Friday, March 28, 2014


An open, lowered body posture can be an inviting and engaging form of making yourself more appealing, especially young puppies. 

Any dog who lacks the ability to return to their handler when called is, perhaps, one of the most common behavioural problems I come across weekly through my classes and 121 training. Not to mention a problem you can witness first hand by just taking a stroll through your local park and observing owners stood in the middle of the playing field making fickle attempts to recall their dog, resorting the screaming blue murder and a few choice obscenities while their dog(s) gallop care-free to every corner of the park. Not only is this total lack of basic control highly embarrassing, it is also highly dangerous. 

While your dog is running at large and not under control you are potentially in the possession of a dangerous dog. Your dog could be responsible for a traffic collision, damage to another dog, damage to a person or, even worse, damage to a child whether it be intentional or unintentional. Unfortunately a jury will not accept the excuse... "he was only playing" or "he's never done anything like this before" when you are before the courts being charged with owning a dangerous dog. 

So with that cold, harsh reality firmly stamped in, we must understand that a good recall is the most important aspect of a dog's training and to be able to have this concept firmly drummed into any dog's head, one must teach their dog an element of respect and with this respect shall come trust and following on from gaining trust, ultimately, comes freedom.

Before we even begin thinking about the prospect of taking your dog off-lead, we must rewind back to the very very basics of dog training and there is two ways in which a dog should perceive you as their owner and , ultimately their leader, you must be fun and assertive in almost equal measures.

Start off in your home and garden by calling the dog to you keeping the command as short, simple and consistent as possible either simply saying the dogs name or another command such as: 'come, here,' or couple both the name and command together. For example 'Fido-come' or 'Fido-here'.

When he responds reward him with what triggers his motivation the most whether it be a toy (engaging in a game of fetch or tug), a fuss or a treat (if using treats make sure they are extremely high value such as meat-based food and use little pieces so he doesn't get full too quickly). Try not to do this too many times perhaps 5 times throughout the day would be more than enough and try to avoid doing this everyday, the more random and infrequent it is the higher his intensity to please and follow the command will become.

Once he is coming every time you call him in the house/garden, you are then ready to move to the next phase of training which will be an empty playing field (try to find several you can go to so the dog does not get used to just one environment) on a long-ish lead (6 feet maximum, not a Flexi lead!) and walking round the centre of the field and randomly calling him to you and running backwards with your arms open and slightly bent over, again, keeping the command as short/simple and consistent as possible and rewarding fairly each time. Again, you should do this only 5-6 times when you take them onto the field. In between these sessions the dog should never be let off-lead anywhere. Once the dog is consistently coming to you on a 6ft lead, increase the lead length to a horse lunge line (30ft is more than sufficient) and repeat the same until you have enough confidence to drop the lead and let it drag and recall your dog.

Once you & the dog have gained confidence doing this try doing it with dogs in the distance and the greater the distraction the higher value the reward should be. You are effectively making your reward worth more to the dog than the distraction he is faced with.

It is perhaps worth mentioning the 'golden rule' when it comes to training the recall, never make your dog sit when he comes to you before you reward him. This is completely counter-productive in achieving a good recall as you are rewarding the dog for the sit exercise rather than coming back to his name.

In my opinion, I would never let my dog run free in a public space such as the park or woodland. By letting my dog free run and rough play with other dogs I am, essentially, teaching them that other dogs are more fun than I am. Naturally this will be the case for the vast majority of dogs as they will gravitate to something that is more relate-able than humans. When I walk my dog off-lead I like to think of it as a time for me and my dog to bond without the worry or distraction of other dogs chasing them or tensions breaking out and a dog fight occurring.

So to conclude, the recall is an absolutely crucial part of your dog's training and quite simply if he is not reliable when free, do not grant him it!