The Uk's Number One Canine Conundrum

Don't Run, Run, Run. Don't run, run.

Reliable recall is so, so important, the law states our dogs must be under control at all times. This does not necessarily mean on the lead, but dogs with little or poor recall should not be off lead at all. Getting your dog to return to a cue of ‘come’, can be practised, we can add in distractions, some impulse control, and emergency stop but to get a reliable recall off lead we MUST first use the lead initially or practice indoors where you have less distractions. I have given you an example chart to fill in, list all the things your dog finds distracting, it can be other dogs, people, children, joggers, cyclists, traffic etc now rate them from 1-10. 10 would be impossible to get your dogs attention even if the distraction is very far away- 1 is things they may like to explore but are not too fussed about.

So you want to let your dog off lead to play, explore and have fun? Great, this is how we can build up to doing just that.

Reliable Recall

We are going to practice good management, this means setting your dog up for success. To do this, for the next 2 months your dog must be kept on lead if there are any distractions over 2 on your chart. This might mean you have to use a long line, or chose times to let your dog off lead when there are no distractions around. Long lines are around 50ft long, they take some practice to get used to but they give the dog some freedom to explore without risking your recall ratio.

Choose a new word for your recall, if your past recall has been hit or miss, or has gone downhill, you need to change the cue word you use, the previous cue has become meaningless to your dog. So if you used ‘come’ change it to ‘here’. We want this new cue to have great reliability, so be careful how you use it, use your dog’s name to get their attention first, don’t repeat the cue word over and over again, it will just get tuned out. It is important to only use it ONCE.

When to use the cue word is really important, we want this word to have 100% success at getting your dog to come back, this means careful and considered use, so to begin with only use with high value rewards in low distraction situations. Practice for 5 minutes at least three times daily, you should get 15-25 recalls done within this time limit so around 45-75 successful recalls daily. At home this should be simple and can be done off lead. Outside you will have to take a more careful approach, with your dog on lead to begin with, work with level one and two distractions. When you feel they have mastered this you can try offlead, but only when you already have their attention and they know they are being worked. Once they have great reliability at level one and two try a level 3 situation, again only when you have their attention, and on lead to start.

You want to gradually build up this recall game, taking it too far or not using good management will set you back. If you do find yourself in a situation where you have made a mistake and your dog is offlead in a distracting environment resist using your new cue word, use the old one or any other means (running backwards, making silly noises etc) to get their attention and back on the leash.

You want to build up a great recall to return ratio as close to 100% as possible. For each successful recall score yourself one point. For anytime you use your cue word and your dog does not return take 20 points off and don’t progress to more distracting situations until you have broken even or better.













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