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First time poster here. Please have patience with me. I am at my wits end.

I love my boy. He is amazing. He is 4 years old, friendly with all people and animals, super amazing with my 3 youngish boys and has never once bared his teeth at anyone or anything. But there is one thing I hate about him. I know it's a strong word but I am seriously just so done with him bolting out any open door or trying to break the fence pickets to get out.

We solved the problem at our last house by tethering him every time we let him out to do his business but I hated that solution and we have moved to a new house recently and need to find a new solution.

I know I need to teach him a better recall. I know we need to exercise him more and keep him busy. We do have a trainer but she's very expensive.

I am looking for answers as to whether this is a common GSD trait or not. I thought they were supposed to be protective and loyal but this joker runs away at any opportunity and it bothers me so much. We are first time GSD parents but we have had a sheltie, collie, goldie, and a rescue. The rescue is the only one who would run out but I chalked it up to her living in the streets.

Please no rude comments. I'm so afraid he'll get hurt one of these days by running into a car or rattler.

IMG_5256_1536889936732.jpg
 

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Nope, Pepper likes to go out in the morning to sniff the front yard for "intruders" but never goes far. She also helps me put the trash barrel out and bring the milk in. One day she was out, forgot about her looked out and she was looking in the door with "the you forgot me" look.
 

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Yeah, this is really a training (and maybe exercise?) issue...

You need to work on obedience. Bolting out the door, any door, is just a learned behavior that you've worked around via tethering, but it sounds like never really addressed via training.

No amount of money or training will make an under-exercised dog behave! So figure out a way to meet his needs, then train him to meet yours.

There is no SILVER BULLET that will fix this problem. Change your routine...and teach him some boundaries!
 

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The more a behavior is practiced or gets a band aid as a solution, the more ingrained it becomes. 4yrs in the making can take awhile to break depending the training technique, ability and consistency.

I would not say it’s a GSD trait.... breed aside, it’s a young, untrained, under exercised dog trait. I think you’re already aware of what needs to be done. Training and exercise...a lot of both.

Outside of isolated events (chasing a squirrel, etc), clearly something out there has become way more reinforcing to him than being at home.
 

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I vote no, it is not a GSD trait. As the others say, up the exercise, put some training on him, and give him opportunity to be a dog doing what he wants to do at his pace.

I am sure he adores your three boys but are you sure he really is amazing with them or does he tolerate all the activity? Does he have a quiet place to go when he needs a break where he won't be disturbed?
 

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. breed aside, it’s a young, untrained, under exercised dog trait. I think you’re already aware of what needs to be done. Training and exercise...a lot of both.

Outside of isolated events (chasing a squirrel, etc), clearly something out there has become way more reinforcing to him than being at home.
I agree that in general, my guy needs more exercise. However, when I train to walk the half marathon, I take him with me. He's done eight and 10 milers with me and still likes to dart afterwards if given the opportunity.

I think your last statement rings true the most. I think he thinks of it as a game somehow. Especially since I freak out. Obviously after four years, we've gotten him back every time. Sometimes he would even just come back on his own while we were running after him.


Thanks for your kind response!
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
I am sure he adores your three boys but are you sure he really is amazing with them or does he tolerate all the activity?

Does he have a quiet place to go when he needs a break where he won't be disturbed?
What is a good way to tell? He always wants to be around them and is very affectionate with them. We also have 2 kitties and he always tries to love on them too. You are right that we have a very active household but he is a very happy go lucky boy.

Yep, he has his bed or he could go upstairs or the study to be alone but he seems to always want to be where the action is. He has the house to himself and the kitties for the better part of the day with us working and the kids in school.

I appreciate your thoughtful response.
 

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Definitely an individual thing! Since I moved to my current property, my dogs have gotten out twice, both times when a really bad wind storm blew the gate ajar.

The younger one will just sniff around the front yard, then come back and lie on the back deck. The older one goes off exploring!

I had to retrieve her from the Humane society once. She's also the one who figured out how to let herself out of the house by opening the screen door! Got up one morning: where's my dog??

As the lock on the screen door was broken, I had to close the inner door every night after that, and when I left her alone in the house. As long as I was home, she'd stay put.
 

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It's more of a male dog trait than a breed trait. Especially if there are interesting things and smells around the neighborhood such as other dogs and he feels a need to mark his presence everywhere. Some dogs are also just more curious and adventurous than others. You may have to go back to your old solution of tethering or spend the money for a really secure fence and be careful about leaving any door open unattended. To me these are just standard practices for any person that owns a dog.
 

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All wonderful answers here that cover many possibilities. Let me add one more. My first GSD was adopted from the local humane society and we hit the jack-pot with him. As a pet GSD he was everything we wanted. The lady who had to surrender him must have been heartbroken.

One day we had a house fire. Everyone got out but the house was ruined. We went to go live with some friends while we looked for a new place. After we moved into a spot on the other side of town, our boy bolted out of the door. He was gone all day. That evening he was by the door asking to be let in. Friends asked if we had been missing our dog because they thought they had seen him at the old burnt out house. It may be that he went all the way across town (and we've never taken a route from that burnt house to the new place) to see why we hadn't gone home yet. Satisfied with what he found, he didn't bolt again.

So who knows why your guy takes off. The answer is still the same. Some consistent exercise. Some intelligence games. Some training even if it means looking at some good video trainers. I think we have a thread of decent online trainers here somewhere.
 

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Agreed, not a breed trait. I've heard a lot about dogs just bolting out the door soon as he's unsupervised with the door open, so from day 1, I've trained him to sit before any door is open, AND to stay sitting down even AFTER the door is open, and only when I release, he may go through the door.

I do it everyday, everytime. There was a period where I keep my apartment door open while I sit at a sofa near the door, and whenever he got close to the door, I correct. Now everytime we go into the house, out the house, or whenever he wants to get out of his crate, he sits down before and after the door is opened, and will only go through the door on my release command.

If your dog learns that kind of routine, he might feel the need to 'ask for your permission' first whenever he sees a door open.
 

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I would say indvidual dog trait. Some enjoy the adrenaline rush. With many years practicing that behavior it will be a challenge but possible. I’m pretty sure this was my first question on this forum.

When max was an adolescent he would dash out the door chasing and hopping through the woods after several feral cats. We already practiced much obedience but not without majors distractions off leash. Every time the front door was open a cat would be in his view. Max found out to many times how fun this was. One time one of the kids did not shut the door right and the wind left blew open the door open. In the middle of the cat run. I saw max trying to charge the bus head on as the bus was pulling down the road in front of our house to pick up the kids. The bus driver stopped but did not see the dog but just happened to stop in time. Max’s head and the bus bumper were 2 inches apart.

We did ago to your spot or place training if someone was visiting and the door was to be opened or max was to be leashed. I practiced with long leads and the front door open and practicing impulse control exercises like throwing the ball and having him wait to get it. We practiced recalls on long leads with out distraction and with distraction around the feral cats. I was able to walk to pass the cats without any pulling on leashes or bolting if I was at the door but it was all challenging as there were a few people in the house.
With all the wildlife around us and wanting to have max off of the leash during certain outings I went to a trainer to help me use the e collar to proof for recalling with off leash distractions like deer and wild cats etc. All of the training helped and when the front door now opens max has and does not take off- it took continuous time and effort and good timing. Linking some of the sites I learned from.
https://susangarrettdogagility.com/2010/06/recall-collapse/
https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=O75dyWITP1s
 

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I agree with everyone else. This isn't a breed trait, it's an untrained dog trait and it's dangerous. But, you know that, so you're halfway there towards solving the problemS. Note the plural. IMO there are several different things going on, so, to be effective, over the long term, you've got to breakdown and tailor your training/management to address each component separately.

First, there's the bolting which is a relatively easy fix (all things considered) but takes many repetitions, commitment and time. Teach the dog to Sit and Wait. You can do this inside (at doorways), entering/exiting a crate, at house entrances/exits, at gates, curbs at street crossings --- pretty much anywhere there's a natural division or boundary. Start with the dog/puppy leashed, approach a doorway, tell the dog to Sit (reward), then tell the dog to Wait. (Hand gestures help with this). You step back, count to 5, return to the dog, take up the lead and walk on. IME having the dog to come to you is too similar to the bolting you're trying to stop, so I wouldn't. I'd go back to the dog, stand in position, reward for waiting and then move out together. Repeat this All Over the House. I've found it's easiest to train Wait in a crate, at a gate, or in a doorway with an easily closed door. If the dog tries bolting there, Hey Presto, the door/gate closes in their face. (You have to be somewhat ruthless about this with a confirmed bolter. Make them think that the door's gonna smash their noses, if necessary). The point is that nothing good happens until they Sit and Wait quietly. They get the point. Rinse and repeat, multiple times daily. Then teach it at the door to the outside, and at the gate. Rinse and repeat, multiple times daily. Keep him on a long line so you've got some control whilst teaching him new/different behavior.

Second, there's the running off component; I think of it as the extended portion of bolting. The tricky part is that, in very short order, running off can quickly become self-reinforcing --- there's always some new smell, object or animal to investigate. This is where the assistance of a good GSD trainer would be most helpful. Until then, I simply wouldn't open the door and let the dog go outside unleashed --- no matter what the purpose is. Building on what you're training inside, leash the dog, have him Sit and Wait quietly at the door, and then the two of you walk quietly outside together. And, I wouldn't let him offleash outside unless and until he's quiet and then only in a fully secured (fenced) yard --- with a locked gate. Until you get a trainer on board, you can teach/practice Recall with him on a long line in your yard. If/when he improves, you can began to teach/practice Recall (still on a long line) on walks, in fields, etc. Keep in mind that some dogs will never be reliable offlead and, at this point, he may have become one of those. If so, it's a question of management.

Third, up his exercise, being careful to include mental as well as physical exercise. Running/jogging is enjoyable, but may not be enough for him compared to the excitement of exploring new smells/places (aka bolting). So, an important thing to do is to expand YOUR approach so that it's fun and interesting for him, being careful to include activities that make him think. Try simple nosework games (search the forum for suggestions) or teaching him new stuff.

Finally, I agree with others who note that at 4 years, he's had a lot of time to practice and consolidate this behavior. Changing it is possible, but will take time and utter consistency. Then too, you've got to get everyone in the family on board (especially any children). That may be more difficult than actually retraining the dog. Knowing that going in is half the battle.

Good luck.
 

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Looks like you got all good answers here. I agree, not a breed trait. In fact the opposite would be more the norm..unlikely to "bolt"

I have had sneaky ones though. Well, my dad did I was just a teen. We had Petey and Pax and they use to sneak off the farm to go hunt no matter what my dad did. New fencing, electric fencing with collars..at one point it was such a mystery. They would NEVER do it in front of him. Well he was patiently watching out the window one night and it turned out they were getting out through the window hole in the barn slider door....that was 7 feet up. Stealth, quiet, a nice jump and right through that opening, through the barn into the horse field then through the wide spaced electric horse fence (army crawl). They were obsessed with hunting and would on a regular basis come back with a deer hock, rabbits. So wasn't bolting, it was going out with purpose, without permission lol. Once he put chicken wire over that hole it was game over and they were contained.

So while all that was also untrained, probably bored behavior..I think it was more breed typical manifestation of said boredom. They were leaving their people and post in a controlled fashion and absolutely with purpose, with a task they felt they had to do. They also came back after hunting. Sometimes with pet bunnies...ugh. Dad, seriously?
 

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3 small boys and a job and a dog that requires more exercise, that's a conundrum. May I suggest a flirt pole? If your dog has any kind of prey drive, he will love it and you will get daily exercise done in half the time. Now, if you are particular about a nice lawn, you may have to give that up. There are, literally, divots of my grass/weeds in the neighbor's yard. Well worth it to make sure my dog gets the exercise he needs as well as the excitement. His eyes light up the minute I touch that thing. You can make your own, customized, with pvc and paracord. Google it, you'll find plenty of diy flirt poles.

For mental stimulation, I have given names to his stuffed toys (he finally stopped shredding them) and ask him to get *whichever. He brings it to me and I tell him to 'make it cry like a little girl' and he squeaks it nonstop until I tell him to get me a different toy. Presently working on getting to 'clean this mess up', meaning to put his toys in the basket. That is not going as well, for the moment. I also hide things, especially his favorite ball, in the yard and ask him to find it. He has quite a nose on him and starts sniffing. Sometimes it takes him a few to find it, but he is working the entire time trying to get the scent.

As for the fence. I had a foster Husky here, who took forever to get on transport. This breed is the quintessential escape artist. They go over, under and through. I simply bought 2 foot wire fencing and installed it one foot inside my fence. If he manged to dig under or hop over, he had no room to take on the outer fence. After about a week, I was confident that he could no longer get out and was able to leave him out there if I had something to take care of, like going to the bathroom or answering the phone. Never for an extended period, but I don't do that with any of my dogs.

Training not to bolt the door is essential. Simon was an adult when I got him, with zero manners or training. I taught him right away that we do not go on an adventure without the lead. He will not go through the front door until I leash him, but knows when I open the door to the fenced yard, it's game on. Pretty smart guy. So sit/stay at the front door and no exiting without the lead. That way you can retrieve the UPS delivery, without have to run after your dog. He only goes out the door with the lead (you can give a command, but I think my actions speak with my guy. It is now a given.)

Make your fenced yard a fun place to be. If you are out there throwing a ball or using the flirt pole, he will likely find that good enough and the outside world won't be quite so enticing. (unless he's got a girl friend in the neighborhood;)
 

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I agree with the others - not a breed trait. If fact, their loyalty makes them less likely to bolt. I can't even peel my dog off me to go to the bathroom by myself.

There were two times I was walking my dog outside and dropped the leash (by accident). All I had to do was head in the direction of my house and my dog beat me there. No way was he being left behind. LOL

May I suggest a flirt pole? If your dog has any kind of prey drive, he will love it and you will get daily exercise done in half the time. Now, if you are particular about a nice lawn, you may have to give that up. There are, literally, divots of my grass/weeds in the neighbor's yard. Well worth it to make sure my dog gets the exercise he needs as well as the excitement. His eyes light up the minute I touch that thing. You can make your own, customized, with pvc and paracord. Google it, you'll find plenty of diy flirt poles.
I agree with unfortunatefoster. A flirt pole does wonders for my dog...and he LOVES it! I also work in training while using it. It's literally his favorite thing in the world...aside from me. :wink2:

Of course, I've had huskies so I feel your pain. Nothing worked on them. It's why I have a GSD now and not a Husky...lol.
 

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It's more of a male dog trait than a breed trait. Especially if there are interesting things and smells around the neighborhood such as other dogs and he feels a need to mark his presence everywhere. Some dogs are also just more curious and adventurous than others. You may have to go back to your old solution of tethering or spend the money for a really secure fence and be careful about leaving any door open unattended. To me these are just standard practices for any person that owns a dog.
My intact male sits at the door staring in looking for me hoping I come out if I put him out and don't go with. And he loves to mark.

If I were you OP, find a trainer that is good with e collars...and build a good fence. Unless the dog gets an influx of exercise, mental stimulation, sound management and training, this will continue.

appeasement behaviors can sometimes look like affection, so the dog might still not be as happy as you think even if licking kids a lot or wagging etc...

I definitely don't think it's a GSD trait. More hunting breeds in my experience take off- pointers, setters, hounds. I had a hunting breed mix who was a bad bolter when I got her and fixed with e collar recall followed by daily offleash walks, training, new job, and it was over. She no longer needed to evade humans to run free, get exercise, or have fun. She did all that WITH me
 
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