Q: I’m trying to problem solve one of my German Shepherd’s behaviors. It happens at least once and occasionally twice when we are doing off-leash walking. I will call her from a far distance and she will get so revved up in the process of racing towards me that she will zoom past me, turn around and zoom back towards where she came from, zoom towards me again, and eventually be sniffing around near me, or sitting right in front of me. I’m worried that she’ll be hit by a car, or run into another danger, in the time it takes her to get to me.

A: I would build massive value for targeting (your hand, a particular target stick, sitting in front position), then use that as your recall when you suspect she’s in a racing mood. I’d also try to avoid calling her when she’s in zoomies, just turn and walk in the opposite direction and then quietly praise and feed your most high-value treats when she does catch up to you, and tell her to “Go run” again. This will reduce her desire to fly by, as well as put the zoomies on cue.

So — don’t call during high-octane situations, build up an emergency recall for emergencies (which may or may not include targeting, but Leslie Nelson’s DVD “Really Reliable Recall” is the best explanation of how to teach this) and use a targeted recall with a running release as a reward when she seems excited.

You could also start to keep notes of how many off-leash recalls result in the zoomies (location, immediate previous activity, etc). That’s about the only sure way to tell if your training is working and to predict when/where/how she’ll perform the behavior correctly.

Or, easier (and more like what I’d do) is to assume she will go into zoomies 100 percent of the time and work backwards from there. Set the bar low — don’t attempt recalls from 10 feet away, try them at 4, 6, then 8 feet, using a long line where needed to keep her from bolting.
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