English Lab: Sudden stubborness during hike

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by AlanM, Jun 17, 2018.

  1. AlanM

    AlanM Registered Users

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    I've got a 14-month English yellow lab. Since I got him primarily to be a hiking dog, one of the primary things I've been working on with him is recall. I have a whistle and generally wherever he is, at the end of a 20-foot leash on a trail or in the backyard, a whistle will bring him running. He always gets treated afterward.

    Today we were hiking (a 5.5 mile trail which he's done successfully multiple times in the past) and he took off down the side of a hill (on 20-foot leash). It was scrubby and steep terrain, perfect for rattlesnakes, so I gave the whistle to get him back to the trail and he just ignored me. I did it again and he still ignored me. So I pulled on the leash and he came up but he didn't want to walk. I pulled him a little on a short leash (I will admit this might not have been the right thing to do -- I wanted to limit his freedom as a consequence for his ignoring the recall) and he kept up with me and then I let the leash out again so that we could walk normally and he just stopped and sat and looked at me. It took us an hour and a half to make it the final mile or so because he simply refused to walk. If someone came by he would wag his tail and try to jump on them and he'd be super friendly, then as soon as they left he simply sat down again. I gave him treats (for "leave it" when people came by) and plenty of water. Finally he started walking again, at almost a normal pace, and we made it out.

    Lots of questions: How do I respond to the recall failure? Drop back to less challenging recalls? Ignore it as a one-off? He was getting lots of treats on the hike for recalls and "leave it". Could he simply have been sick of treats? He seems tired now but not in any obvious pain but perhaps my tugging on the leash (and him fighting to sit) injured him somehow? He had kennel cough about a month ago and was wheezing a little after we got home although he has had no symptoms for a couple weeks, and had lots of energy for jumping on people. Is this just adolescence? I'm not sure what to do differently next time, and I'm not sure if the recall failure (his first in months of doing this) is significant. I would really appreciate any advice or correction. I'm disappointed and frustrated and just not sure what I should have done here and what to do going forward. Thanks.
     
  2. selina27

    selina27 Registered Users

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    My best advice to you is to get hold of the book Total Recall by Pippa Mattinson, it tells you all you need to know about the subject and is practically my bible :)

    I don't have any answers regarding his "planting" behavior , hopefully someone else will be along to help. It might be worth getting him checked out my the vet if you think his health is compromised.
     
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  3. MF

    MF Registered Users

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    I’m not the recall adviser by any means. But wondering what was down there? A tasty carcass? Something he didn’t want to leave behind hence the refusing to budge? If my boy finds something, he’ll want to stay with it. So I pick whatever it is up and carry it home. He’s happy for this and continues the normal walk, and then gets his prize at home.

    For refusing to budge, I’ve walked my boy in the opposite direction to that which I want to go, no pulling him. Then, once we have momentum, I turn around and keep walking with lots of praise and encouragement. Not sure this is the correct thing to do, but if I’m in a hurry, I use it. Actually, hasn’t happened much at all in his adult life; am just remembering back to puppy days.
     
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  4. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

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    I imagine what attracted him was VERY attractive, so I guess a one off refusal to the recall, they aren't robots :D You mentioned he had had kennel cough and was a little wheezy at the end of the walk, he may just have run out of energy to walk.
     
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  5. Oberon

    Oberon Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I’d be going on shorter walks with him. Usually when dogs stop and don’t want to go on they’ve reached their physical or mental limit.
     
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  6. Snowshoe

    Snowshoe Registered Users

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    Maybe look into rattle snake training. Thinks me off leash would be safer than leashed and running down a hill as you describe. Was he on one of those extendable type things? Sounds too easy to catch the leash on brush, abrupt stop, broken or at least very hurt, neck. OR ribs or leg if leash is attached to a harness.

    How hot was it? Are you in a stinkin' hot heat wave like we are? My boy is heat intolerant, maybe your boy doesn't handle it well either? And needs a lot of rests?
     
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  7. AlanM

    AlanM Registered Users

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    Thanks everyone. Reading the comments has helped calm me down a little. It seems likely in retrospect that he noticed a lizard and went into hunting mode. That explains him diving into the brush and refusing to come out. He was very focused on something in there, which MF and Stacia pointed out. It hadn't occurred to me that I was competing with something like that. I can see that he would choose a lizard hunt over the whistle.

    As for the not wanting to walk afterward, he had flushed out some chicken bones earlier in the walk, which I had taken from him, and what with me dragging him away from the lizard (or whatever) our trainer thinks that maybe Watson had just had enough of me of that point. She also thinks I might be onto something with "treat boredom" and said that she occasionally rewards a recall with something truly fabulous. She said that her dogs will recall from just about anything now because there's always the chance that there's a steak waiting. Temp was cool but it could also be that he just wasn't feeling his best.

    So we're just going to stay the course. He was out in the backyard with a bone this morning and the whistle brought him into the house, and then later the whistle brought him into the kitchen, so I guess his recall isn't broken. It's probably just that I can't (yet) compete with a lizard and I need to cut him some slack.
     
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  8. AlanM

    AlanM Registered Users

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    I've heard so much conflicting advice about the rattlesnake training. The way they do it (around here at least) is with a snake and a shock collar, and two trainers I've talked to say that there are too many potential side-effects from the training, e.g., being terrified of garden hoses. I also looked into the shots but have been discouraged from that too. The leash (20 feet to a harness) is primarily because we live around steep terrain, and dogs sometimes get into places they can't get out of. I'd rather avoid the whole helicopter/SAR thing :-^.
     
  9. 4theloveoflabs

    4theloveoflabs Registered Users

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    My lab is almost 2 and is extremely stubborn. He hikes a lot but I find if I do the same trail more than a couple times a week he drags. If we do a new trail he is leading the pack! If he doesn’t want to go somewhere he just flops over on his side (very dramatically) He has done this since he was a puppy. I just ignore him for a minute then start walking and he trots along with me.

    His recall is pretty good except for if he is on a scent... any time he puts his nose in the air I know it is for a dead animal and then recall is out the door.

    I’ve gotten used to him being extremely stubborn but it was irritating at first.
     
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  10. AlanM

    AlanM Registered Users

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    Thanks :). This makes me feel better!
     
  11. Jojo83

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    Please listen to these trainers. Theres is never a good reason to train with a shock collar and the behavioural repercussions can be dramatic.
     
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  12. AlanM

    AlanM Registered Users

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    Yeah, they convinced me. Two of them. It is still a concern though, especially when my dog wanders off trail. I almost stepped on a rattlesnake a couple years ago. It was right in front of me on the trail. Sometimes they rattle but not always. I can just picture Watson grabbing one or trying to bite it, and I'm often hours from a trailhead, and further still from a vet. I'm not sure what the solution is here. Luckily he's a big dog and likely would be okay even with a bite, but I'd hate to find out.
     
  13. Candy

    Candy Registered Users

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    The very thought of using a shock collar on a dog just makes me want to cry. Our little Joy. who is now nearly 14 months and whose recall so far has been really good, every now and then has a blip. I go back to Pippa's Total Recall every time, with good results. My sweet girl is now an adolescent as far as I can see. She still wants to be my Best Girl but she has to try things out for herself a bit. Ours is a partnership, with loads of love, praise and cuddles. It's been like this with all my dear, dear dogs and they've all been lovely. Admittedly we never had rattlesnakes to contend with, but I have called them all back in their time from things that worried me and it worked. Hope you manage it soon without any rattlenake episodes.
     
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  14. AlanM

    AlanM Registered Users

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    I agree, I don't want to take a chance on the collar. But just to clarify, the point of the shock collar isn't for recall. Trainers that do this take a snake with no venom and put it in a yard. They then release the dog, and when the dog gets close to the snake, they shock it to instill a fear of rattlesnakes in the dog. The shock collar isn't to get recall obedience out of the dog. It's to teach the dog to avoid rattlesnakes. On our local trails it's typical that you're just walking along and (if you're lucky) hear the rattle, the warning to stop or get bit. An adventurous dog, walking ahead and seeing the snake, might engage it, with lethal consequences for the dog. Dogs (and people) can have about an hour to get medical attention before their systems start to shut down. It's a real risk.
     
  15. Jojo83

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    It doesn't matter what the purpose is recall or aversion training the repercussions can be the same and lead to major behavioural problems. You simply cannot guarantee what the dog will associate the shock with in the second. What if someone coughs, or sneezes, or the wind blows etc etc when the shock is applied? The solution to most problems when outside is recall, recall and more recall training with proofing together with a good 'leave' cue. In your situation, if I was seriously concerned about a danger in the environment to myself or my dog, I would be walking in a different location.
     
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  16. AlanM

    AlanM Registered Users

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    I've already agreed with you that aversion training isn't a good idea for us. I think I'll just try to keep him on a short leash when we're in dicey areas. Some of the most beautiful hikes in CA are susceptible to rattlesnakes. It's just part of life hiking here.

    In any case, we're far afield of my original question, and I appreciate all the great responses to the recall issue. We're going to stay on program and not worry about this one failure!
     
  17. selina27

    selina27 Registered Users

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    I well believe this is a serious issue for you and dog owners in the US. My dog, Cassie, is extremely outgoing and confident, still at 2 wants to play with the world. I've yet to see her really fearful of anything, it absolutely gives me the shudders thinking what she might do if she met a rattler.
    I still think you would benefit from Total Recall, it gives you many exercises to work through and just doing them is good for our bond I find. I consider Cassie's recall good, but recently had a couple of deer chasing episodes when it slipped a bit, so I have gone back to working on our recall. It helps with keeping the dogs closer to us, therefore better control.
    My son has done the Harvest Trail in the US a couple of times, he's told me about the rattlers, the first job in the mornings was to check the combines over for rattlesnakes!:eek::eek:
     
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  18. AlanM

    AlanM Registered Users

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    You convinced me; I ordered the book! Thanks! Checking for rattlesnakes is scary but better to check than to be surprised later. I've been coming across a couple a year lately hiking. It's definitely unnerving. I ran into a mountain biker who had his bike struck by a rattler. We have bears too and a local guy got mauled by a bear; he apparently just came around a corner and surprised a cub and a mom. I pick my trails and times as well as I can but hiking in our mountains always carries some risk.
     
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  19. charlie

    charlie Registered Users

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    Selina would you be better of teaching a "stop" whistle?

    @AlanM I am a Total Recall fan too. Work through all the exercises and proof them thoroughly and I'm sure it will help. As for rattlesnakes - eeekkkkk!! :eek: Now this is not a joke but could you buy a rubber snake, attach it to string get someone to wriggle it around and practise recalling your dog away from it with amazing, amazing treats? Just a thought or not as the case maybe!! I've done some pretty weird things to train Charlie, admittedly not a rubber snake but if I had to I would :) xx
     
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  20. AlanM

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    I've looked at some positive-reinforcement approaches -- the rubber snake idea isn't that odd -- but it's not clear that they work, and for people that live with rattlesnakes on a daily basis (like they live in your yard) it appears that the aversion training really is recommended. (As I've said, that isn't the case for us.) There's clearly a risk to the dog, but there are many heartbreaking stories on the web about people who had no chance to try a recall because their dog was off-leash (e.g., in its own yard) and people didn't see the snake until it struck. Most of the rattlers I've encountered have been hiding under bushes or in rocks. Your dog may very well hear and smell the snake, but unless your dog is right next to you and you hear the snake you won't know to do a recall before it springs. Snakes will get away if they can, but they're really slow to move, no match for a dog in terms of speed. Confronted by a sniffing lab they're going to strike. For hikers like me, the recommendation is simply a short leash when in snake country (warm sun-exposed trails, lots of rocks, etc.). I'm just going to have to be selective about where I let him off.
     

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