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View Full Version : Sparky won't stay home! Help!



HelenParr
18th February 2012, 07:03 PM
So, for the last month or two, our 18mo male, Sparky, has no interest in staying home. The moment the door is open, he books it for the street. We have secured our backyard after he has been escaping out of the drainage blocks in the fence, but he is still managing to slip out the front door consistently (with 6 kids around, it's hard to control the door). He is pretty good with his recall if he is within a certain distance, but that is assuming I notice he is missing within 2-3 minutes. After that, he's history. About once a week these days, I get a call from a neighbor who has spotted him on the road and picked him up.

I need some suggestions for teaching him to stay home! He has everything he needs here; family of 8, a girlfriend, bed, snuggles, etc. He seems very happy when he sees me, so I don't think he hates it here, but why won't he stay? Help PLEASE!

Lani
18th February 2012, 07:17 PM
You didn't mention how frequently you walk him. I think Cavaliers have a lot of energy and really thrive on walks. IMO, the kind of exercise they get on a walk around the block is really important. Then they can sniff, explore and smell other dogs. My dogs live for their walks! If you're walking Sparky, I'd look to increase the duration and distance a bit, and if he's usually just going to the backyard to potty, then I'd try starting him on some regular daily walks. Hopefully that will reduce his tendency to bolt when you are not looking.

Additionally, it seems door control is an issue for you. Can you install a baby gate to control Sparky's access to that room where the door is?

Good luck.

HelenParr
18th February 2012, 07:47 PM
Thanks for your response, Lani! Since I've been able to fix the back yard problems, he has been able to play in the back for a fair amount (2 or so hours/ day). We play fetch sometimes, but often he just explores and runs around with Jovie. The area back there is about an acre.

I take him for a short (1/2 mile) walk in the late afternoon to the bus stop when my kids get home from school. Do you think he needs more?

Nicki
18th February 2012, 08:03 PM
Most Cavaliers do well on 45mins to an hour of free running exercise. For puppies it's usually 5mins per month of age. Obviously you need to build up slowly, but no, 1/2 mile is not sufficient exercise.


It's good that he has a back garden to play in but he really needs the stimulation of leaving the house.


Cavaliers have no sense of danger, you are responsible for protecting him, and if he did cause an accident, you could be liable - which could be a bill of many thousands of pounds/dollars [people have lost their houses :(] So also make sure you have at least 3rd party insurance. He could also be badly hurt or worse - if you go through the forum there are quite a few stories of Cavaliers who sadly have been run over :(

It's amazing how quickly they can get away from a house so you stand a good chance of losing him and I am sure none of you want that.


Your children should be able to learn to close the door especially if you explain to them the consequences. Otherwise as Lani suggests, do not allow him access to the room where the door is situated.

Furrfoot
18th February 2012, 09:20 PM
If he's like Rose, he can probably dart out the door on an adult, kids are easy marks even if they are trying hard to make sure they don't let the dog out. So frustrating. I did get Rose a tag that has every phone number for at least one person in each town we regularly go to/where she stays when we are gone, plus the vet's number. She also gets her excercise in the backyard, because we have some dogs in the neighborhood who you never know if they have escaped their "invisible fence" or not, so walks are not exactly enjoyable when you have the prospect of having to potentially kill someone else's dog to save your own just to take her on a walk >:/ . We did limit her access to the front door and the basement stairs. She knows "wait" and will be consistant for weeks at a time, but if she really wants to dart out the door, she's going. We also keep a nylon martingale collar with a leash on the front door knob, so that we can put it on her if we need to before someone goes in or out the door. It goes on quickly and she can't slip out of it.

Mindysmom
18th February 2012, 10:07 PM
My golden was a bolter. I have taught Max and Rylie to sit in front of the door and not leave without permission even when on leash or I'm letting them out to the back yard. That might be good practice. My kids (and their friends without dogs mainly) used to accidentally leave the back gate open so I sympathize. I also have a baby gate restricting their access to the front door as a safety measure. Is that possible in your house?

Tania
18th February 2012, 10:14 PM
It would be good fun and stimulation to teach your children to teach Sparky not to run away. Start with some basic training, sit down, stay and recall. Don't forget Cavaliers are like little toddlers and need direction.

We use a baby gate between the door to outside and the rest of the house which stops accidents. I also found online cheap agricultural fencing which secured the boundary of our garden.

Sparky is at risk of being run over, so training is needed for the whole family urgently.

I love his profile picture, he looks adorable.:o

lucidity
19th February 2012, 02:15 AM
1st thing is to never ever allow him to go out the door on his own again. Even for potty breaks. Make him sit and stay at the door for a minute or two, and then say OK! Give him a treat, and let him out. This is so that he knows that every time he sits and waits by the door before going out, he will get a treat.

If he's still bolting out the door, I think you have no choice but to confine him to a space that doesn't let him anywhere near the door. Dogs dying in car accidents is a huge problem these days--it is horrifying. I saw large dog at our vet's once... he was run down by a car. It was horrible. The dog was crying out in pain the entire time.. imagine how much worse it would be if it were a small dog?

Karlin
19th February 2012, 10:32 AM
I think the answers above are pretty much spot on.

What you have is not just a dog management and training issue that must come top priority -- or you will end up with a dead or stolen dog -- but crucially, is also a CHILD and FAMILY management and training issue.

Sometimes dogs aren't a good choice for families at a stage with smaller kids that are allowed to go in and out of front doors and would potentially leave them open... unless (and this isn;t hard to do :) )there is a hallway and system of confinement that is observed at all times. But smaller kids, open doors and a dog is a recipe for a dog death or permanent loss -- sadly this is just reality and we have had some tragedies due to exactly this combination on the board in the past that I know you will not want repeated. So solving this must be a real priority as any one of those bolts could end in death -- likely observed by the children who opened the door that time, which would be very traumatic for them.

If you have a bolter then you first have to accept the problem is NOT the dog's behaviour. After all, why wouldn't a lively happy dog view an open door as time to head out and have fun :D -- UNLESS you have put in the consistent time and patience to train him otherwise (which would have been easiest as a puppy -- to ask for a sit at the front door, always, and that he is never allowed to go out in front of a person but must wait; and also only proceeds on a release command). Family agreement on how to keep a dog safely inside also needed agreement early on, aspart of a 'family contract' on what we will all do to be responsible for a dog in our home :). The dog has NO idea you want him to stay in if he hasn't had consistent training on this.

It will be considerably harder and more challenging to deal with this now that he has had 18 months of settling into this unwanted pattern and where he knows doors are often simply left open by the kids -- with the obvious message to him, to go out where it is fun, with the kids! But you will have to address this or consider alternatives -- which would be to rehome him so this doesn't end in tragedy, and maybe wait for a dog til kids are older or some system of controlling front door access (eg baby gates) can be installed? But this IS an issue that CAN be successfully managed IF you and your family will put the time and effort into it.

There was a good Victoria Stilwell episode on a famiy that had boxers that would bolt for the front door and jump all over people and bolt outside and this was managed fairly quickly -- thorugh positive, rewards based training. But you will need a good rewards-based trainer in house I think to assess your home layout and also give training advice.

And here you go: Victoria on training dogs not to do this! :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylXQegSagus

As she says -- the need is to train impulse control which isn;t easy and takes time and effort. (btw ignore some of the reader comments after the video -- some total idiots who shouldn;t be allowed to own a dog... :rolleyes:) Has Sparky done one or more general training classes? Do you practice some training/obedience with him every single day? Does he know sit, down and a solid sitstay and downstay? The more a dog has been trained in a fun way, the closer the bond to the owner, the better the natural impulse control, the happier the dog and family, the easier all subsequent training. If he isn;t getting this level of daily practice and hasn;t had a single group rewards-based training class (eg NO 'corrections/leash jerks on collars) then he would greatly benefit and the trainer could help you with this issue. If he has had training then he needs more -- a dog that simply gets put in a downstay won;t be bolting out the door :) -- and agin, the trainer could help you with this problem. Look for an APDT or CPDT class/trainer (their websites list trainers locally).

If you have smaller kids I would put child latches on the front door so that they have to get someone older and more cautious/responsible with the dogs to let them out.

But you/they need a routine -- dog kept always in safer parts of the house at ALL times with no access to front door -- but still -- combined with training that every single time he MUST wait before being released to exit (and I'd say only ever *on a lead* and never ever off one). Without knowing your house layout we can;t really give many suggestions but if there's a hallway I'd put a baby gate up. Or put one across the doors that access the hallway.

If this all seems too difficult -- i think there needs to be an all-family talk on 1) that Sparky will need to be rehomed IF everyone doesn't observe the new system and new rules, and everyone agrees to the new system to keep him safe or 2) to say that he will be going to a new home because this is safer for him.

PS and agree with Lani -- 30 minutes walk a day -- probably at a leisurely pace -- is not enough especially for a young dog (that's what I gave my elderly cavalier with heart issues when she was still able to walk and before she passed away...). At last an hour of vigorous walking and mixed with times of active play is needed to tire a dog. And obedience practice -- 20-30 minutes a day, easily split into a couple of short sessions -- will really help tire him out, often far more so than walks!! Of course walks should never be off lead unless safely in a park well away from all cars and traffic. A back garden is nice for a dog but quickly is boring nd never is a replacement for daily interaction with your dog and daily walks -- same smells, same places in a garden. Dogs enjoy a scent-rich world and it works their brains and body to get an active walk where they can explore, smell new things and so on. This is very important to their quality of life and critical need to be *constantly* socialised with other dogs and people to avoid fear aggression. They need to meet more than the same dog companions. Did you download the free Ian Dunbar book I am sure I mentioned to you early on when you got Sparky? After You Get Your Puppy -- this will still give you loads of great advice and training and game ideas: www.dogstardaily.com/free-downloads . :)

** There are some great books you can get on training tricks and games which dogs love and which tire them out (and crucially again improve the bond with the owner and dog!). Dr Ian Dunbar has a great video you can buy FOR KIDS too, that let them learn how to train their dog themselves -- get your kids involved! There are so many ways to make a dog a more rewarding and active part of the whole family, rather than just a companiion that plays in the garden and gets walked daily. :) You can also buy games to train your dog to use -- the Nina Ottosen series is great.

Cavaliers are specifically bred to be fearless and will walk right in front of an oncoming car so cannot stress enough how critical it is to address the bolting and management part of this whole problem though. :thmbsup:

Lani
19th February 2012, 12:22 PM
That video was great!

My method is so second nature at this point I forgot what I do! I have my dogs trained to go to their crate upon command. So every time the doorbell rings I say "nap time!" and they run to their crate. I usually let them out right away but if we have a workman over who may be coming & going then they may stay inside the crate a while to ensure they are safe. They also go back in the crate before anyone exits. I don't have kids though - just occasional visitors & workmen but this method works for me.

Karlin
19th February 2012, 12:47 PM
Yeah her channel is so worth subscribing to! :D I love her training approaches.

My four dogs run toward the front hallway anytime the front bell goes or someone knocks, barking away -- but because I have always told them to wait outside the hall door, and always sent them out and closed the door to my 'dog airlock' before opening the front door, they have 'trained themselves' to know they can run UP to the hall and bark away (I like the canine warning/security system! :D) but they never, ever enter the hall itself any longer in this particular situation --when I open the front door to answer to a caller. I always praise them for waiting outside before I close the hall door. To reinforce this, I could treat right upon re-entering the room (eg keep a little treat bag near the front door to always reinforce good desired behaviour).

I found this very interesting -- that the dogs had self-learned to wait simply because this behaviour was regularly reinforced and that all four respect the boundary line of the hall. If I had an open area before the door and no hallway, I might mark out a floor area in tape and train the dog(s) never to cross it without permission -- to always sit at that tape line and wait to be attached to a lead and released to walk forward and out the door. All sorts of possibilities but this does all take daily practice, positive reinforcement, constant practice, and family support at every level.

One thought -- if there is a back gate maybe make the front door off limits to ALL for entry/exit except on special occasions and have kids go through a back gate that has an automatic spring-closure mechanism -- and they only can go out when they are absolutely sure Sparky is not outside. But I'd do this in conjunction with training desired front-door behaviour for Sparky too.

HelenParr
19th February 2012, 07:18 PM
Wow, all such AMAZING suggestions and advice! THANK YOU. I have been very worried about how to fix the problem, and the answer seems simple! Lots of work and training, but I think we can fix it!

I wish we had a way to keep the dogs away from the doors, but our floorplan is laid out so it is all open to everything. I will work work work with him and get this fixed. Thank you so much to all for the kind words of advice and help.

Karlin
4th March 2012, 10:20 PM
Keep checking in with us and let us know how things go. :) Training & management, combined, is the answer to just about every possible dog issue.A lot of times as owners I think we just need a new perspective on how to look at a problem because we begin to see it framed one way (usually the human angle), when looking at it another (from the dog's perspective!) presents a lot more possibility of a resolution. I cannot tell you how many times I have suddenly realised I was accidentally reinforcing exactly the opposite of what I really wanted my dogs to do. Or where I have had to stop and remind myself at a point of frustration, that I needed to take time to train a dog to do something that I wanted rather than expect he or she would just magically know... :)

Charlifarley
5th March 2012, 12:22 PM
Keep checking in with us and let us know how things go. :) Training & management, combined, is the answer to just about every possible dog issue.A lot of times as owners I think we just need a new perspective on how to look at a problem because we begin to see it framed one way (usually the human angle), when looking at it another (from the dog's perspective!) presents a lot more possibility of a resolution. I cannot tell you how many times I have suddenly realised I was accidentally reinforcing exactly the opposite of what I really wanted my dogs to do. Or where I have had to stop and remind myself at a point of frustration, that I needed to take time to train a dog to do something that I wanted rather than expect he or she would just magically know... :)

Sounds like teenage-boy training to me!

Karlin
5th March 2012, 05:01 PM
:rotfl:

Not an area I am directly familiar with but having grown up with two brothers, I can see the parallels! (if only we could have crated them!)

anniemac
5th March 2012, 08:57 PM
:rotfl:

Not an area I am directly familiar with but having grown up with two brothers, I can see the parallels! (if only we could have crated them!)

BOL!!! (bark out loud)!