No matter what age your dog is it is never too late to work on their recall. Whether you have a puppy that is only beginning to experience the outside world, an adolescent dog that has selective hearing or a senior dog that takes it’s time coming back……you can always make improvements with a little bit of work.
There are numerous reasons to work on your dog’s recall including, but not limited to;
- You have an inquisitive puppy that needs to learn impulse control and obedience so you’re confident to let it off the lead
- Your dog is going through the adolescent phase and only listens when it wants to
- Your dog may be nervous and you don’t want it to be startled by anything and run away
- You are in an unfamiliar area and you don’t want your dog to get lost
- You are concerned about dog theft (which is incredibly common at the moment unfortunately)
- You don’t want you dog running up to other dogs (this one is very important as not all dogs are dog friendly and it’s not fair on either of them if you can’t call your dog away)
I honestly think there is no such thing as a dog who’s recall is 100% because there will always be that one thing that is more important than it’s owner. However, the closer you can get it to 100% the better.
Some of the options you have are to hire a secure dog field and practise in there or to use a long training line.
Training lines come in various lengths, from 5 metres all the way upto 50 metres. They give your dog freedom without the worry of them running away. A great tip for the training line is to tie a knot every metre so you can put it on the ground and have your hands free. If your dog starts to run away you can just put your foot on the training line and it will stop when a knot reaches the edge of your shoe. If you do purchase a training line it is important that you make sure it is designed to hold the weight of your dog when it is fully grown. If you have a Great Dane and the one you buy is designed for a Chihuahua it will likely snap if your dog pulls.
As with any type of training it is always best to get it reliable in the home and garden before moving onto high distraction environments. If you can’t recall your dog in the garden do you really expect it to come back to you in a park with other dogs running loose?
One thing I like to train my 1-2-1 puppy students is “look at me”. This helps to build a great bond between the dog and owner but also helps with focus. If you can get your dog’s focus from anything in the outside world you are much more likely to be able to call it back. Even if your dog is off lead and you don’t want to recall it, it is still important to get your dog to look back and check in on you every now and then. During the adolescent phase they can get over confident and wander further than normal. By encourging your dog to check in you are making sure you remain in sight.
Choose one word you will use for recall such as “here” or “come” and make sure everyone is using that word. Your dog will learn much quicker if you are all on the same page. You don’t even need to make recall practise into a proper training session, you can incorporate into daily life. If your dog is in the garden use your chosen word to call it in, if your dog is in a different room to you use your chosen word to get it in the same room etc.
Make sure you always have something of high value to reward your dog for coming back to you……even if it takes a few minutes longer than you would like still reward your dog. You want your dog to see you as the best thing in the world and by rewarding it with something that is better than anything else, it is more likely to return.