Never Ending Story and the Flight Instinct Period

My Never Ending Story, a true story

By Leah Morse

Never Ending Story and the Flight Instinct Period of 4-8 months

Bringing Story up while going to school to become a dog trainer was so great.  I would take her to school with me.  This gave me time to train her away from home and to socialize her with a variety of other dogs.

At 16 weeks, Story started to help me learn about the flight instinct period that happens between 16 weeks and 8 months.  This is the age when dogs start to realize their independence and act on it.  It has also been called the age of cutting as this is when they start to “cut” their adult teeth but also realize that there is a great big world out there and they are capable of exploring it with the confidence to leave their owner and in effect “cut the apron strings”.    This is a time of testing to see what they can get away with.  Story was no exception.  We live on almost 40 acres and do not have fencing.  I have always taught our dogs boundaries.  Story wanted to push her boundaries as far as possible.  This is where both Ron, my husband and soul mate, and I had to learn to control our emotions as it was frustrating trying to retrieve a puppy that was half way across our property.  No dog wants to return to an angry owner and this is further exacerbated when a frustrated owner starts to chase the less than cooperative dog.   Fortunately, for us and for Story we got through this phase.

I started a game with all of our dogs called “come-here, go play”.   We have a road that goes around our house and 5 times around is a mile.  We walk every morning, before the dogs have eaten, and we play this game.  I am well stocked with string cheese as we walk.  We start out and I tell the dogs to “go play” they do gladly.  When they have run a bit and are settling done I call them back “Come Here”.  When they get to me we grab collars and give cheese as a reward along with lavish praise.  Then we send them back off to play “go- play”.  In the beginning we treat a lot, then we slowly wean them on to mostly praise but the quickest and most prompt returns get cheese.  If they ever come back to us on their own, they also get cheese.  This teaches that coming when called does not always mean the fun is going to end.  I also try to call them back when they get to about 20 feet to help them learn to stay closer.   If there is a hesitation I either start running and calling in the opposite direction that they are going or I kneel down and start acting silly, this usually peaks their interest.  I really reward them if they leave their area of interest.  I have also really enforced “Leave It!!”  as there are many distractions, especially right now with baby birds on the ground.   I recommend the use of a 20 foot leash to my clients.  After our mile walk of 5 times around I end with their breakfast.  I tell them “let’s go eat!”  They know they are going to get to eat so I never have trouble getting them back into the house.  It works well and I have now done it with Legend and will do it with the puppy that we keep from our current litter.  It works extremely well.

People who only call their dog in at the end of a play session have trouble as the dog quickly figures out this is the end of the play.  Calling your dog to you several times during a play session helps as he/she will never know when it ends and if you are away from home and you have a special treat for when you return to the house or car, it will really help the reliability with your recall work.


Leah Morse is a certified canine trainer and the owner of Rocky Mountain Classic Canine. Leah writes a blog each week for Denver Dog Works

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