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Hi

Can anyone out there give me some good advice?

I have got an English setter/cocker spaniel called Bella and she is now nearly 8 months old. She is really energetic and everyone says that she is fussy. I am taking her to dog training classes but I am really struggling with her recall and walking training. When we are walking she wants to walk in front of me, I have tried turning in front of her in clockwise circles (as she walks on the right) but this doesnt seem to be working. Can anyone suggest anything else? She doesnt really pull, but wants to be in front. I am using a Halti and that has helped stop her pulling, but doesnt help this.

Also I cant let Bella off the lead as she doesnt come back, she was good as a puppy but then discovered other dogs, birds, noises etc and now I cant trust her. Any ideas?

I am a first time dog owner and would appreciate any practical advice.

Thanks

Lesley:whistle:
 

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Well, you find yourself in the catch 22 situation with a high energy hunting dog. You can't let her off leash because she wants so much to be who she is... a bird-crazy-running-field-dog, but she needs most of all to be allowed to run so she can be sane. A walk on a leash will never really get her tired or satisfied... well maybe if you walked 10 miles you'd come close, but that would take all day. And besides, what she really NEEDS to do is SEEK. Seeking is a dog's greatest pleasure, perhaps for setters even more enjoyable than food.

My husband and I have had setters for about 15 years now. We are on our "second set" of them now, with a 2.5 year old male and 1.5 year old female. We are fortunate to live in an area where we can get them off leash in the woods every day. As you mention, one has to start when they are young, then the trick is to keep up the off leash through that tough adolescence.

A setter is not an easy dog as you are noticing. And being part cocker probably is not mellowing her all that much.

First thing to know about setters is that their natural "working range" can be several hundred yards from you. So you may think the dog is running away, when in fact she is simply doing her job, which is to seek birds in the area. Our dogs' natural pattern is to do large looping figure 8's around us as we walk down a trail. We are the nexus of their 8's, as they loop back to check in with us. They will range out of sight and be gone for 5 minutes at a time. It is difficult to get used to, that is for sure. We actually have purchased the Garmin gps trackers made for hunting dogs, just to keep our minds at ease. If you want to know more about those I can tell you.

When the weather is decent (that is not 5 feet of snow outside) I run the dogs about 1 to 2 hours a day. Their trackers keep stats, and it is not uncommon for them to do 5 to 8 miles while I walk just 2 or 3. They get enough freedom that they are not crazy with the need to run. We actually have no fence at our house and we can, for the most part, let the dogs out to do their business and they stay around. However, if we miss a couple of days of our "big walks" all bets would be off on that. What I'm saying is, the thing that keeps them sane, is the extraordinary amount of running/seeking they get to do on a regular basis.

Now I have no idea where you live, and what sorts of areas you may have access to that might be safe to let your dog get a good run. I do not let our dogs free anywhere within about 1/4 mile of a road. Although they have a reasonably good recall, it's not bombproof, and even downright unreliable if they have a scent they are on, at which point they both go deaf. When I run them, I do not nag them with recalls all the time. I do reward them often when they check in voluntarily, and I do call them once or twice during a run just to keep practicing. One key is that I keep walking, so they have to keep track of me. Standing still is not a good plan for the human to do with a hunting dog as they start to assume you will be right there, so they go on longer and longer forays looking for birds.

How long has it been since your girl has had an off leash run, and in what sort of circumstance? Do you have anywhere safe you can take her, such as state park land or other open area free of cars? I don't recommend a dog park, for many reasons....

OK, I'm rambling here, sorry.
We can "talk" more if any of these comments spark your interest.
 

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I have two dogs that walk in front of me and one that likes to smell the roses behind me lol. I didn't know that was a big issue.
 

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Tess gave you some great comments!

Treats, treats and more treats is my suggestion.

What we did with our dogs was attach them to a long leash (25ft or so)... let them wander out a bit and call them. If they don't come when you call, then give a gentle tug on the leash to make them come back. Reward with a treat. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

This is kind of old school, but this is what my father was taught by a trainer back when we had our first dog. She never did quite get the hang of it because she was more interested in everything going on around her. Holly is surprisingly great at it for only 17 months old. She'd rather the treat over anything else, even being a retriever.

My boyfriend's dog is 11 years old and has horrible recall IMO-- she'll come when she feels like it essentially-- as long as there is nothing gross to eat nearby. It bothers me when we're walking the trails in the park with the dogs-- if Holly were like that, I wouldn't let her off-leash. I started bringing treats and wouldn't you know it, his dog will now RUN back when called. Don't know if I'd be able to compete with everything, but she's much better when she knows treats are around than when she's not certain...

As for the walking in front of you, use a shorter leash so she can't and train her that way. I also don't think it's a big problem, personally. Glad the halti has stopped the pulling-- I personally like the gentle leader better and it worked wonders on Holly.
 

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Personally I do allow my dogs to walk ahead of me often while on walk. Really I do not think that it is a big deal unless your dog is pulling.
If you want to teach your dog to heel, then this video is really helpful! It's actually something I am working on at the moment with my Min Pin.
You may also find some helpful info in the Loose Leash Walking stick thread!
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/loose-leash-walking-1683/

As far as a recall, never call your dog to you if you are going to do something she does not like (clipping nail,baths, etc.) or if you know that she is not going to respond. Instead, just go and get her!
The way to get a fabulous recall is to make coming to you extremely fun and rewarding!!
Check out the videos in this thread! Many have some fun games that will really help!
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/recall-9595/
 

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Depending on how tall your dog is, this may or may not work, but try walking with the collar higher on the neck, right under the chin. They don't have much muscle there so it's harder to pull when the collar is high up. Learned that from a trainer and it worked great on my friend's small dog.

For the recall, our trainer advised always giving treats for a successful come. My dog would weight twice her ideal weight if I did that though, so I suggest occasional treats and heavy praise instead.

Good luck!
 

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I've worked in pet retail for 4 years so i know quite a bit from dog food to training.
Use a "martingale collar" it's half collar half chain. When a dog walks in front of you, it's a form of dominance just as getting up on the bed or sofa with out your permission. Place the martingale higher up on the neck close to the ears, it shouldn't be loose to slide down. Keep the dog close to your side, if he tries to test you, check him. It's a quick wrist snap. Dog's don't relate to the actual choking part which is why I'm totally against choke collars since they can actually crush the trachea. Dog's relate to noise, it took my dog 2 corrections, now he walks directly beside me.
 

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I've worked in pet retail for 4 years so i know quite a bit from dog food to training.
Use a "martingale collar" it's half collar half chain. When a dog walks in front of you, it's a form of dominance just as getting up on the bed or sofa with out your permission. Place the martingale higher up on the neck close to the ears, it shouldn't be loose to slide down. Keep the dog close to your side, if he tries to test you, check him. It's a quick wrist snap. Dog's don't relate to the actual choking part which is why I'm totally against choke collars since they can actually crush the trachea. Dog's relate to noise, it took my dog 2 corrections, now he walks directly beside me.
Catflowers, I think you will find some new ideas here at dogforum. What you speak about from your experience is certainly conventional wisdom, or at least it used to be. I used to believe that stuff too.

Then I started to learn more, and to actually honestly observe my dogs. Why does a dog want to run out in front? Is this a dominance move? Or is this simply the enthusiasm of dog who wants to explore? We humans walk slowly compared to dogs. It is difficult for a dog to walk slowly. Isn't that a more logical explanation than that the dog is constantly trying to take over? A dog sleeping on the bed... hm... perhaps they just want to be part of the "pack" in the snuggly sense. I know my dogs love to sleep on the bed with us, and they are not trying to dominate us, but rather they want to be close to us.

As far as using aversive (read painful) devices to get your dog to walk by your side, sure it works, but is it worth it?
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/suppression-modification-shutdown-fallout-4776/
There are better ways.

When you give up looking at all dog behavior through the lens of dominance, you start to see your dogs more clearly, and life with them is no longer a struggle about who's in charge.

Again, I hope you hang out here with us and learn more. You might really like the new ways. :)
 

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As a novice myself, I am constantly in awe of and learning heaps from everyone else. I too have become so much more relaxed about this whole 'walking in front of you' thing. I prefer my pup to be in front as I can see what he's up to!! I don't feel he's trying to dominate, or be the alpha dog by being in front.

Like Tess, I am very fortunate to be living in woodland where I can walk Synnu off the lead most of the time. I have, also like Tess, noticed that he loops around me but always comes back to me (perhaps helped by my pocket of treats! :)). Synnu is eight months old too so perhaps I have yet to experience what you're going through but I have noticed that his loops have become larger as he's gotten older.

I hope you have found some great information here Lesley and we look forward to hearing about Bella's progress in the next few weeks. Good luck.
 
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