My Dog Won’t Come Back?
This is a question we get asked all this time. Recall in our opinion is the most vital piece of training you’ll need to get right as your pup grows up. It is less about coming when called and more about having a dog that wants and enjoys being with you.
There are plenty of ways in which you can accomplish this, and it is really simple once you know how. More importantly you are preventing unwanted behaviour; which builds the foundations for any other skills you may want to learn your dog in time. Depending on the nature/age of your dog (we say age as many adult dogs don’t know recall either, you’d be surprised!). It can be a sensible option to invest in a long line to ensure no unwanted disappearances arise. Ideally you want to be training your dog where minimal / no other distractions can influence your dogs decision to focus away from you.
Choosing the Right Long Line
Long lines are generally available in 5m or 10m lengths at most pet stores. However some manufactures produces them shorter or longer. Choosing the right type of line depends can aid in various ways.
Cheaper long lines can be bought from most pet shops, but bear in mind they will absorb everything the line drags through, whether its water, mud or manure. This is a big disadvantage for this type of line as you’ll be handling line quite a lot. Alternatively during dryer days and dependant on the chosen area of exercise, there may be no need to purchase anything too expensive. The choice is up-to you.
A Biothane long line can be quite expensive but are available in different widths, colours and lengths. Narrower widths are ideal for smaller dogs and puppies in comparison to the larger widths being ideal for much stronger or larger dogs. Due to the nature of the material, the line doesn’t absorb anything it drags through and isn’t rough so is much less likely to cause friction burn when handling.
How to use a Long Line
The long line should ideally be attached to a harness, this will not put any pressure on the dogs neck if the dog runs at speed toward the end of the line. Ideally as you are training your dog a ‘steady’ command is introduced so they are aware they are nearing the end of the line. When starting long line training, loop the line into one hand so it is easily retractable as your dogs moves back and forth at distances from you. Thus avoiding trip and tangle hazards.
Initially let your dog explore keeping the line loose with no pressure and call their name. If they don’t respond a slight tug/check will break their attention from the current distraction. Every time your dog chooses to come back praise and reward with a high value treat, then allow them to wander and explore again. Never be tempted to call them over and over, it adds confusion to the situation. At this point you are trying to teach a voluntary “check what’s over here” rather than a recall.
Keep walking, repeating and varying the distance in which you release your dog. Rewarding every time will ensure your dog comes back every time as what’s ‘over here’ is more interesting than what’s ‘out there’. Once you are confident they are responding well, let the whole lead go and trail on the floor. Keep repeating at longer distances ensuring your dog doesn’t wander too far and if things aren’t going to plan, go back to step one. Never feel as though you’ve failed if you have keep starting again at shorter distances.
When your dog is voluntary ‘checking in’ on a long line, you can now work on the recall of your dog. Irregularly, and at a time you are fairly certain your dog was about to check in. Call your dog and reward like crazy as they return, plenty of excitement from yourself is key. Rewarding this particular behaviour at this point is key as you have asked them to return opposed to them returning of their own accord.
Making sure you are fun to be with is the deciding factor here when your puppy is returning to you. Using treats is always the obvious solution but if you don’t combine the use of them with tons of excitement you won’t effectively get a good recall. Throw them for your puppy to catch when they return, combined with a very excitable voice “good girl/boy” and attention. Let your dog jump all over you, pull a tug toy from your pocket and play for 10-20 seconds, run around with them, have them chase you all whilst playing and rewarding.
The more you reward, the quicker your dog will associate it is better to be alongside you than what’s ahead. A good practice would be to walk away from them, giving some sniff time and distance, after a couple of minutes call them. As soon as they start to come toward you, praise, play & reward. You will soon have a dog which recalls every time.