RECALL

bigstu25
bigstu25

MY DOG IS HOPLESS OF LEAD WON'T COME BACK AND KEEPS RUNNING AWAY FROM ME ANY ADVICE TRIED TRAINING LEAD IS AN ANGEL BUT ONCE OF REVERTS BACK TO OLD WAYS

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jseraphin
jseraphin

Hi there!

Sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble with your dog. It can be quite frustrating and even dangerous to have a dog off lead that doesn’t respond to recall. I don’t have much information about your situation, but I’ll try my best to advise you!

Firstly, you should know that dogs are much less likely to listen to you when they’re in a new environment. This is because of the distraction factor. The more distractions = the less likely your dog is to come when called. 

My advice is to start from scratch. Practice recall in the most secure and least distracting environment possible: home! If you can, have someone else help you. Stand across from each other and take turns calling the dog. Use a very excited, high-pitched voice and immediately reward them with treats when they come to you. You can also bend down to your dog’s level, open your arms wide, or even walk away from them while calling - these are all motions that will make a dog want to come to you or follow you.

Once your dog is reliable inside the house, increase the distractions. Practice recall in front of guests, or when the fridge door is open, or when the treadmill is on, etc.

Once your dog is reliable inside the house with distractions, you can move on to even more distracting environments, such as your back garden or the hallway (if you live in an apartment building). Never move on to a new step before your dog is ready. This will only hinder the training process. It may take a lot of time, consistency, and patience, but it’ll be worth it in the end!

So, once your dog is reliable off lead in a very controlled area, you can move onto outdoor environments. 

You are very right in using a training lead, and as long as you don’t trust your dog at least 99% of the time, then you shouldn’t stop using it. Dogs absolutely know the difference between being on a lead and off the lead, which is why your dog listens to you when the lead is on, and doesn’t when the lead is off.

Continue to practice recall outside using the lead. Let your dog explore and move away from you, then call them back, and reward them immediately when they come to you. Practice this over and over and over. Practice this with distractions around, such as other dogs, people, or toys. 

Complete reliability for recall may take several months. Once you trust your dog, you can let them off the lead on two conditions:

  • You are in a place your dog has been to many times before (hence lowering the level of distraction)
  • You have exercised your dog sufficiently before letting them off the lead (the initial layer of energy has been shed off and your dog is in a better mindset to stay focused)

If your dog is off lead and running away from you, DO NOT:

  • Chase after them (dogs see this as a game - you would actually be encouraging them to continue)
  • Yell at them/punish them when you finally catch them (your dog would associate a negative feeling to coming back to you and would be less likely to do it again - always reward your dog when they come back, even if you’ve been waiting a long time)

If your dog is off lead and running away from you, the best course of action is to call them with a high-pitched, happy voice, and walk or run away from them - most dogs will follow. Once they come back to you, reward them heavily!

I hope this has helped you in some way and wish you the best of luck! 

Justine Seraphin, BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare

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