A dog who runs away from you can cause many a scary moment and a risk to the dog's life. It is important to begin building a new kind of relationship with this type of dog in order to keep him close and safe.
Ultimately, you want to teach the dog who frequently runs away that being close to you is valuable. Clicker and reward training can assist in accomplishing this. If you are able to teach the dog that all good things come from you – high value food rewards and interactive play – the dog will learn to like being in your proximity. Work on the attention game and other engagement training behaviors to show your dog that a relationship with you is valuable to him.
Find a friend or family member willing to work with you as an assistant, employ them to hold your dog while you walk away with a favorite toy or treat. When you have walked several steps, tease the dog with the treats or toy, and then call your dog's name. The assistant should release the dog to come to you. When the dog reaches you, praise him and reward him profusely. It is important to be sure the dog associates running to you as more valuable than running away.
If you have practiced the above exercise for several weeks and the dog continues to run, try the following exercise using a training (flat collar) and retractable leash. (Be very careful using a retractable leash and be sure to read the warning information prior to use. The leashes have been known to severe fingers or cause deep cuts if not used correctly and carefully). With the training collar in place allow the dog to walk away 5-10 steps using the retractable leash. It is best if this is done with some distraction for the dog and not inside the home. Lock the leash so it can't be extended further, call the dog's name and 'pop' the leash. Encourage the dog to come to you. When the dog begins to move toward you, relax the leash and reward him when he reaches you. Continue this exercise for several weeks. Avoid the temptation to skip the clicker training work and go directly to this exercise. Building a value based relationship with your dog is an essential element of teaching your dog to come when called. Skipping the clicker training could cause your dog just to resist the 'pop' from the leash and want to run away more.
You will need to set clear boundaries where your dog must wait for you or a command to proceed. Establishing a boundary can also mean setting an acceptable distance the dog may wander from you before he must return to you. This can be done with the retractable leash as well. Allow your dog to go to the boundary but, once it is reached, pop the collar and call him back. When he comes to you always be sure to reward the behavior. Repeat this exercise until the dog returns to you without correction.
For dogs who bolt out the front door it is important to correct the behavior for the safety of the dog. While it is logical to want to pull your dog back with the leash, it actually encourages the dog to want to pull on the leash and run. Instead, you will need to employ the collar popping discussed above. Quickly 'pop' the collar and encourage the dog to return to you when he has stepped on the other side of the door frame. It is important to leave the leash loose until he actually crosses the doorway and have it loose again we he has stepped back inside. Repeating this exercise consistently for several day will decrease the dogs desire to run.
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