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Teaching your dog to come back to you is one of the most important areas of dog training. A good recall will help keep your dog safe from potential dangers, such as running onto a busy road or disappearing altogether! With strict laws and tough penalties, including possible custodial sentences for dogs being out of control in a public space, a reliable and good recall has never been so crucial. Also, a dog that does not respond when out on the dog walk really does take all the pleasure out of the experience. In fact, if you’re anxious and unsure whether your dog will not return when called, you may resort to walking him on the leash or keeping him in a confined space, such as the garden, which will result in a frustrated and under exercised dog. So, we’ve put together a few ideas that may help your dog return to you each and every time.
It’s important to remember that the dog walk is the highlight of the day for your canine friend. So, it’s perfectly normal your dog will be excited and want to run around and explore. Most dogs will let off quite a bit of steam in the first few minutes and then start to calm down.
The first step is to ensure you have a good supply of tasty dog treats to reward your dog when he comes back when called. It’s quite surprising just how many dog owners do not keep treats to reward good behaviour. Treats should be something really appealing to your dog and not just a handful of their normal kibble stashed in your pocket. Dog treats have come a long way in recent years and there are now many quality treats on the market that are tasty and wholesome too. Cheese is also delicious to dogs but this can be messy especially in warm weather. It’s a good idea to keep treats in the same pocket, as your dog will soon recognise they will be rewarded as your reach into that pocket. Treats are normally packed in plastic wrapping which rustle when you reach for a treat and again this is a good trigger to your dog that he’s about to be rewarded.
How many of us are guilty of using the dog walk as an opportunity to check our mobile phones? Not engaging with your dog can lead to him looking for excitement elsewhere. So,it’s a good idea to keep your dog’s attention on you by using a tennis ball or Frisbee. Most dog love to retrieve and it’s a great way of exercising energetic breeds. Always treat your dog when he returns the ball/Frisbee, before you throw it again. Give your dog plenty of praise and attention to keep him engaged.
Most owners use vocal commands to call back their dog. If you do this, keep the command the same each time to avoid confusion. Better still is to use a whistle. A whistle sends out a constant signal, unlike the human voice which is variable, especially when cross and frustrated! A whistle can be heard quite a distance away, which is valuable especially in windy weather. Dog owners often give up on the whistle, expecting the dog to react to it without training. Remember your dog will not instinctively know that he is to return when you blow the whistle, he needs to learn this. You could invest in a long training leash which will ensure your dog is secure but has a good amount of distance to enjoy as you encourage him to return on a blow of the whistle. Always reward your dog when he comes back. If you own a gundog, it’s a good idea to invest in a specialist gundog whistle such as an Acme 210.5 whistle. These whistle are often not found in pet shops, but are readily available online or from a farm supply shop.
Of course, there will be times when your dog loses concentration on you. Owners often resort to shouting at their dog, which often falls on deaf ears! A good way to get your dog to focus on you is to change your direction and your tone of voice to a positive and excitable one. This can work really well as simply angrily chasing after him can push him further away, thinking it is a game. When your dog returns to you, reward him. Scolding your dog will make him more reluctant to return to you again.
Dogs thrive on a regular daily routine. So, you may want to think about when you take your dog out. Do you feed your dog first and then head off for a walk? You may want to consider walking first and feeding afterwards. Your dog will soon recognise he will be fed on his return and more likely to remain focused and engaged.
The end of the dog walk is a danger period for running off as dogs sense their fun is about to end. When my dog was a puppy he would always lick his lips as he waited while I prepared his food. I simply licked my lips each time prior to feeding and he quickly understood that it was meal time. I use this technique at the end of the dog walk and it has worked extremely well. Another good reason for exercising first and feeding afterwards is that it reduces the risk of bloat. Bloat is potentially life threatening to dogs, and vigorous exercise on a full tummy increases the risk of the condition.
Do remember that even if your dog is totally reliable with its recall, there will be times when you will need to keep him on a lead. Walking through fields containing livestock or next to busy roads are typical examples.