06. Help! My dog is running away!
New owners are generally very uncomfortable when their Brittany is out of sight. They get very nervous and start yelling louder and louder for their dog. Sometimes they may even see the dog and get upset when he shows no interest in coming back. Let's look at this "problem" from the dog's point of view:
You took him in the woods or in a field so you must be hunting. He knows where you are. He has some ideas about where birds might be. For some reason you weren't going to where the birds might be but you were making lots of useful noises to keep him informed about where you were. You move through the woods like a moose and reek like a perfume factory so there aren't going to be any birds by you. In short, coming back to you is not a move that's going to put meat on the table. A good bird dog will never come all the way back to you on his own unless he needs medical attention.
To address this behavior, keep working on that recall at home but don't expect it to work like a German Shepherd. You have to be selective when you call your dog. Don't spend a lot of time yelling for him - as he sees it you're just letting him know where you are so he can hunt bigger. Keep quiet and don't use your recall command until you have his attention. For a hunting Brittany you're lucky if he gives you half a second of attention every few minutes. Wait for that moment when he looks back to check in. The very moment he looks back, use your recall command. Make sure you use it just like you would at home. Dogs don't actually understand the word you're saying so if you make it sound "angry" or "loud" they'll think you're talking about something else entirely. If your dog looks at you, understands the command and still chooses to head the other way, touch him with the e-collar while giving a good sharp "NO." Pause for a fraction of a second then repeat your recall command. The pause is so he doesn't associate the recall command with the collar. If he's thinking about coming or is coming slowly, get low to the ground (getting your head lower than his is a submissive gesture and will help a dog who is nervous about coming to you) turn your shoulders so they're not square to the dog, don't smile or make eye contact (the equivalent of bearing teeth and challenging a fight in dog language) and talk to him in an excited, high happy voice (without repeating your recall command). When he makes it all the way to you, don't just leash him and move on, you need to act like he just did the single best thing any dog has ever done in the history of dogs.
Very few Brittanys will truly run away. They almost always know where you are. If your dog is truly running away and getting lost, you need intervention from a professional trainer.