See what he does. Does it create excitement for him? Great. (Try it a few times because he may be confused at first before he catches on to the game.) I like to incorporate some of the chase recall training even in my older dogs to try and keep them sharp.

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