Recall is getting your dog to come back to you when you call them, sounds simple right?
Unfortunately many dogs and their owners struggle with this skill, quite often people find themselves wondering, why doesn’t my dog want to come back?
In truth, it’s not that the dog doesn’t want to come back, it’s just that they want to explore the world and play with their friends more.
Think about when you were younger and you were out with your friends and your parents would call your name to tell you it was time to go in. How often did you tread the line and get as much extra time as you could by pretending you couldn’t hear them? Nowadays how often do parents call/text their children with no response but convenient excuses like ‘my phone was in my bag so I didn’t hear it’. All so that we get that extra time exploring with our friends.
So to get your dog to come back to you, you need to become more interesting and important to your dog than the distractions they come across. The best place to start is to change the way you think about walking your dog. Instead of it being a chore to drain energy out of your dog, try thinking of it as a time to build your relationship. It shouldn’t be that your dog is off charging around while you walk along on your phone not paying attention to them. In your dog’s eyes you are being really boring so it’s no wonder they go off and find their own entertainment. Your dog walk should be like when you meet up with a friend for coffee, the focus is on them, if the focus switches to something else then both of your attention goes to it. Using things like food, or their favourite toy can really help in keeping your dog’s attention.
You need to practice getting your dog to come back to you, don’t expect them to just suddenly know to do it. If you are worried about your dog not coming back then use a long line. A long line provides your dog the freedom to move around but gives you the reassurance that if they’re about to run off you can stop them.
What If Things Go Wrong?
When your dog is ignoring your calls it can be really disheartening and start to become embarrassing. This often leads to us doing the worst thing possible which is to get annoyed and show it in our body language and tone of voice. How often have you been on the beach and heard someone shout ‘GET BACK HERE NOW!!’ whilst standing face on to the dog and quite often aggressively pointing to the ground in front of them. Imagine if someone was shouting at you, would you willingly go to them or would you avoid them until they had calmed down?
Instead of showing your annoyance the best thing you can do is hide the annoyance and pretend to be really happy and fun; you may feel like you deserve an Oscar but you will be much more successful in getting your dog to come back. Also instead of being face on to the dog, turn sideways or even possibly away from them, this is you communicating that you’re planning on going the other way so they need to come back and keep up.
Another great tip is to move. Quite often dogs get a bit cheeky and when we call them realise we’re where they left us so don’t bother looking round (they can tell where we are just using their hearing!) By moving and then calling them they will hear that you have moved and often look to investigate where you’ve gone, once you have their attention it’s a lot easier to get them to come all the way back.
You may need to take the moving to the next step and start hiding. If you hide and call your dog’s name, chances are they will look up and when they can’t see you will come running and search for you.
Recall is so important and if you put in some work, a very achievable thing. It is our responsibility as dog owners to have control of our dogs in public. If you do not have a good recall your dog should be on a lead or long line, end of story. Too often children, adults and other dogs are injured by an out of control of leash dog and it needs to stop.
It may sound harsh but it is actually the safest thing for your dog. In our society dogs are guilty until proven innocent. If they are off lead and perceived dangerous because they are out of control then they will face the repercussions. Do not put your dog in a situation where they are set up to fail.
If you do not trust that your dog will come back to you then make sure they are either kept on leash or you use a long line to ensure that you can get control when needed. This blog will have given you some useful tips to start getting a good recall but if you want a fantastic, reliable recall I would recommend attending a training class. As a dog trainer I am more than happy to help you with building your dog’s recall to the level that you need or I can point you in the direction of other great trainers in your area. When training your dog remember you want coming back to you to be a positive and rewarding thing for your dog otherwise they won't do it.