Letting your dog off the leash in an open space can be a daunting experience as a pet parent. So practicing recall is key for the safety of your dog and for your own piece of mind.
Start off slow and steady to ensure you’re not rushing into the training, as this can cause them extra stress. You should always have treats to hand (of course!) so you can reward their positive behavior whilst practicing recall.
Whether you’ve adopted a puppy or a slightly older rescue dog, it’s always important for them to know their name when practicing recall. This makes it a lot easier for you to get their attention when you need them to come back to you. So the first step, as simple as it sounds, is ensuring that they are aware of their name. Try and use it all the time when you’re around them to get them completely used to it.
Once you’re confident they know their name, it’s time to choose a word for recall. You could use anything you feel comfortable with, such as ‘here’ or ‘come’—whatever works best for you. Ensure that you use this word whenever you need them to come to you. Try not to use more than one command word for this, as it could confuse your dog.
Try this out in an enclosed space your pup feels safe in, so you can build up to training in busier environments. You can also start off at very small distances and work your way up to larger ones. This should help strengthen your confidence as well as your dog’s.
You can also add in a visual cue, so they know to associate that with coming back to you. This may be particularly effective for dogs that are a bit hard of hearing. Try to use elaborate arm movements so they know exactly what you mean!
Try not to use your recall word over and over again when calling for your dog. This could make the word meaningless to them and discourage them from coming back. Instead, use the word firmly and wait a few seconds before saying it again if they don’t come back straight away. This can take lots of practice and patience but will be worth it in the end!
Once your pup begins to learn the command, make sure you give them lots of treats and praise when they return to you. You can go as over the top as you want at this stage, as if they know they are getting lots of attention for completing the command, they are more likely to want to do it again. Make sure you stay consistent with the praise, no matter how long it takes for them to come back to you. When they first start learning, it can take a while for them to grasp, but lots of praise should make the process easier.
Once you think your dog is handling recall well, it’s time to implement some distractions. In the real world, they would face lots of different things, like other dogs, bicycles, cars and traffic. So to build up to this, you could slowly work your way up to different areas that vary in busyness. Whilst practicing in different areas, try to increase the distance for the recall to test and improve their skills.
Make sure you stay nice and calm throughout the training. It can be very infuriating when your dog decides to ignore your commands but getting mad at them can reverse their training and make the situation worse.
If you are really struggling getting your dog to come back to you, then it may be easier to keep them on a long leash, so you still have some control. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using this method, as it can be dangerous if your dog keeps running off. So this is a great way to protect them whilst they are still learning recall.