Zoned Out

Delilah has been doing super on our walks.

I keep her on leash in certain areas and in other areas she’s allowed to be off.  The majority of the time she returns immediately upon being called.  On those rare occasions when she doesn’t respond, if I run in the opposite direction or loudly reward Sampson she zips right over.

Until Saturday.

We’d been walking for about 45 minutes and were heading out of the field.   At this stage, she’s responded to every call.

Then she entered the woods at the edge of the field.

And she kept going.

Sampson  wasn’t too far away and I called him over, raising my voice and showering him with treats.

Sometimes when Delilah appears to be blowing off a recall, she’s actually running a great big circle and will come at me from the front.

Not this time.

I continued calling her as we made our way out of the park.

Fine, she can go to the pound, I said to Sampson.

But I couldn’t do that.  I couldn’t just leave her out there, and take a chance that she’d get hit by a car or come in contact with some unscrupulous character.

As Sampson and I walked back to the car I looked over and could see her grazing in someone’s yard.

Damn it!

At this point, I wasn’t really sure how this was going to go. By the time I could get to her, would she have moved on?  Would she run when she saw me coming?  I couldn’t chase her through the neighborhood with Sampson in tow, so I took him to the car.  I cracked one window about 2 inches and locked the door.  I figured if it took longer than 10 minutes I would call Hubby and ask him to come and get Sampson.

I can’t tell you accurately what the distance was.  Let’s just say it’s not the gingerbread house and there’s no trail of crumbs leading to it.  I had to forge my own trail and honestly I did not count my footsteps as I stomped through the woods, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s at least 100 yards.

Path See the patch of white through the trees?

Lightening Yup, she was grazing in the yard.

The whole time I was Sasquatching it through the woods, I was calling, clapping and whistling, yet Delilah never  raised her head from her grazing.

Not once.

In fact, it wasn’t until I was about ten feet away from her that she actually looked up.  To me it seemed like it took her a few seconds before she realized it was me.

Who is she kidding Oh hey mom, were you looking for me?

Does that make sense?

I’m not a dog trainer, expert or behaviorist yet I’ve heard stories of dogs in survival mode that don’t recognize their owners immediately.

I can’t see how she’d be in survival mode, but it was like she was in a zone somewhere.

As I thought about it after and discussed it with Hubby, it seemed to me she wasn’t just blowing off her recall.  There was something more to it.

Then I recalled how in one post I’d written about something destructive that Delilah had done and 2 Brown Dawgs had said, didn’t she do that at the same time last year?  And when I looked back at the posts, she was right!

I went back through my posts to Defeated and Lost Parts One and Two and OMD, it was March of last year, although to be fair, it was the beginning of March.

So here are the thoughts racing through my gray matter:

Is there something in the air (birds that leave droppings) or ground with a strong scent that is prevalent this time of year that makes her lose her mind?

She came to us in May of 2007, at that time she was in a high kill shelter but we don’t know why.  Had she been picked up as a stray, scavenging for her food for a couple of months and this time of year is like an acid flashback?

Is there just something in the spring that makes this bitch feel her wild oats?

Will she EVER be reliable off-leash or will I have to trip over this dog the rest of my life?

Am I too neurotic to own pets?

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  1. Carol Bondy says

    When I see my dogs “grazing” in the woods…it’s frozen deer droppings. My dogs are obsessed with the laser light, and with my clicker I yell come and when they do, they get the light to chase…it’s my emergency recall…my female came back to that clicker mid chase of a Deer

    • Jodi Stone says

      Wow Carol, that’s pretty impressive!!

      I’m pretty sure it wasn’t deer droppings as they find that all the time in the woods. And to be honest I didn’t take the time to look and see what it was! LOL

  2. says

    Maybe you are neurotic, but not too…lol…kidding. We are all neurotic to a certain extent.

    I think it is Spring fever. Remember she is a retriever and if they are on something they can zone out. They can get engrossed in what they are doing and forget about everything around them. That is the main reason we use e-collar when hunting. Every year there are stories of dogs getting lost while hunting. Hunting upland, they should never get that far from you, but they can get so wrapped up in what they are doing so that they don’t even pay attention to recall. I would guess it is something like that with Delilah. Just instinct kicking in.

    • says

      I agree with 2brown dawgs, when Doggy hears “get it” he transforms, starts sniffing like crazy and wouldn’t listen to any other command until he finds whatever he’s sniffing, it’s instinct, no recall will make him come back till he finds it.

    • Jodi Stone says

      I am neurotic! LOL

      I have to try and remember that she is a retriever! I imagine if I were hunting with her I’d need an e-collar too!

  3. Sue @ The Golden Life says

    So true what 2 Brown Dawgs said about retrievers “zoning out” — I’ve noticed that with Callie & Shadow over the years. I’m sure, too, that as Ducky gets older, she’ll do the same thing.

    Keep in mind though that a dog’s eyesight is not great to begin with. It’s their sense of smell that is normally their strongest sense. Delilah may have just been so engrossed in checking out all the smells around her that she never heard you nor saw you until you were what, 10 feet away? It might be a little spring fever, but I think it’s more likely all those “delicious” new scents calling her to check them out. Instinct tells her to follow her nose, which, it seems, is exactly what she did.

    And, no you’re NOT “too neurotic to own pets”. Our parental instincts kick in when our fur-kids go missing, even if only for a moment (which seems like hours). Maybe just work Delilah more on her recall while she’s off leash in the woods. Or, since Sampson seems to be so good with his, give him a little more freedom and keep a closer eye on Delilah when they’re off leash? I don’t have any places around here where I can let the dogs be off leash other than our own back yard, so it breaks my heart that I have to control Callie even out there for these next few months.

    • Jodi Stone says

      Thanks Sue, for the most part she does really well, it’s just on those random occasions where she blows me off for something better!! It’s just so disappointing when she does.

      It is really a nice option to have, allowing them off-leash I mean.

  4. says

    I think you are on the right track (get it? haha). Sounds like some animal that leaves it scent in the spring, maybe a deer passing through or some animal in heat or who knows. I love the expression when you caught up to her. I’m glad you got her back right away though, you would be worried sick otherwise.

    • Jodi Stone says

      LOL thanks for the chuckle Peggy!! I think it is something spring related too, but don’t know what. I was a bit worried if I’m telling the truth.

  5. Sue @ The Golden Life says

    PS. Maybe you should work with a trainer to train Delilah to an e-collar? My friend, Sabine, uses it with her dogs (one in particular) and she says it works great on their off-leash walks.

  6. says

    Wow, interesting (after worrying the heck out of you) – like others said, it sure sounds like it’s related to some spring scents. I don’t know much about retrievers, but we had a beagle and they definitely get in the zone with scents and all else goes out of their heads. I almost never let our beagle off leash – you just can’t trust them to not lose their minds over a scent trail. Maybe you just need to keep her on leash in the spring??

    That last picture is SO cute. Little scamp.

    • Jodi Stone says

      Thanks Jackie, from now on she will be on leash during the spring months! She’d been doing so well off-leash that it never dawned on me.

      And no, I’d probably never let a beagle off-leash! BTW, I love beagles. :-)

  7. says

    It’s not YOU! That is scary and worrisome. And exhausting! Can there be something allergy-wise in the air that has an effect on her hearing? I am sniffling, snarfling, and half deaf right now while I’m typing this…. Just saying….

  8. says

    We are not sure what to suggest. Molly was awful until she reached about 5. Her hunting instinct was so strong we use to call it the Red Rage and her eyes would go amber and look mad. Once it took us 4 hours to get her off the park. Little minx but we were lucky as she was fixated on one safe area and still is a little bit. We tried to dog trainers and all I can say they were a waste of time and money. Wishing you luck sorting it out. We know how scary it can be.
    Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  9. says

    At the end of the day, I think training is often another term for overcoming our dogs’ natural instincts (the ones we can’t live with, at least). It seems to me Delilah is fond of showing you just how strong nature is! :)

  10. says

    I don’t have much advice, but I can well imagine how worried you were…

    My boy, Lad, got loose once. The neighbor moved some stuff in his yard, which exposed an area of fencing that had a gap underneath. Lad squeezed under, and cut through their yard and took off exploring. The neighbor didn’t grab him, but they did come and tell me he was loose. And I experienced blind panic, and went running down the road yelling his name. Fortunately he hadn’t gone very far, and came to me when I spotted him and called him to me. But I will never forget how scared I was when I didn’t know where he was…

  11. says

    Delilah is so food motivated. And you did describe her as grazing. I wonder if she was nibbling on the remains of a dead animal or something.

    In truth, no dog has a 100% reliable recall. The best we can do is practice and pick our moments to allow them off leash.

    That said, Honey does get spring fever. Sometimes she just goes cuckoo when its particularly nice outside.

    We don’t always do what we’re supposed to either. So why should we expect more from our dogs. :)

  12. says

    Let’s say that my mom’s heart goes out to you! My Kuvasz sister Katie did things like that to mom all the time when she was younger…sometimes mom could see her bounding about for 1/2 hr or more. If she went after her, Katie only ran more, if she ran in the other direction, Katie would look and then keep going as if to say “fine, if you don’t care I will keep going” People would tell her to call her dog, etc but nothing helped, she had to wait for Katie to tire out and then sneak up on her. Mom said she shed so many tears with my sister but that is her breed, they are known for being totally independent. At least everyone is back safe and sound. When Katie took off when I was a puppy I used to just stay by mom and howl which only made mom more upset! To this day, mom sees “that look” from Katie and then it is already too late, she is off but she isn’t as fast any more.

  13. says

    You care, you try, you use training methods that you feel good about, and you do the best you can do.

    I wouldn’t call that neurotic.

    The people who just let their dogs run free without caring, well those are the ones who shouldn’t own pets.

  14. says

    Oh Miss Jodi…we all know you are a wonderful dog mom. Don’t you go getting all upset with yourself. You may have noticed, but we dogs have a mind of our own at times…despite the best of training. I am rarely allowed off-leash; as a terrier, if it moves – I am chasing it and to heck with all those commands to come back. I won’t even tell you how I have selective hearing when I find a nice pile of “bunny chocolates” to nibble on. BOL
    *Cairn cuddles*

  15. says

    First, no. I don’t think you’re too neurotic to own pets! :-) I’m glad you spotted her when you did and I think you may be onto something in terms of her motivation. I don’t know if you believe in such things, but have you considered trying a session with an animal communicator to see what Delilah is thinking?

  16. says

    Bruno used to do those giant circles…off in one direction and eventually come back from a whole different place…we used to call him “Mileage Man”…when he was about four he finally became reliable, but those early years were really stressful

  17. says

    We’ve never experienced anything like that, but I know I’d be panicked! My first thought was maybe something wrong with her hearing but since we have a deaf dog and a partially deaf one that’s my first thought. Our Bill has run off into the woods while off leash but only far enough to tree a raccoon or a squirrel. Once up the tree, he’s lost interest. At home, if the gate is open, the pack stand there and gaze down the driveway, into the forbidden zone since they have no collars or leashes on!

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