Can you catch me? Establish and improve good dog recall.
One of the reasons many dogs do not get the exercise they need to stay happy and healthy is because owners are unable to let them off the lead and catch them again! Also behavioural problems would lessen if a problem dog got more exercise.
Establishing good recall could literally mean the difference between life and death for some dogs. If your dog can’t be seen for dust when let off the lead, you really should keep him on the lead until he has had more training. Open countryside for some dogs, particularly for hunting working breeds, is the biggest playground. Motivation is mostly breed specific and it will be instinctive to get out there and scent, track and catch rabbits and birds; it’s a big ask to get him to remain by your side 100% of the time.
How to start recall dog training
Start recall training at home early on in puppyhood. Begin by teaching ‘watch me’ and say your dog’s name at varying times. Offer a treat as soon as he looks at you. Practice anywhere and everywhere, even when out on the lead so he knows he is going to get a treat if he pays attention. If your dog is not looking at you, he is not listening and to get good recall he needs to be focused on you. Once he starts moving towards you when you call his name, you can start to introduce a verbal command or whistle to link to the action as he is coming towards you. Practice indoors and in the garden and eventually outside, but using a long training lead to start with. When you are confident that your dog will come back to you when you use the command, you can begin to practice off lead. Start at home first and then outside. With practice your dog will understand your recall command and come back to you every time. Call your dog back to you frequently and always reward and play games to keep him focused on you. Don’t let him wander too far from you as all dogs have a distance beyond which you have little influence. Never let your dog off lead in unsafe places, near traffic or livestock or in an area where you are unsure that he will come back to you e.g. where you are aware of nesting birds or other distractions.
When walking in new areas, if your dog cannot be trusted to keep within earshot and come back when you call him or he appears to be very focused on his nose, it is best to keep him on the lead. You never know what is lurking and many a dog has been caught in a trap, tangled in barbed wire and even got caught up in a farmer’s pheasant pen. But charging off towards a busy road could have far worse consequences.
What kind of lead should I use?
Training leads come in varying lengths, but a 6 foot lead that is comfortable to hold and the right size for both you and your dog can be a valuable piece of equipment to use daily. You can buy multi-functional training leads which have versatile functions i.e. double ended suitable to use as a short lead for heel work, medium length for obedience training and as a long lead for recall. A double ended lead can be used to clip around the waist so you are hands free.
A long line is a useful training lead for recall and usually available in two lengths of 5m or 10m. It will allow your dog to get to a good distance before you call him back without fear that he will run off. Long lines are not a good idea to use for anything other than short training sessions as with it being so long, it is likely to eventually get wrapped up in trees and bushes or your legs!