Training to "Come" (every time). . .and not to run away!
My 15-month-old Max "Comes" most of the time, but not if he doesn't feel like it! Occasionally, when out of reach, he will look at me when I call, then bound off to visit the cattle down the road or friends to one side or another. I have owned three GSDs (13 years, 10 years, and 9 years), all obedience trained, and never had a problem with one completely ignoring the "Come" command, even when distracted by distance or other dogs/activities. And Max is clearly more intelligent--also more independent and harder to get focused--than any of my previous pets.
We got Max at 7 weeks, nearly 15 years after putting down 9-year-old Deacon for hip displasia, and there are a couple of factors (besides being a few years out of training mode) we never had with the other dogs. Rather than having a fenced back yard in a residential neighborhood, we now live on 16 wooded acres fronted by an occasionally busy minor paved highway (called a Farm-to-Market Road in Texas). I also began training our other dogs between 6-9 months: Beginning earlier, as per the advice at that time, would take the "spirit" out of them. Nine months came and went with Max, and he was so energetic, playful, and hard-to-get-focused, I put off a daily training regimen of all but the simplest of commands (sit, down. . .and come) until he was a year. (He was still puppy-ish and playful, but c'mon. . .had to start sometime!)
Up to about 9 months, Max had stayed in close proximity to the house--located in the middle of the property--even when unattended. . .which was never for very long due to our concern about the aforementioned highway. He never exhibited any desire to leave the immediate area until a stray dog wandered in, saw Max, and ran away. Max chased after it, disappeared down the highway (we looked, but couldn't find him), and finally came back about 4 hours later. Since then, he stays around the house until--and we see it happening!--the wanterlust envelops him, he looks into the distance and then at me (as I shout, "Max! Come!"), and then bounds down the highway or deeper into the surrounding woods. Consequently we keep him on one of two 50-foot runlines when we put him out, which has spawned another issue: Besides fueling his desire to run free, Max sometimes refuses to come when we're outside, presumably to avoid being put on the line, not that I blame him. . . .
I will not have a big dog that is not completely obedience trained, so as much as I love Max I'm considering giving him to someone with a fenced yard, which would be akin to abuse for Max' size and personality. Tethering, however, is even more abusive, and ridiculous when there are acres to run around on. I would at least like to trust Max to accompany me when I work in the yard, which in my case means with a tractor, Bushhog, and chainsaw to clear land and tend to fallen branches and trees. I cannot afford to fence the whole property, so I have thought of a fenced area behind the house. Again, however, my wife and I live alone in a sparsely populated area, and I know a wolfish figure roaming freely through the trees will go a long way toward convincing any Bonnie-and-Clyde wanna-bes to ply their craft elsewhere (we're planning on getting a second GSD for that reason, as well as to give Max a companion. . .or replace him).
I recognize that the fault is mine. I've had suggestions--treats, exaggerated welcomes--but nothing has succeeded. I'm now thinking of electronic fences and collars, but have never used nor heard many positives about them.
Sorry, this started out to be a brief overview but turned into more of a novelette. But if anyone has some advice, I'm open to anything.