Many dogs will reliably recall (come back to you) when there is no one else on the park, any other dogs or interesting sniffs. Unfortunately, most of the time there are, so we need to teach our dogs a recall strong enough that brings them away from these distractions and back to us.
A distraction is anything happening that your dog may have its attention on: dogs, people, bikes, fox poo, rabbit hole, pheasant in the grass, puddle… anything.
A long line (usually in 5/10/20metre lengths) can be attached to the dog’s harness and used in situations to save your training from going backwards (as the dog cannot run away from or ignore you) and for safety whilst training.
They key is to never call your dog back to you, if you don’t have a way of making it happen should they chose to ignore you. Once your dog knows they are off lead and can ignore you, they will do it again and again. Ways of ensuring your recall will be successful:
- You have hold of the long line attached to the dog and can reel them in
- Someone else has the dog on a lead, and can bring them over to you if needed
Furthermore, don’t be tempted to recall your dog in situations where you know full well that they are not going to come back, e.g. playing in a group of dogs, or in mid-chase of a rabbit. As doing so will only undermine what you have said if your dog ignores you and you don’t have a line attached.
The reward you have needs to be something great: tasty treats, game of fetch, lots of praise, to go run again after coming back. Use your excited voice and animated figure to encourage them back to you.
When your dog is recalling to you with no distractions about, start off with easy distractions (such as sniffing some grass), recall them, reward and let them go back. If they ignore you:
1) Strengthen your recall with no distractions and lots of practice
2) Recall them when you’re closer to the dog, not half a mile away
3) You can use gentle pressure on the line to remind them where to go, once they set off towards you, release the pressure on the line and let them do all the work. Reward and let them go again.
The biggest mistake people make with the recall is calling their dog when they know they are not likely to come back, all you are teaching your dog is to ignore you. Don’t call them if they aren’t going to return and certainly don’t keep calling them over and over again.