Training Tia the Norwegian Elkhound Not to Bolt
It's only been 24 hours since Tia has left the pound. After spending the past two years in her former owner's garage, Tia needs a lot of training.
The first issue we need to work on is Tia wanting to bolt every time she is off lead. It almost seems as if her prior owners had her cooped up so long, when she did get out she just wanted to run. It is possible she was punished and put back into confinement once she was caught. We need to teach her coming when off lead is a good thing. When she comes to us she is not going to be in trouble, she is not going to be locked up and left alone again.
We take Tia down to our dog pen, close the gate and unsnap her lead. She runs around smelling everything in sight. After a few minutes I call her. She runs from me. Instead of chasing her I walk in her direction with my arm pointing toward her, as if there is a force field attached to it zoning in on her. It only takes a minute or less for Tia to lower her head and lie down. She was submitting. To Tia's surprise, I gave her a body massage from head to tail, then turned and walked away from her. Tia just stood there looking at me. I waited a bit and called her to me again. I could see her mind going back and forth. The habit of running away was in her, and for a second it looked like that was what she was going to do. However, she walked up to me with her head low and I once again massaged her body and walked away. We all practiced this for a while. We were teaching Tia coming to us is rewarding.
We take Tia into the goat field and unsnap her leash to see what she will do in a wide open field. We have a big pack with us: six humans and three dogs including Tia. We start to walk hoping Tia will follow.
However, Tia does not follow, she bolts and chases the goats. We run after her. It takes a few minutes to corner her, and Tia lowers her head and lies down, submitting to us.
Amie snaps Tia's leash on and walks her up to see the goats. “Tia, we have a huge fenced area here for you to run in, however, you cannot come in here and chase things.”
When Amie gets closer to the goats she takes off the leash and makes her sit down.
Tia is very interested. She wants to chase them again, however Amie gives her a verbal correction along with a touch to her neck. "Hey!"
Tia lies down realizing she is not allowed to chase the goats.
The goats are very curious about her. Tia ignores them, checking out their droppings instead. We begin to walk and Tia seems to be following us. Just when we think all is going well Tia spots the guinea fowl and off she goes! She runs back down the hill full speed.
We catch up with Tia at the gate entrance where she lies down and allows us to snap on her leash. “Tia, time to go and visit the birds.”
There are guineas and chickens down the hill; each and every time Tia decides to fixate on them Amie gives a correction. Tia turns her head and decides to stop looking (avoidance).
Amie walks closer and Tia does a good job ignoring them.
Amie takes her into the coop to visit Wendy the turkey. At first Tia fixated her eyes on the turkey. Amie gives a correction; a short, fast tug of the lead as she points using body language to communicate to Tia that was not an acceptable behavior.
Time to try our off-leash pack walk again. All the humans pass through the gate while the dogs are told to wait.
Once inside the field we decide to start walking in the opposite direction in hopes Tia will learn to follow. We all walk and everyone is instructed to not speak to Tia. We all need to keep on moving, keep walking as if we have some place to go. As we are walking Amie reaches down and unsnaps Tia's lead.
This time, instead of bolting in the opposite direction, Tia follows her new pack!
On all of the skinnier paths Amie does not allow the dogs to pass her. Wherever the trail opens up to fields Amie allows the dogs to run their hearts out. The open field connects to another path, and the dogs pass the path. We humans turn down the path. Instead of calling Tia's name we give a general whistle. Bruno stops in his tracks and turns to go down the path the humans have just turned down. We all keep walking, keeping our fingers crossed that Tia will follow. We feel like cheering when she too stops in her tracks, turns around and once again follows her pack. A few more times we turned down paths the dogs have passed and each time Tia turns around and follows us. Tia has learned to follow! We will have this bolting issue under control in no time at all.
When our walk inside the goat field is over Amie calls Tia to her. Tia comes. What a good girl.
A couple of days later Tia comes over for another run in the goat field.
Wait for me, Bruno!
Update: Tia has been with her second family for over a year now. She no longer tries to bolt. In fact the family can walk her without a leash and ask her to follow them. When she is free outside they can ask her to come back to them and she listens. All of the time the family puts into her with leadership and exercise has changed her into a happy, respectful, manageable dog.
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