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Hello, to make this story short...

We ( family of 2 adults+ 2 teens) adopted an Australian Shepard Red Merle puppy from a registered breeder last May. We joined puppy training classes, took great care of him and things were challenging but we didn't give up. He was very anxious around other dogs and strangers but loving at home. He slept well, potty training was easy and he didn't chew our furniture. He was getting bigger and bigger and we still worked hard to train him properly.

Our vet thought that he was big for his age so last August, she analyzed his dentition and was certain that he was older than what was written on his birth certificate.( about 3 months more) Well it turned out that the breeder ceased operations, sold their farm and couldn't be contacted. So, our puppy wasn't properly socialized and the breeder probably wanted to keep him to breed but changed their minds.

We have tried working with different certified dog trainers to lessen his level of anxiety around other dogs, to make sure that he followed our commands , all of this without success. Trainers always want more money but all of the improvements have come from changing our own attitude. We keep working on it even if it is very discouraging.

When we are inside the house or in our yard, he follows all of the basic commands. He can even do many tricks. He is very intelligent but stubborn. He is affectionate and he doesn't bite. He gets plenty of exercise since we walk him at least 3 times every day. He also chews on toys and we give him things to work on/solve.

The main issue is that he doesn't come at all when we call him and we are afraid for his safety. He has escaped from the house( by accident when someone came knocking for a package) and wouldn't come back on command. He ran more than a km away, even crossed a busy road and would not come back. We have tried to train him for that but he doesn't respond. We looked at many dog training videos, read tons of articles...

Could it just be that our dog doesn't respect us? Or is it his personality? We are worried for his safety and we don't want him to be hit by a car.
Any suggestions or help would be appreciated. He is now aged between 15 and 18 months old.

Thanks
 

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It isn't about respect as such, dogs will do what they find safe or rewarding.

In my view there are three main reasons why a dog doesn't do as you ask. One, they don't understand; two, the reward or benefit or motivation of doing what they are doing is greater than the reward or benefit or motivation of coming to you; or three, you are working against a deeply rooted breed trait (there is a reason we don't use terriers to herd sheep - it could be trained but it's going to be a lot harder). I think in your situation, it's likely to be the second one.

So, I'd suggest you start small. I don't know if this has happened but a lot of people poison their recall by repeating ”come Rover” when the dog isn't doing it, so he learns that coming on first shout is optional. So I'd get a new cue, personally I like a whistle because it is consistent and easy to hear.

First charge the whistle - simultaneously pip the whistle and feed piece of something fabulous like roast chicken or frankfurter sausage. Maybe use something he hasn't had before to make the whistle super special. Because coming to the whistle has to be far, far better than anything else. If he isn't food driven maybe a new special toy that he only gets when he recalls.

Do this five times then have a break. Repeat the exercise five times in the day (so 5 x 5). Now he knows that whistle = fabulous reward.

Next day start whistling from another room in your house. He should be haring through for his treat. Then take it to the garden.

When he is reliable, do it in a low distraction environment outside. Outside, for his own safety, keep him on a long line though - this also gives you control and helps you reinforce the recall. A long line should only ever be attached to a harness, never a collar as your dog could reach the end while he is running and damage his neck.

Once you are getting really strong recall from him start varying the reward - sometimes special reward, sometimes ordinary dog food, sometimes just an ear rub - the not knowing what reward he will get seems to keep dogs more engaged, apparently it's similar to the reason people play slot machines.

There is a very good book by Pippa Mattinson called Total Recall.
 
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