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Discussion Starter #1
Our 16 week V gets a lot of on the leash exercise via our nightly walks, however we understand the importance of uninhibited running. With that being said, my husband and I have started taking him out to a small clearing near our house. At home in the back yard we play fetch and he is responsive to all of our commands; but when we get out there, to him throwing the ball is like the gun shot that starts the race. He goes crazy sniffing out and eating anything he can get in his mouth. He is not at all interested in playing or heeding our commands. The first few times we chased him like mad trying to get everything he put in his mouth out; specifically the dead amphibians and birds. I know dogs will be dogs and that's what they do but it's frustrating to watch him do this and he's not even running, just eating! Last night he ate three dead frogs, one cupcake wrapper and one mushroom.

Do you have any suggestions on how to make his off the leash time more structured and pleasant for all?
 

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If he is still in his mouthy stage, you will need to control his off leash environment. The best thing you can do at this stage is do short training sessions with him both in the yard at home and then in another environment where there are more distractions ON THE CHECK CORD. This should be done on and off until you are 100% confident he will "COME" and "LEAVE IT" when he is told. The "leave it or release" command with Vizslas is almost as important as come IMHO. :) I still put Copper back on the leash or check cord when he becomes let's say obstinate. Most trainers will tell you; "Never give a command that you can not enforce and Set the dog up to succeed (meaning enforce the command with some assistance or coercing) followed by allot of praise. Letting him run off leash and chasing him around is not doing him any favors. :)
 

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Good advice above. Make sure not to chase them and steal stuff or they'll always run away from you. Get them to nicely trade for a different toy or treat then hide what you don't want them to have.
 

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Yes, chasing always makes for a fun game...at least for the V. Check cord is good advice. If I am not sure Pumpkin will reliably come, the cord is long enough for me to stop her & "enforce" the command. Agree with Linescreamer that it's best to avoid giving a command unless you are positive your dog will comply or you can enforce. That goes for home too. I would continue to take him to the field though. Exposure may cut down on the unwanted in the future. Pumpkin is not nearly as bad about eating everything, because she is older & repeatedly exposed to woods, fields, smells, wildlife, concrete etc. The dead animals seems to have lasting appeal for all dogs ;D She listens reliably as long as their are no game birds or other major distractions ::) The distractions away from home are hard. Do you have any friends with a farm or a safe dog park?
 

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Dead frogs and cupcake wrappers.... Merc likes decomposing rabbits and discarded bandages from the soccer field ::)

The others have given you some great advice. I learnt about long lines / check cords later than I should. They are great for allowing you to build up to things slowly (in our case how to behave around bicycles).

Just one more thing, if he does get away from you and won't come, don't continue to call, run away in the other direction and pretend to have something really fun to play with. You will most likely feel like a total idiot whilst you are doing this but it is the quickest way to get their attention.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you for your tip, you all have been incredibly helpful! We had never heard of a check cord but after researching it a bit, it makes perfect sense and we are certainly going to give it a try.

We have been considering an 8 week training course to reinforce the standard commands, specifically come and leave it. We just worry about paying all that money and him not learning anything. Lol As you all know, they are very stubborn sometimes in what they do and do not want to do. In the past while playing fetch Hunter would run to the ball/stick and 1. pick it up and lay down to chew or 2. play keep away; however my husband discovered the best toy ever! He put a tennis ball in a dirty sock and tied a knot at the end and you should have seen my amazement. EVERY TIME he threw it Hunter retrieved! I had never been such a proud mama.

I did find a very nice 2 acre dog park about 30 minutes from our home so I am very exited to take him there to play over the weekend. Between his new full proof fetch toy and the check cord and, if necessary running away from him : ), I feel like our outside play is going to become as wonderful as our indoor time with him.
 

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Ok fetch. Stop throwing it if he doesn't return it. Go back to square 1. You should read up on this. Watch videos on the net. There are two ways. 1. Dogs retrieve and bring good stuff back to their den. You need to be in the path when he returns to his den. Maybe his den is his crate or his bed. You should throw something he really, really likes, and he will go get it and try to return to his den. When he does so, you will be there to accept it and praise him like he just won the lottery! 2. The other way is to repeatedly roll or throw he ball down a blind hallway. You should be sitting on the floor and can even bounce the ball off the wall at the end of the hallway. The ball will come back to you and the dog should also bring it back to you, if he get excited enough. Do this repeatedly and praise him ALLOT! Do these training sessions every day for a week for about 10 minutes or until he/she losses interest. In short order you will have a retriever! Keep up the training in different locations at least weekly so the dog doesn't forget! :)
 

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I should post a video of Copper retrieving a baseball. Talk about a racing dog! My son after every baseball game, will do some hitting when the Field is empty. He sits the dog across from him, tells him "stay Coppper, stay". He then throws the ball up in the air and hits it far into the outfield! Copper sometimes can't even wait until he is told OK! :-\ He will take off like a bandit and pick the ball up at full speed, make a turn (if he doesn't hit the outfield fence) and return it back to him a fast as he departed. Copper will stand there and wait until another is hit! This is almost as fun as chasing waterfowl. :-\ ;D
 

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MightyHunter,
We enrolled Pumpkin in an AKC S.T.A.R. puppy class at around 4m. Fabulous! It wasen't that expensive ($115 maybe), but the benefits last a life time. Training at home &/or a pup class will be as successful as you are consistent and willing to practice each day for short periods. The benefit of a puppy class is socialization, assistance if needed, and a controlled environment that allows work on commands with distractions. Good Luck!
 

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After a few more trips, Hunter will have depleted the field of its dead animal inventory. New dead things probably don’t arrive very often, so the number of tasty distractions will go down.

Savannah got wise to my running away from her. As a last resort method for bringing Hunter to you (and if you felt like an idiot running away from Hunter, you have a whole new level of idiocy on this one) call his name, as soon as you get his attention, stop, drop, and roll. For real. Laugh as loud as you can. Your inexplicable behavior will HAVE to be investigated if you are loud enough and convincing enough. BUT… in my experience, this last resort will not work once he gets used to your hands and feet waving in the air, so use the check cord for training and the stop drop and roll only for when you foozle.

Linescreamer – thanks for the fetching tips. We have been making progress, but the blind hallway will be our next step.
 
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