Running off

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Running off

Postby Brad Leggett » Thu 13 Mar 2014 7:26 pm

Firstly a big thank you to Steve Grainger who found and returned my dog to me today.

I have been struggling with Ned running off primarily during traing sessions. Ned is a 2 year old entire Gsp. His obedience is ok and work in close on the whistle fine but he has a habit of bolting off during training retrieves. It varies between simple marks as well as more complex drills.

I have spoken to several people about ths problem and keen for any advice or tips that will impove his handling and more importantly ensure his safety. I have already booked him in be desexed although don't think this is the main problem.
Brad Leggett
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Re: Running off

Postby Wendy Michalk » Fri 14 Mar 2014 11:39 am

Hi Brad,
I'm sure many people will give advise on your problem, being a handler & lover of GSP's I can sympathize with your problem , in the past the only thing that has worked for me is Drill, Drill & More Drilling starting short & SLOWLY lengthening the retrieve with much praise on a job well done, mind you it isn't only a GSP problem.. Desexing will not fix this problem unless he's chasing bitches & I doubt that is the problem.
best of luck
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Re: Running off

Postby Kirsty Blair » Fri 14 Mar 2014 1:40 pm

Hi Brad,

When you say his obedience is "ok", can you explain exactly what you mean by that?

There are fundamentally three reasons why your dog is running off;

1) He is attempting to avoid pressure as he hasn't yet learnt how to manage and respond to it
2) He does not understand the recall component of the retrieve
3) He understands the exercise and is proactively choosing disobedience because there is inadequate reward and/or consequence for failing to follow a known (and fully conditioned) command. In this instance he may find running around the paddock more rewarding than whatever you have to offer.

If the dog is running off because of either 1) or 2) then you can do alot of damage by assuming it's because of 3). By my mind you are always better to go back to basics and ensure the foundation is solid before advancing. In this case that means focussing on building the foundation for your recall; on lead and gradually building distance with a long line and plenty of reward. Move to recalls off lead, again building distance and distraction. Once you have a solid recall, and I mean offlead, full distance, with distraction and the dog fully focussed and front and centre when you give the command, then you can pair it with the retrieve.

Personally I would suggest backing off on the complexity of your retrieves until you have completely conditioned the return. Put the dog on a long line if you have to to prevent him running off. Remember, every time your dog completes a behaviour (either under your command or of his own accord) he is being conditioned to perpetuate that behaviour. Preventing the unwanted behaviour occurring altogether is the first step to re-conditioning the dog to complete a preferred behaviour.

In giving this advice I'm not pretending to be anywhere near as experienced as many members of this board, and the viewpoint I've provided is based on my own experience in training dogs for a variety of endeavours. So please, take it or leave it at your leisure :-)

Good luck!

(Edited for rubbish spelling)
Kirsty Blair
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Re: Running off

Postby Brad Leggett » Fri 14 Mar 2014 5:41 pm

Thanks Wendy and kirsty

It's good to know I'm not the1st person to have his problem.

While I understand te importance of the recall and will do more of ths in my drills I think the issue is number 3 in Kirsty's response and that is the self reward of chasing real game such as birds, Roos etc is more rewarding than returning a bumper to me. That is the challenge as he trains well in drills and yard work but as soon as we get to areas of distraction the urge to run off becomes to great.

I will take him back to basics and try and find ways of keeping his interest in these drills before I extend him further.
Brad Leggett
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Re: Running off

Postby Diane McCann » Mon 17 Mar 2014 3:05 pm

Hi Brad, I think that Kirsty's advice is excellent! I also think that you are likely to have a combination of 2 and 3.

Generally people who have problems with dogs running off, in any situation not just retreiving, have that problem because they have not built a strong enough bond with the dog, have not put enough hours of quality one on one training in during the early days, and have not made themselves the source of all things fun and wonderful. Sorry, that sounds like I am criticising you and I am not, just givin my own general opinion.

Virtually every successful retrieving trial dog wants nothing more than to be with its handler because from there it gets to retrieve, it is virtually impossible to get rid of them when going for a walk if they think there is any small chance that something will be shot or thrown. This is because they have been taught to love retrieving from the earliest age, it is the greatest fun on earth and doing it is more rewarding than anything else.

So follow Kirsty's advice, back off on complexity, build the fun and reward and ensure that you can enforce compliance, slowly introduce distractions and make sure that retrieving is the greatest reward of all and that includes bringing it back to you.

Having said all of this I must admit to one of my dogs being very, very keen on catching and killing water hens, but she does bring them back to me! :)
Diane McCann
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Re: Running off

Postby Steve Grainger » Mon 17 Mar 2014 7:59 pm

I train with Brad on a pretty regular basis and I can assure you he doesn’t do much wrong as far as bonding and establishing leadership with his dogs. I know Ned almost as well as Brad does, in fact I was going to get him for myself but changed my mind, long story. Brad's Commitment and training ability is evident as he has achieved a lot with this young dog, last year he ran him in only three RATG novice trials and got his title. At the end of last year he ran him in his first Novice retrieving trial and not only did he pass but got first place. Ned has a lot of ability if only Brad can overcome his running off. I believe that Kirsty is on the right track but I also think there is a lot more to it. I think it is in his genetics this dog comes from a long line of field dogs that have had generations of careful breeding to infuse the instincts required for an upland game dog a PHR dog not a retrieving dog. Yes retrieving is an important part of what these dogs do but when we only concentrate on one part of their genetic instincts and supress others like hunting and pointing I think frustration takes over. Something in the dogs make up its instincts, its genetics is telling it there is more to it. I think this frustration could cause things like running off or even hard mouth. Yes I know there are a lot of GSP’s with the same or even more field breeding than Ned successfully competing in retrieving but when I stop and think about it all the one’s I know of any way also go hunting or compete in field trials so their genetics and instincts are not suppressed but allowed to be fulfilled.
Just my thoughts for what it’s worth.
Steve Grainger.
Steve Grainger
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Re: Running off

Postby Prue Winkfield » Tue 18 Mar 2014 2:29 pm

Steve - am sure the genetics have something to do with it. Since 1980 I have been trying to breed GSPs that can win retrieving trials and field trials. Though I now have some success it has certainly not been easy and not all the dogs I have bred could do both and some none! All my dogs were hunted over but am not sure that helped in their retrieving - it did help Tornado with his persistence though.

The comments about drills certainly are true. Keping things simple and following a step by step approach is critical. Everyone loves to see their dogs do a lovely long and/or complicated retrieve. The skill is knowing when you have done enough basic ground work and simple perfect marks before moving on. Sometimes you think you are there only to find you have to take backward steps for a while! I often train with Labrador people and believe GSPs do take longer and more patience to achieve the same level of competence but it certainly can be done. Good Luck Brad and don't give up.
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Re: Running off

Postby Elio Colasimone » Thu 20 Mar 2014 6:56 am

Hi Brad,
You’ve received lots of good input. A bit more for you to mull over. It’s never a one size fits all with gundogs.
This is a bit long winded...but so is training...there aren’t many shortcuts. Hope it isn’t all old hat to you.

I’ve worked with quite a number of GSPs over the years. All have been hunted a lot and all have competed both in Retrieving and Field Trials.
I guess the way they’re trained pretty much depends on what you hope to achieve.
Some young dogs seem to have a bigger urge to slip away and “range” freely. It sometimes doesn’t meet the need of the moment but ....not totally unusual.

Keep in mind GSPs are multi faceted dogs which are genetically coded with a strong prey drive - like many typical pointing breeds. The more effective ones I’ve owned have tended towards a strong prey drive, leading to a strong desire to range and seek with intensity. Given the opportunity most average GSPs seem to have that desire in-built. How effective it is, seems to vary somewhere between functional to quite high.
I’ve tended to enjoy the ones with the strong prey drive.

The desire to get into search patterns by some young ones suggests it is more “fun” than other things on offer. It can have the effect of dulling retrieving not associated with live game hunting.
If a mismatch between live game hunting/retrieving and manufactured non hunting related retrieving occurs it can be improved or fixed to a degree.

Everyone has sensibly pointed out that well thought out conditioning and drilling that dogs can be put through – usually help to establish predictability for all manner of things being asked including retrieving, regardless of the situation and purpose it’s needed for.

Brad for what it’s worth perhaps a couple of key things may need firming up to a higher level to get those predictable response to any retrieving that is being attempted especially if unrelated to hunting:-
Firstly, I find the firming up of the coming in immediately when asked and secondly picking up items at short distances and bringing them to you when asked, immediately and with minimal or no deviation–with lots of praise - is a good building block.

At this stage the command “Fetch” may not be completely locked down. All sorts of breeds unrelated to gundogs will pick up things and carry them or even bring them to you. It doesn’t mean they will comply consistently and predictably to the command “Fetch”.

There are many, many books, videos, websites and hopefully helpful mentors which might help you with the conditioning for reliability.
In a nutshell when properly conditioned the command “Fetch” expects the dog to move away, find something and bring it back to you immediately and consistently with hopefully minimal deviation, regardless of what it’s been asked to pick up e.g. quail, duck, hare, rabbit, fox, partridge, pigeon, training dummy etc. etc.

Are they having fun?...Well almost always... The “good fun” approach with dogs during retrieves by making sure that dogs sense the handler is very, very pleased is a stock of the trade.

When facing extremes like a very large body of water on a bitterly cold day to pick up an unseen duck on the far side...some glitches can appear. Are they as willing and is it as much “fun” at that moment? For some perhaps ‘yes’ every time. For others you may need another lever to fall back on...namely sound conditioning.

Ultimately, to please you or because it enjoys doing it or you’ve conditioned the dog well it ought to leave you, pick up items and return with them as a matter of routine and with a minimum of fuss and or deviation.

Finally, there is the other critical bit. ‘Control’ at distance - off lead – using a whistle and signals, is probably the key to limiting many handlers’ woes with gundog work, when things go awry.
The ultimate aim – when it can be achieved – whether hunting or competing - is using voice, whistles or hand signals to hopefully gain almost total control over the dog’s movements. The “stop and sit” at distance consistently and immediately when directed is critical.

Imagine sending the dog on a short retrieve or the dog is coming back and appears to be heading off to a distraction, some system of control is needed to pull it up immediately with a “stop” whistle command. At least it gives you the chance to make adjustments or call it back etc. and take control of the situation.
That skill once embedded tends to help sort out an array of problems.

The fun retrieving drills, the embedding of conditioning for the “Fetch” command and whistle control at distance can all be developed in tandem. Clearly though, making the dog understand what you expect when you say “Fetch” and control to pull you out of the mire are major priorities that can make a world of difference. can do the lot with a GSP....and have lots of fun. There is a cluster of folk in the Bundaberg area who have finished up with multiple classy hunting dogs for feather and fur both for wetlands and upland.
On top of which – if competing is important to you -by a rough estimate the area has produced about eight or so GSPs which became RT Champions and about a dozen or so F.T. Champions capable of winning State and national events. Some gained both titles and spent most of their lives as hard working, effective hunting dogs. There are more in the pipeline.

It can be done. Best of luck in making it work for you,

Elio Colasimone
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Re: Running off

Postby Lynne Strang » Fri 16 May 2014 4:04 pm

Hi Brad,
I agree with all the excellent advice from experienced handlers. I just have a simple idea to contribute. Years ago I read that Gundogs have a need to be given the chance to run free to use their inherited abilities. Nowadays with legal restrictions in many areas, some do not have this opportunity. They are walked on lead and when sent to retrieve may think this is their only chance to run free , so make their escape. Perhaps your dog would benefit from regular walks off lead in the bush or paddocks where he will be safe. Your dog could be stopped to the whistle, rewarded and then let go again,so that coming to you does not always mean being put on lead or in the hide. You probably know this already, but it may be something to consider as well as the previous advice.
Lynne Strang
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Re: Running off

Postby Michael Kontou » Fri 02 Jan 2015 4:13 pm

Any follow up with how you went Brad?
Michael Kontou
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Re: Running off

Postby Brad Leggett » Mon 09 Feb 2015 6:50 pm

Hi Michael

Sorry for the late reply but had some it issues.

In regards to Ned I wouldn't say I have fixed the problem but managing it. Basically I have been doing a lot of the drills and yard work on the obedience oval without all the distractions that we have when training in cover. I have also began taking him out for some real hunting with a mate which he seems to really enjoy. This is giving him a chance to find and point and use some of those instincts as suggested by others on the forum.

The downside is that this extra control that I have had on him is comming out in other frustrations. His breaking has got worse and he has began mouthing birds which was not an issue before. I have been concentrating on obedience and RATG events until I get this under control and then will probably give the trials another crack.

Good luck with your dog and hope you get good advice that I have received.
Brad Leggett
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Joined: Mon 14 Oct 2013 7:41 pm

Re: Running off

Postby Michael Kontou » Tue 10 Feb 2015 1:24 pm

For running off during training/working the best discipline I have found for my girl is to catch her afterwards, flip her on her back holding her from her jowls and then giving her a growly verbal serve whilst on top of her. Sounds weird and a little rough but it isn't really, she obviously gets scared and rightly so.

When she breaks, I don't give her a command, I hunt her down and catch her. I even tell other people who might be nearby to try and catch her, then I grab her and rough her up like I mentioned above. If I give her a command and she obeys after she has run off then I cannot discipline her for bad behavior. Instead of me trying to chase her down she has tended to 'give in' and cower, I feel this is her starting to learn that what ever she does dad (me) will catch her.

After the above event we heel off from where we were and start again. She will always get it right that next time and I give her lots of praise for doing the right thing.

This has worked for me, I can't take credit for it as another high level obedience trainer helped me with this when I was having some issues.
Michael Kontou
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Re: Running off

Postby Steve Grainger » Wed 11 Feb 2015 1:18 pm

What you described Michael is what we use to call back in the bad old days as a “dominate down”. Yes sometimes it gave the desired effect of disciplining a dog but in more cases than not it was very damaging to the dog, especially soft natured dogs. I have seen some dogs that have become very aggressive after this type of negative reinforcement so most trainers these days (the thinking ones anyway) have dropt it. I’d be very careful if you are going to continue with this as you stated she is starting to cower when she knows you are coming. That’s a sign of fear Michael not guilt the last thing you want is to have your dog fearful of you if you want to have successful working relationship her.

PS Don’t take anymore advice from that so called high level Obedience trainer.
Steve Grainger
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Re: Running off

Postby Lara Preston » Wed 11 Feb 2015 4:38 pm

I have to agree with Steve, Michael. My older GSP couldn't handle pressure he does as he is told but if I raise my voice or change body language he just crumbles and ended up taking it out on the birds, so with my younger dog I've backed right off and made everything fun, very rarely have I had to raise my voice. I'm like a hawk in the paddock in the mornings and they don't get to run until I've checked the paddock, we just stand and watch the roos leave then walk the other way, if I've missed one, he's starting to stand by himself and watch and not chase. You just have to be consistent and hopefully pay off for you. Good luck

Glad to hear Ned is improving Brad!
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Re: Running off

Postby Sally Haynes » Thu 12 Feb 2015 9:56 am

Sorry to be a pedant but I just want to clarify some terminology - it gets confused a lot when training animals and I think it's important that we're all on the same page…

When we talk about operant learning (as opposed to classical conditioning) we often talk about positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement and negative punishment. It's important to note that "positive" means to ADD something (rather than "positive" = "something nice") and "negative" means to REMOVE something. Reinforcement means "to increase the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again" and Punishment means "to decrease the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again."


Positive reinforcement means that you ADD something to INCREASE the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again e.g. food, pat, verbal praise as a reward for sit (this is very different to luring!)

Negative reinforcement means that you REMOVE something to INCREASE the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again e.g. put pressure on the dog's rump with your hand and remove the hand pressure when the dog sits. Most horse riders rely on negative reinforcement i.e. pressure from legs, horse moves forward, pressure removed etc.

Positive punishment means that you ADD something to DECREASE the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again e.g. a pop of the leash when the dog doesn't walk to heel.

Negative punishment means that you REMOVE something to DECREASE the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again e.g. you pick up a ball to throw for your dog, the dog barks, you put the ball away until the dog is quiet.

What's most critical in all these scenarios is THE DOG'S PERCEPTION. If you punish a dog and the likelihood of the behaviour occurring again doesn't change it wasn't positive punishment it was just using physical force.

I'm with Steve though - give that so called "high level obedience trainer" the flick. Fear is a very unpleasant emotion for dogs and can cause a lot of fallout.
Sally Haynes
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