Thursday, June 19, 2014

No Recall Part Two, and Another Lesson Learned

I openly admit that my dogs have no/poor recall.  It is a trait that seems to be common in most northern breeds.  While there are a few northern breed dogs who are reliable off leash, they are the exception, not the rule.

Last year, I wrote about the equipment failure that led to Faolan running free through a large park, blissfully ignoring my screams for him to come back.  Fortunately, it ended well, and the details of it can be read HERE.

I manage this by always having them contained by a fence or a leash when outside.  Aside from the incident last summer, it has worked well for us.

Until today.  

I take all responsibility and blame for what occurred today, and it was a learning experience.

I arrived home at about 1:45 this afternoon.  Gave the dogs treats, checked on the chickens, and changed my clothes.  The dogs were either outside in their kennel area, or in the house.  I got the mower out of the barn, and set about cutting grass.  Cutting grass at my house takes awhile, even with a high speed riding mower, and I wanted to get at least half of it done today.  We have a 60" gate leading into the play yard, to accommodate the width of the mower deck.  

I mowed the play yard, the front yard, by the barn, and the pasture.  While mowing the pasture, one of the little girls who lives nearby got my attention.  She asked if I could bring Faolan over to see her.  I happily said I would (there is a mutual love between Faolan and these kids), and took the mower back to the barn.  

I leashed up Faolan and walked over.  I stood talking to the girls and their mother for about 30 minutes before heading home.

I walked Faolan through the airlock into the kennel area, and Neeko and Bruce came out of the house to greet us.  I opened the gate that led from the kennel to the play yard, so that everyone could run around.  I walked out to get the hose to refill their pool, and I realized that I had left the big gate to the play yard (the one that leads to the outside world) wide open after cutting the grass.

My heart sank.  All three dogs trotted out.  Neeko went up on the porch, Bruce headed for the barn (and chickens) and I lost sight of Faolan.  I sprinted, in flip flops, towards Neeko, who kept loping just out of my reach.  She ran back towards the barn.  Bruce was trying to get to the chickens (fortunately I had not yet let them out to free range for the afternoon/evening) and I was able to grab him.  Neeko cornered herself in the bay with the big tractor, so I was able to grab her.  I had both hands full of dog collar, but saw Faolan at the far end of the barn.  I took Neeko and Bruce back to the play yard, and secured the gate, and went after Faolan.

I went back to the barn, and now saw him on the other side of our pond.  I went down the path, and he loped gracefully to the top of the hill on the other side.  I jogged up the hill, and he was now out of sight.

I started down the steep trail that leads to the creek, but turned around when I thought he might return to where the neighbor kids were.  I was right.  I saw him, on their back porch.  I sprinted over, thinking I had him trapped, but their back porch is open on either end.  

He crossed the road, and was heading toward a cornfield.  I was calling his name the entire time.  Something that smelled good got his attention, and I was able to tackle him.

Aren't my Paint skills awesome?
 The yellow marks my property, and it actually extends to the left of the photo.  The red shows some of my trek chasing down my dogs.  The driveway at the left edge is the trail that leads down to the creek, which I started down, but fortunately decided against.  

As one can see, there is a large amount of woods and fields around my home.  I count myself fortunate that this whole ordeal lasted less than 45 minutes, and I was able to safely recover my dogs.

This will NEVER happen again.  My thoughtlessness, combined with their lack of recall, nearly cost me my dogs today.  

I have never been so scared, yet so determined.  It is a feeling I do not wish on anyone.  

I will ALWAYS ensure that gate is closed, and will always close it immediately upon exiting now.


  1. Oh my god, I am so glad everyone is okay and safe! I had similar happen with the Mastiff I had prior to Nola. She broke from her collar, dashed across the (very busy!) street, and I caught her over 30 minutes later.
    That really cemented my rule that all my dogs must be at least 95% reliable off leash. Equipment fails. Gates and doors are left open. When it comes right down to it, the most control I have is over them from my voice alone, and THAT is scary. Recall is the #1 thing I always, always reinforce. It's the biggest focus during training, and the most heavily praised and reward thing that can happen to my dogs. Nola's recall is 99% reliable (because no dog, just like no person, is 100% in anything), and she's proven that she will recall in an emergency. In Richmond two falls ago, my parents and I were walking in a huge, wooded park. My dad had Nola on leash, because I was up the trail aways photographing. Nola slipped her harness, and dashed away from my dad. I screamed for her to stop, which she did ("stop!" is another emergency cue I teach). Once she paused, I called her over as calmly as I could. She thankfully ran right over to me. Most terrifying moment ever.
    Even Pike, at just shy of 5 months old, is about 85% with his recall now. The scary scenarios really make you change your ways.

  2. Don't beat yourself up it happens to all of us at least once and it always a lesson learnt and never to be repeated. I can well imagine how scared you must have felt. At least all ended OK. That is something to be grateful for. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. I think every dog owners and pug owners (lol) has went through this and then spends the rest of their lives, kicking their backsides for whatever mistake they made. We are not good listeners at all when we think we have the chance to run around the yard like crazies, and since we live right beside a busy highway coming through our village our moms heart has stopped more than once. That is why Alcatraz was built. And sometimes even a Alcatraz cannot prevent a heart from breaking. I am so glad it all turned out well for you.
    Stella Rose and momma

  4. Ahhh!! Wow! Quite the afternoon you had!!!! My huskies have all had their turns at playing escape, and it is so scary! We have roads all over the place here as we live in the city and I have been terrified that they will be hit by a car. Luckily I have retrieved them safely each time.
    Thank dog you did too!
    It happens to all of us!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  5. Everyone's worst nightmare is a loose dog! Well, mine is, anyway. And accidents CAN happen. I'm so glad everyone is OK!

  6. Oh how awful! I'm so, so glad you got them all safely home. Talk about stressful. I think sooner or later, these kinds of things do happen to everyone. I've had some scares where my cats have gotten out onto the patio (they're indoor cats).

    When I worked at a boarding kennel, we were drilled to always close gates behind us immediately, even if there was no dog behind the gate. Walk in. Close gate. Walk out. Close gate. Always. This became automatic to me after working there for 7 years or so. I do it with all doors and gates automatically now, even though it's about 10 years later, and even in places where there are no dogs, like other people's homes. Not a bad habit to have, I guess.

  7. OMG. I'm so sorry. I know I'm a week late on reading blogs, but my heart was stuck in my throat reading this. It sounds like you handled it perfectly. That happened once to me. I was on the phone with my mom. The dogs wanted out. I let them out, then I heard Lucas bark... from far, far away. Our front gate stuck and would occasionally pop open, so we had secured it with a zip tie. Which had broken. All three dogs were careening down the middle of the main road in our neighborhood. I was able to get them back fairly quickly and used a rope to secure the gate, but I swear... my hands shook for a full day. It's such a sickening feeling. It happens. I'm so grateful that you were able to quickly recover your herd. Big hugs!

  8. I have so been there. Rodrigo is our roamer and it's important to always watch him when he's walking along the border of our property. He understands "stay in the yard" and I can tell when he's planning an escape, because he always looks back at me. What sucks is that the puppies always happily follow him.

    I had to work very hard on gaining a commanding voice to bring him back and I do, but every couple months, it takes about 20 minutes to get him back and that's not a long time, but it's scary. There are coyotes, rumors of mountain lion sightings, and other hazards in the woods.

    The last time Rodrigo took a trek, he came back completely exhausted. So was I.

    So sorry that happened. I totally get it.


Thanks for the howls!!