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My girl was released from a down stay and called to me, but a dog got loose from its owner and the two of them ran into the road..she got hit. She didn't break anything, and she seems to be fine but now I feel like it is my fault for having her off leash in the first place. We were doing so good with training, and just had to perfect recall around other dogs. This dog came out of nowhere, I'm usually able to leash her the second I see another dog so we have never had something like this happen. Accidents happen in training but I'm terrified that it will happen again. She is a working stock dog but lives with me off the farm, so she requires hours upon hours of additional exercise. I have hip issues and can not run, so the only way to properly exercise her is to let her chase the ball/train her distance stays/recalls and the like. You can't do that on a leash. I dont want her to be leash bound forever, she is such a good dog. I just dont know how to be comfortable with her off of one again. Any suggestions? I've never encountered something like this.
 

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When a dog is off leash in an unfenced area, there is always an aspect of risk. You can only proof so much, and with most dogs, they will eventually blow off a recall. At some point, they are almost definitely going to find something more interesting than you. That is why E-collars are so popular in teaching recall- which (IMO) can have its own severe consequences for the wrong dogs and in the wrong hands.

Some people have an "emergency recall" cue where they train it to mean "come to me for something really exciting" and reward pretty much every time the dog comes with large amounts of high value treats. I think @Shadula does this, and I know the service dog training program I'm involved with right now teaching a 3-whistle emergency recall to all their dogs that they train using brisket and hot dog, giving the reward every time.

Personally, for times when I want to give my dog off leash exercise I am a fan of having her on a longline or dragging a shorter longline. I have a 30' 1/2", strong, nylon one and a 50' very thing nylon rope one that I put her on and hold the end of, and plan to get a 10 or 15' paracord one that she can drag behind her.

Donna Hill has a really good series on youtube about teaching recall, I'll see if I can find it and post it tomorrow if I can.
 

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OK, now that I'm a little more awake, I went back and found that Youtube series I was talking about. First, I want to go more into about how I feel about letting dogs off leash because I was tired and not super eloquent last night, and then I'll put the links for the series by Donna Hill and summaries of what she recommends in each step, and then I'll talk about how I like to teach and proof a recall (which takes some stuff from her and some from others), and I'll mention a few other good recall training resources.

How I feel about letting a dog off leash: In my opinion, watching your dog run and play off leash and knowing that you can recall that dog for any reason and it will come is one of the greatest joys of life with a dog. That said, not all dogs should be off leash, and I do not like to let a dog off leash completely until I feel 100% confident that they will return to me when I call for any reason, be it predator near bye, cars, another dog (friendly or unfriendly), strangers approaching, whatever. Get a good longline- Petsmart sells them these days, and some other stores do as well; any store with horse supplies will likely have one. Find one long enough to allow the dog room to run and with a handle you can hold, and make sure it is attached to a harness and not a collar- a dog hitting then end of a longline in a collar can hurt itself badly. Be realistic about when the dog is ready to be off the long line, and realize that having a dog fully loose is always a risk, even if you feel 100% sure that dog will come back when you call. Personally, I've started to prefer to wait until a dog is at least 2, maybe even 3, before I dub them 'safe', because until then I just don't feel that dog has a solid enough history with the recall cue to be called 100% safe off leash, and that is assuming you've been training that dog that cue since it was a puppy.

NOTE: First, to teach a good recall I think it is imperative to use a marker word or noise that means "you did well, here's a treat". I prefer to use one that has been conditioned strongly to always be followed by a treat, because those words are valuable/exciting enough to make dogs come running (you'll see what I mean below in the Donna Hill Video). With my dog, I use a clicker. With the dogs I work with from school- which is also a service dog program, they use "yes" and always follow it with a treat the same way you would with a clicker, because the client's they will eventually place dogs with can't use clickers because of mobility limitations. Be sure that whatever you choose has been "primed" independently of training sessions, and is always followed by either a treat or something else the dog wants (a toy/play, sniffing, whatever).
Some links about markers:
Leerburg | The Power of Training Dogs with Markers (leerburg is not my favorite website/training organization overall, but they have good info about markers)
Markers, Cues, & Release Words - Fundamentals of Dog Training
Why I like clickers: Why Can't I Just Use My Voice? | Karen Pryor Clicker Training
NOTE ABOUT CLICKERS: they are most effective when you have good timing. If your timing at clicking sucks, they will be ineffective, so if you know you struggle with timing, keep that in mind. By timing I mean how long it takes you to see a behavior you want, process it, and tell the dog in however way you do that it has done the right thing. Even a 4 second delay is a long delay in this case.

Likely you already understand the basics of a marker, but thought I'd put it in there just in case.

The Donna Hill Video Series:
Step 1 in Shaping a Recall: Capturing a Check In
I like this because it trains the dog that just because they are outside doesn't mean you no longer matter. Instead, you become something really, really fun to look at because they get something exciting for doing so. My dog will literally stare at me to the point of running into things if she's in a loose leash heel because that's how we started teaching check ins- its very funny.

Part 2: Shaping a Recall

I like this because it immediately puts recall in a real world situation. A lot of people start training a recall by putting the dog in a sit/stay, walking a few feet away, and calling the dog. That dog now thinks a recall cue needs a sit/stay beforehand, and that is a useless cue in the real world. I always start my dogs learning their recall cue off leash indoors, trying to get in at least 10 repetitions a day. With my puppies that are still house training, every time they wander out of sight I recall them and give them a treat. With older dogs, it may be when they've started playing with a toy and the reward is we play tug for a little bit. I have to try to get a video of the 4 month old Golden/Poodle I'm working with romping towards me when we practice his informal recall cue, it is so cute.

Part 3: Distractions
I would recommend trying to find a large place where friendly dogs frequent, take your dog in a longline and use them as distractions. Or, have your friends bring their dogs to a yard to play with yours, or something similar. Your dog needs to have a flawless recall in the face of all else before this though, because recalling off other dogs is one of the hardest things to proof.

Part 4: Premack Principle
This is by far the best part of this series. Far too many people only use the recall cue when they need to the dog to come back to it when really it can be a great game, a good way to practice impulse control, and a good mental challenge for the dog to have to pause in what it wants to do before it is given the OK to return to it. Try to build as long a history as possible with that cue that it means "come back to me and then you get to go do something fun again" and not "come back to me because I need to put a leash on you". If it means "come back so I can leash you"- which it almost always does- eventually the dog is going to blow it off because it found something else that it wants to do. If it meant "come back to me and then you can go do the fun thing you want" 500 times that year, except for the 4 times that year when you used it in an actually dangerous situation, then the dog is much, much less likely to ever feel the need to blow it off.

How I teach a Recall: I focus on starting with capturing check ins and encouraging a dog stay near me on walks, then move to adding the cue when the dog is running towards me, and then go systematically through distractions (I plan to keep a document of possible distractions/situations in the future so I and clients can check them off one by one). Until I consider that dog "finished", they get kept on a longline. When we go on walks or play fetch on a long line, recalls are part of that game/activity and are always followed by getting to do something the dog likes. I also really like recall games, which I'll go into below.

Recall Games are something developed my Susan Garett, who is an agility trainer, and are designed to build the drive of that dog to return to you. Google the term, you'll find a great deal of results. Restrained Recalls are on of the best
Restrained Recalls around other dogs would be great for high level proofing, IMO.

ETA: be sure you're using very high value treats, and keep them varied so the dog never knows what it will get. I suggest things like hot dog, chicken, pepperoni, lunch meats, and cheese.
 

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@Moonstream Gold Advice as usual, nothing to add there. @Stockdogsandmore, sounds like you had a serious scare, and an unusual event, and a well-trained dog. Maybe you just need to chock it up to "stuff" happens, and continue on, maybe find locations further from roads.
If your dog doesn't listen around dogs in general, then that would be something to work on, but if this incident was due to your dog being blindsided by a suprise flying dog, then maybe we're back to "stuff happens".
Glad your dog is all right, and with a little caution, maybe change location, maybe still offlead ready.

Ps. About long-lines great stuff, I use them, but caution; I severely injured my hand, 4 month recovery time, and, if using it as a drag line, a lost dog can become tangled in the bush and won't be able to find their way home. Stuff to ponder--life ain't safe, so it's a matter of risk vs benefits assessment.
Have fun with your dog!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you everyone! It really helps to be reassured that accidents happen and it wasn't entirely anyone's fault. I appreciate the references I will check them out! I really like the idea of a golden word for emergency situations, I will be sure to implement that! I do a similar thing with corrections. HEY is a sort of warning like to let her know shes doing something wrong, but NO is reserved for very bad things (breaking stay, not returning immediately when called, etc). I am confident in our training and ready to get back in sync. Thanks you again!
 
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