I have a very adorable wire fox terrier named Livvy. She is a rescue (like Watson?). The pictures of Watson running and exploring off-leash baffle me—how did you train him to come back to you? Livvy is too excited by all the wonderful sights and smells of the world and must remain on a leash for her safety. What's your secret? I would love for Livvy to be as free as her distant terrier cousin, Watson.
Watson is not always a good dog. He will steal food at every opportunity, and unless you command him to be “GENTLE,” he will try to take off your hand along with that strawberry. He’s been known to leave me some spite-poops on the living room rug if I travel too much. He is possessive, and will snarl at dogs who try to sit in my lap (except Max because they are friends) (Bentley gets bullied a lot).
From the very beginning of our life together, though, we’ve worked on two things:
Cheerfully and quickly getting into his travel carrier and staying calm during layovers and flights
Both of these started out because I knew Watson would be a traveling dog — I hate holding up the line at security, and chasing Watson though the airport would be a nightmare. That second command is great for hiking, though, and keeps him safe.
There are a lot of tutorials online for teaching your dog to stay and come. It’s much easier if your dog is treat-oriented like Watson. You probably want to start with a long leash and in an enclosed yard or dog park.
Watson wasn’t allowed off leash on hikes until after we’d been together over a year. I always kept him in sight, and would call him back every time he wandered more than a few feet away. LOTS of rewarding with treats and praise. Watson is always heavily supervised and far, far away from any cars. We also practice constantly, even now.
Several times a week, we play hide-and-seek to reinforce “COME.” Here is a silly video I made. After he knew “stay” and “come,” I gradually increased the distance between the two commands. You’ll see him cheat a little in the video on “stay.” Eventually, he was able to “stay” long enough for me to go and hide. When I call him, he’s coming from a few rooms away, based on just the voice command. Then, so he doesn’t grab the treat and run away again, I have him sit, do two twists, and wave after finding me. Obviously, this won’t work if his hearing goes at some point, but right now this means that if he’s ever out of sight, he still knows the command.
Off-leash is always risky with terriers. There are lots of people who would never let their terrier off a leash, full stop. I get that. As such, I think it important to err on the side of not trusting your dog, and being over-cautious. But, also, to read the landscape and know your dog. Watson wants a cookie way more than he wants to chase a lizard, and that’s good fortune.
Good luck with Livvy! I hope she has many joyful but safe adventures!
Thank you all for being warm and supportive about our impending move; it means much to me. I love my life here, but it is hard to fight what is shaping up to be a serious case of senioritis and spring fever. Being an adult means no phoning-it-in. Search committees and space planning decisions are going to linger – unlike the AP Environmental Science and Psychology exams I didn’t study for (sorry, mom).
Also because, oh, hey. My MA defense is in two weeks. Are my revisions done? Have I written my critical preface?
No…not so much.
This is the home stretch of my student life. Barring some bout of insanity, this is seriously, seriously going to be my last degree. It’s a good one, and it matters. I am one defense and two courses away from the difference between Instructor and Assistant Professor ranks. I am one 50-page portfolio and two 20-page papers away from not being in school. I am almost almost done, but I am also binge-watching Once Upon a Time while stifling the urge to smack every character for using the phrase “true love” for the seven hundredth time and playing a lot of “quick break!” Candy Crush. The apples in my fridge are outnumbered by Red Bull. I bring up antimony way more than antimony needs to be brought up.
Which is to say, it’s getting weird and bleak. In the meantime, here is a picture from last week of Watson trying to pack himself. Oh, I wish, little buddy. I wish I could pack us both.