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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Runaway collie

Please help! I have five lovely Border Collie rescue bitches; the last two are a rescued breeding bitch and one of her last litter. The problem is when we are on walks the mum runs off with any small dog we pass and pesters the life out of it, as well as its owner. She won’t heed my recall at all.

I have had mobile calls from irate people as far as a mile away when I have considered it a safe distance to let her off lead with the others (one of which is her own puppy), but she will remember the last small dog we have passed and slips away.

I don’t want her to spend her last years on a lead, after the sad life she has led, and I don’t really want to spay as she recently had a very bad reaction to anesthetic when having some teeth out. I’m also not sure that it will make any difference.

This is really getting me down and it is spoiling the walks for all the other dogs. Obviously I can’t be cross when I do eventually recapture her, but it seems to me that she does not want to be with us at all, although she is very loving and waggy at home.

Any ideas?
Chris, by email


  1. I think you have to be a bit more specific, how long have you had the dog for, have you done any training with her yest? Does she like food or toys??
    Usually it takes a bit of work to get a decent recall and some time and training. I would keep her on a lead for now, so she doesn't get in a habit of running off, which is not only a nuisance for other dog walkers, but dangerous for her too :(

  2. Last year we adopted a 2 year old ex-stud dog and faced similar problems with recall. We took him to basic obedience classes where he did well. However, he was far more interested in other dogs than us and would always run off to say hello to dogs he met on our walks and seemingly lose all interest in us.
    Practicing recall training in secure fenced areas with a long line helped and also using a combination of treats/toys. Additionally we practiced recall together with a friend's dog who has good recall as he seemed to learn far more quickly from watching her behaviour. Also, we learned that it was pointless calling him back once he had started running as we were then just teaching him to ignore us.
    Perhaps try some intensive training in a secure area with one of your other dogs who is reliable.
    I think it took about a year for our dog to learn that staying with us was a more rewarding experience than running after every dog he saw. It was hard work though and did require lots of practice.

    Good luck :)

  3. You've a couple of things to tackle; slinking off and the recall. Highly intelligent dogs find things to entertain themselves with and playing with small dogs is one her entertainments. I'd begin as suggested by other commenters by starting with a recall 101 on a line but as a herder I'd do a runaway recall-call her name and run away. Natural curiosity should help her chase you. Praise her the whole time she comes toward you. At home call her from room to room heavily praising all the time she shows interest in you or is moving toward you. Use her name only in positive manner if using name for a recall and keep on a lead until she has a 90% return rate.
    With small dogs I'd play the boring game. You'll need a stooge small dog preferably one not inclined to incite play or excitement. Keep your dog on a lead but attached to your waist so no emotions can traverse the lead. The idea of the game is to make the dog boring and you entertaining. So use whatever you like as a reward sweets, toys, praise and let her look at the dog. Praise once in a boring monotone. Look at the boring dog. Then say her name brightly as the second she orientates tl you reward heavily. Repeat a few times then go play her fave game for a few minutes. Practise a little and often until she refocuses back on you by herself then reduce the rewards to random. This is not a quick fix and you may need a suitably qualified professiknsl to help you but good luck in the meantime