We've all been there - about to let our dog off the lead and feeling extremely nervous… Our dogs are very important to us; we don't want to run the risk of them coming to any harm. But on the other hand there's nothing quite like that feeling you get; when you see your dog running free and blissfully happy!
The problem is – will your dog come back when you take that brave step of unclipping the lead?!
Maybe you’re one of those dog owners who does take that brave step, only to see your dog’s eyes light up like two saucers as soon as he realises he’s off the lead, and you can literally hear him shouting to himself ‘FREEDOM!’ in a voice not unlike Mel Gibson in Braveheart and your dog has bolted at top speed, not to be seen again for the next 20 minutes or so!
There are ways you can help prevent this problem and train your dog to recall. For starters try and get control over your dog before you let them off the lead. Do some obedience commands or tricks for treats while the dog is still on the lead to get him to focus on you and be aware of the fact that you have food!
Practise some recall on a long training lead first to give them that extra freedom while you feel secure with the link between you both. A dog whistle is a great tool to use to train your dog to recall; whistle and when your dog comes back give him a treat and lots of praise. Bend down to your dog’s eye level when you call him, it makes you more approachable.
Use a fun, positive voice always regardless of the circumstances, such as an unfamiliar dog approaching yours, if your dog hears panic or anger in your voice he will be less likely to come back. Wave your treat around also so your dog sees you have something to offer him. Watch “Train your dog to Recall – Step 1” and “Train your dog to Recall – Step 2” as examples at the bottom of this post. When you gain confidence in your dog’s recall try doing this off lead somewhere safe.
If your dog is not into treats try a favourite, special toy you only bring out when doing recall. If your dog is taking his time to come back to you, try running away from him while calling him! This usually creates a little panic in your dog that they may be left behind and they tend to run after you pretty fast in this instance. Watch “Train your dog to Recall – Step 3” as an example at the bottom of this post. Playing hide and seek with your dog will also help them to keep more of any eye out for you and stay close. It is also fun to get the kids involved and they can make a big fuss of the dog when he finds them!
Never discipline as you train your dog to recall even if he takes a while to return; the point is he did come back and if you reward he will be more likely to return faster the next time. Try not to put him back on the lead if he did take his time coming back, you want to build mutual trust between you-you trust he will come back when you call him and he will start to trust that you won’t end his fun by putting him on the lead when he does come back! Just give a treat and send him off again for more fun and freedom. Be brave!
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