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Dog Ignores me Outside

2990 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  busannie
Hey all!

What did you find was the best way to get your dog to pay attention better outside?

My dog Axel (GS and Lab mix) is amazing in the house. Comes when called, sits, lays down etc. Learned how to stay in like 5 attempts which I'm proud of :-D. The most important thing is once you say his name, he immediately directs his attention towards you.

Once we go outside, if we play with the ball or a stick he'll pay attention (to the toy mostly), but at least he's looking at me. I refuse to throw the toy or anything until he does something for me, like sit, lay down, stay etc. This seems to have helped a bit.

Sometimes though, I'll throw the ball, and he'll chase it then get interested in something else then wander a bit, smelling around, and if I call him, I get nothing. If I take a toy, and wave it around or stomp my feet, he'll then look at me. Otherwise, just saying his name in a normal, friendly, or somewhat loud tone has no effect. He just zones me out.

It's not a HUGE deal in the yard but we have a huge park nearby and a dog park that I'd like to let him off the leash and whatnot, but trust that he will recognize my voice, and come when called.

I know outside there is a lot more stimulation and things to do and smell for him so I know why he's distracted. I just would like tips on how to correct it.

Another related note: if we play outside, and then I go inside, he does not come when called. He'll just sit there, and I'll just get to a point I leave him out there and go inside and close the door. Not long after, he comes to the door.

Any input would be appreciated!

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Keep him on a long line and increase distance slowly as his recall and attention improves. Work at his pace and set him up for success! Practice recall games and use higher value treats.
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Thanks for your reply!

What kind of recall games do you think are good? The problem I have with treats is that once he knows I have them, he'll get excited and follow me anyways... its hard to teach a dog to come when he's already there :p

We also do generally keep him on a line attached to a stake in the ground.
Try to hide the treats and don't rest your hands in the pouch they're held in. Only treat him when he offers to come to you or gives your attention. You WANT him to come to you and if treats get him there, that's good!! Eventually, you can wean him off the treats and he'll still be good. Also, don't always just treat him, play with him and praise him too. YOU want to be the good thing he's coming to, not just the treats. Hold onto the line and walk somewhere with him. That will teach him to only go so far away from you before checking in. And reward every check in. Also, don't let him pull at the end of the line, otherwise he's not learning to respect it as a boundary and as soon as he's off it, he'll just keep wandering.

Look up on youtube for recall games, there's a lot of good ideas out there.
Yeah, that's another issue we're having is pulling when walking. We got him a head halter that goes over his nose and he HATES it but it stops him from pulling.
Yeah, that's another issue we're having is pulling when walking. We got him a head halter that goes over his nose and he HATES it but it stops him from pulling.
Most dogs hate the head halter. Also, using it is just controlling it, not trying to train it out, you have to either train as well or just figure you'll use it however long. If you want an alternative method you can try a front clip harness, and do some loose leash training. I recommend the book "My Dog Pulls, What do I do?" by Turid Rugaas. And you can explore other methods of loose leash training if you want.

And when practicing recall or responsiveness outside try to find the...least interesting places to practice in first. If there's a boring spot outside with few people, wildlife and plants that might be a good place to start. Something like in the woods would be the hard, and out in a dog park or populated park would be hardest because wildlife and other dogs and people are SUPER distracting. It can be really hard because you never know when a squirrel or person will walk by, but it can be done ad she's improving. I'm currently working on this with my own dog.
Thanks for your reply.

Yeah, the head halter definitely just masks the problem. Its something we need to continuously work on for sure. It gets incredibly frustrating though.

And with regards to the responsiveness, we ONLY have tried in the back yard. When we go to the park its always on a leash and haven't been to the dog park yet.

Our back hard is 90% fenced in with nothing really to distract him. Just with the winter and the snow he's more excited than ever, and loves chasing snowballs when I throw them, but gets distracted by holes in the snow and mushing his face in them and then just ignores us lol.

I should also mention that the issues are there with or without snow. The snow is just new to him so it makes it even more challenging.
I'm working with my girl right now. I also use a head collar for walks that I think may have a lot of distractions for one reason. She is a very strong dog, Freyja is a Great Dane and over 110lbs now. I am working with her too with just the collar, and she is pretty good. She does know LLW, but sometimes she gets overwhelmed. So for safety I use the head collar.
For recall training I use a long line, I think it is twenty feet. I don't actually hold it, but you could if needed. I use treats she only gets when we are recall training. Mostly cooked meats, chicken, salmon and chicken hearts so far. But anything will do. But it needs to be high value. I take her out on the long line and bring a couple toys. She is very good at bringing them back and she gets a reward when she comes to me. Not always food, sometimes praise or a game of tug. When she is off sniffing around I'll call her. But only once, if she doesn't come right away I try to encourage her to come. Slapping my leg, odd noises. I'll also randomly do other training, sit, stay, down, paw. If she starts to loose interest I end it and go inside. I always want to end training on a high note.
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The problem I have with treats is that once he knows I have them, he'll get excited and follow me anyways
Initially, you should always have a reward of some type when you take him out, so he learns that a toy/treat could appear at ANY time and he should always have at least half an ear attentive to you so as not to miss out! Put a few treats in your pocket when you take him out, and a leash on him, and periodically call him back to you and reward with a treat or throw the toy- don't lure him with it, but reveal it once he's come to you. The first couple times you may have to sort of reel him in, or you may try calling him excitedly and running backwards a few steps to entice him. Eventually, once he recalls when you call him consistently, you can wean off the food/toy rewards to a variable schedule (think slot machine- sometimes nothing, sometimes one treat, sometimes 5, sometimes toy), just giving him praise/affection the other times. You can start with him on a regular or long leash, then graduate to a long leash, dragging a long leash, and off leash only when he is recalling every time.

Keep in mind the "3 d's" of dog training: distraction, distance, and duration. Duration doesn't factor too much into a recall, but the other two do for sure. Obviously you will have to build up to greater distances slowly, and make sure he is 100% at a given distance before increasing. Distraction is probably his biggest problem, and when you add that into the equation, you will have to lower your expectations for the other criteria... ie: he may recall like a bullet from across your privacy fenced yard with zero distractions, but have difficulty doing it from 10 feet away at the park with 5 other dogs and a gaggle of people roaming nearby. So, when you increase any criteria of his recall, be prepared to have to reinforce what he's learned in the easier scenario- have him back on a long line so he can't blow you off, and increase your reward schedule and quality (he may recall for a piece of kibble under no distractions, but if you know distractions are tough for him, break out some hot dog pieces or other high value treat) until he's got it down. When you begin to introduce distractions, start a good distance from them, and move closer as he learns to ignore them. Increase intensity of distraction (ie: one dog quietly walking vs 10 dogs roughhousing loudly) the same way, and never both at the same time.

I would also recommend not recalling him when you know he's not likely to respond and you can't enforce it. If you see that he's occupied in a highly self rewarding behavior (distraction!!! ie: playing in the snow), and you don't have any means (long line or other) or desire to stop him from engaging in that behavior and refocus his attention to you, don't recall him, as that's essentially setting him up to fail and he learns that if he's engaged in some other fun activity, he can ignore you and continue to "self reward". It's up to you to set him up for success in training by choosing the appropriate scenarios :)
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