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This article instructs you on how to train your dog to come back to you while he is off the leash. It is frustrating and dangerous when your dog does not return to you on command. The risk of injury, loss, property damage and accidental breedings compel the dog owner to train his dog to respond while off the leash. Recalling or commanding the dog to come back to the owner is a necessary and undeniable responsibility for all dog owners.
Dogs can be trained at any age to be responsible off leash. It is always easier to work with the younger dog, but with time any dog, regardless of past problems. Can be conditioned to respond off leash.
1.Off leash Control- Your dog will come back to you on command when off leash any time, place. From any distance. And ignore any distraction (another dog, cat, squirrel, bicycle car, jogger, etc). Your dog will respond to your first command.
2.Induce-Inducement – Websters’s Dictionary: To lead on to some action. The benefit which a party is to receive for entering into a contract. (The reward your dog receives for obeying your command.) When your dog gives the correct response to your command. His reward is an inducement. It can be play, verbal praise, food, toy, or physical praise such as patting, stroking, rubbing, petting.. Inducements must be attractive. When playing and praising, be excited! Be generous. When your dog is behaving properly, you cannot over praise. Food reward should be special. The food should not be something that is part of his daily mean. Diced up hot dogs, chunks of cheese, lunchmeat, or liver treats, are good examples. Food inducements work best when the dog is hungry. The pieces of food should be small and easily swallowed. Small pieces of food will not fill his stomach quickly so he will stay alert and want more food reward. Food reward will not work properly when the dog’s belly is full and doesn’t want more. Food rewards should be swallowed quickly so as not to take a lot of time away form continued training. Physical praise should be more than three pats on the head. Fast and heavy pats along the chest, back and head excites the dog and makes him respond with more vigor and enthusiasm. Calm and gentle stroking make a dog feel secure and at ease. Make the inducement fit the task. At times you will want your dog to react faster and to be excited. At other times, you will want him to be calm and quiet.. Make your praise and rewards fit the circumstances.
3.Compel – Compulsion. Webster’s: To get or bring about by force. It will be necessary at times to force the dog to do what you want. Compulsion can come from the tone of your voice and posture. We also use leashes of different lengths and a training collar (misnamed choker collar) to compel the dog to return to the handler/owner. Compulsion is necessary in training your dog, especially when the dog has established behavior problems.
4.Behavior – Webster’s: Conduct, manner. AN organism’s response to stimulation or environment. An “established problem” is any action or habit your dog exhibits that you would like to change.
5.Socialization – Socialize. Webster’s: To make social, adjust to or make fit for cooperative group living, to adapt or make conform to the common needs of a social group. You should anticipate the many things your dog will come in contact with throughout his life. Introduce him to these things as young as possible. Use your imagination. If as an adult your dog will be around kids, cats, traffic, live stock, airports, etc. he should be socialized to them at a young age. For example, if your dog will be exposed to traffic during his life take him near the road on a leash at a young age. Observe his reactions. If this frightens or overly excited the dog, keep him back a little distance and encourage the proper response. Frightened pups should be calmed and quieted. Bring the puppy back daily, slowly moving him closer as his tolerance increases. After many exposures to the situation, it will not be as powerful in appearance, and your dog will handle he distraction properly. Exposing him to as many different situations as possible will increase his experience which should have a calming effect on his behavior. Keeping him away from the things and situations that frighten your dog, or the things that make your dog overly excited (too playful or aggressive), will not teach him how to handle these things. Confront these problems and encourage the proper behavior. A well-socialized dog is the easiest dog to train. Obedience Training socializes your dog to become part of your pack (family).
6.Influence. Webster’s: The power of a person to affect others. We use the term “Area of Influence” to describe the distance that your dog will remain under your control. Your area of influence could be 10 yards, 100 yard, ½ mile, or you might have absolutely no influence over the dog. In dog training, we must identify our area of influence, and set out to progressively increase it. For example, off leash influence might be 200 yards with distraction in the area. In housebreak, the area of influence would be the inside of your home. While the dog is alone he knows you require him not to soil or destroy your property. The long leash, or line, is used to increase your area of influence. The long line gives you the ability to correct improper responses to your command at a distance. Basic on leash obedience classes are designed to establish or increase your area of influence. The Ben-Jee offers private and group obedience classes.
7.Correct.- Webster’s: To lead straight, to make right, change wrong to right, remove errors. To make conform to a standard, to scold or punish so as to cause to rectify faults.
8.Correction- Webster’s: A change that corrects a mistake; change from wrong to right, or from abnormal to normal. Punishment or scolding to correct faults.
9.Exercise. Proper amounts of exercise will make the task of Dog raising or training easier. At 7 weeks and older, off leash walks should be started. Always consider their safety when puppies are off leash. Dogs that cannot be trusted should be allowed to roam on a 30’ to 50’ leash. Games of fetch with sticks and balls are great forms of exercise. Adult dogs love long walks or going jogging with their owners. Dogs with pent-up energy will be rebellious and harder to train than dogs who receive proper exercise. Exercise and socialization if planned correctly can be accomplished at the same time. Fenced – in yards become boring. Tie-out stakes and trolleys are confining. A walk on a 4’ leash for relief of bladder and bowels is just not enough activity to insure your dog is getting enough exercise. Evaluate your dog’s exercise requirements according to age, condition, and size, and make time daily for him..
Your dog is continually learning from you. This starts the day you bring him home, and includes good lessons and bad. Your puppy will follow you everywhere from 7 weeks to about 12 weeks of age. He will tag along right at your heel. He will stay close to you for security. This is essential for your dog’s survival. This goes back to his pack instincts. You must use this tendency to your advantage. Praise your puppy as he tags along at your side. When your puppy is distracted from you and not looking at you, run away from him and call his name. Use an excited happy voice. Praise him as he runs after you and give a small food reward, or one of his toys. Always reward and induce your pup to run towards you when you call his name. Repeat this game on a daily basis and keep it happy. If your pup ignores your first command, walk or run farther away from him. The distance you create will cause him to run to you since he is insecure when you are far away. Always praise and reward. Never call your dog to you and punish or correct your dog, go to the dog, put the dog on leash or take him by the collar. Don’t be dull and unattractive make returning to his master a delightful and entertaining experience. Remember if you dog ignores your first command, go directly to him and put the leash on! Don’t repeat the command to come. Repeated commands convince your dog you have no power or influence over him. Each successive command tells him the next command will be just as empty and meaningless. By going to him and putting on the leash, you now have influence over him. Give a command to come and walk away. When he follows, praise him immediately. If he still refuses, give a few jerks of the leash and walk away. This will teach him to respond to your first command.
Hide and seek is a valuable game to play. As you walk and he is distracted from you, duck behind a tree or other obstacle. It is not your intention to make it hard form him to find you. Peek to see what he is doing. If he is confused or going in the wrong direction, make a few noises or whistles to draw his attention to your hiding spot. When he discovers your hiding place, praise him and run away rewarding him.. Progressively make the hiding spot more difficult for your pup to solve. You may find your dog has a gift for searching you out. In a little while, your pup will always be checking where you are. How many dog owners do you know who are constantly worried about where their dog is? This little game “puts the shoe on the other foot”. The pup will be concerned about where you are. The little game will make him more aware of you. When you go for walks, he will be concerned of your whereabouts.
Another good lesson is to have a person hold him by his collar while you walk or run away. Go at least 50 to 100 yards away before you turn to face the dog and call his name with the command “Come!” The person should then release the pup and you should motivate him as he runs toward you. The person who is helping you should be neutral to the puppy. He should not talk to the pup and it is better if he doesn’t know the person too well. If during the “hide and seek” or “chase” games, the dog avoids coming all the way to you, put on the long leash and make him come all the way to you. When the pup gets to you, reward immediately.
Every dog, at some age, will refuse to return to his owner. When this problem occurs, it is important to handle it properly. When this problem surfaces, keep the dog on the long line so that he can get some “freedom,” and you can compel him to come when you need to. The owner of the dog who will not come back to him must look at what they have contributed to causing the problem. Have you punished the dog upon his return to you? Do you reward and induce sufficiently? Do you only call him when you want to put him in the house or in his cage? You can train your dog to be reluctant to return to you. For example, if your pup is outside playing and you have to call him into the house so you can leave for work, after a few experiences the pup will see it as negative to come to you, since you are going to leave him alone. In this case I take some extra time to play with him inside of the house and give him a small food treat to reward him for coming to me before I leave him alone. I want the pup to connect coming to me with food and lay. I don’t want him to associate coming to me with anything. Negative.
The Older Dog
To teach an adult dog to come on command, I start with the same techniques we used for the pup. I will immediately start with long walks with the dog on a long leash. I want the dog to experience getting 50’ from me. When I want him back I can make in respond to the first command. The same principles of inducement and compulsion work for the adult dog as the pup. Hide and seek and chase games on the long line are great to familiarize him to the freedom we want him to have. It is improper to correct the dog for not coming to you until he understands his responsibility. Almost all of the dogs we work with who do not listen off leash were trained by their owners to not listen. Their owners trained the dog to avoid them. Remember never punish the dog when he gets back to you. Never give more than one command. Always give the dog some kind of free exercise daily (on long line). Take the necessary time to train the dog on leash the basic obedience commands of heel, sit, down, stay and come. To change improper behavior, the owner must adopt a new understanding and attitude towards the dog.
The Formal Recall
Your dog should be able to sit and stay for 1 minute (60 seconds) at the end of a six foot leash. After 1 minute, call the dog’s name and the command come Rover, come!) in an enthusiastic voice. If he comes to you, tell him to sit directly in from of you, as close to you as possible and praise lavishly. When he doesn’t come on the first command, give the leash a fast, sharp jerk, and repeat the command to come. He must see that to avoid the jerk of the leash he must come in the first command. The correction (leash jerk) comes while he is still 6’ from you. You must praise him as soon as he gets to you so that he realizes he is corrected for not coming on the first command and that he is always rewarded when he gets to you. Any time he doesn’t respond on the first command, make him come. If he seems reluctant to come all the way to you, walk backwards away from him, tugging and jerking the leash while verbally praising him. This will teach him he must come n the first command all of the way to you. Repeat this exercise often until he responds on the first command without compulsion. The dog must comprehend the recall at this level to progress towards off leash work. The next step is to place him on the long leash (30’ to 50’). Teach him to stay while gradually increasing your distance away from him towards the end of the leash. Teach him to stay for 1 or 2 minutes before doing the recall. Now call his name and say come. He should respond the same way as he did on the 6’ leash. Gather up the slack in the leash as he comes to you and have him sit. Praise and reward every time he gets to you. During this formal training it is very important that you remain consistent. The dog must understand that he will be rewarded whenever he gets to you, and that he will be corrected for not responding or for a slow or reluctant response. Once he is conditioned in the formal recall, start to use it in practical situations. Example: Take the dog on a long leash (50’) to an open area. During the practice stage, always keep the dog on the long line. This should last about 4 to 6 weeks. Do not take a chance on off-leash yet. If he has not had enough training, a serious setback will happen. Let your dog wander and stray form your side. After a few minutes, call his name and “come.” A proper response receives praise. If he doesn’t come, grab the line and compel him to you. Many repetitions are necessary to make this a reliable exercise. Be careful. If your dog is running away from you, step on the leash to stop him. A severe rope burn could result from picking up a leash fastened to a running dog with your bare hands.
When you can see you dog understands this part, take him to a new place with distractions. Find a distraction that is appealing to your dog. Let him go with the long line attached. When he is about one-half of the leash length away, call him. If he doesn’t respond immediately, give the leash a hard jerk. You are now teaching the dog that your command overrides his desire or instinct to chase any distraction (dog, cat, bicycle, car, etc.). Double commands and weak corrections show the dog you are not in control. Repeat this exercise often and with as many different strong distractions that you can fine. To develop a reliable dog, many repetitions will be necessary. When you find your dog is always reliable with the long line on, take him to an open area and put your 6’ leash on his collar. Drop the leash and allow him to drag it as he wanders. Wait a few minutes or until he becomes distracted by something, and call his name and “come.” Praise the proper response. If his response is not immediate, go directly to the end of the leash and give him a strong jerk towards you. You will have to judge whether more work is needed on the 50’ leash, or if you just need to reinforce the recall now that he can see the long line is not attached. If at any time in the training for complete off-leash responsibility, your dog reverts to not coming on command, go back to the formal long line training to reestablish the proper responses. With some dogs, it will be necessary to occasionally do some remedial training. With a consistent effort, all dogs will respond to a balanced training program, using inducements and compulsion. The individual dog handler must judge the proper usage of inducement and compulsion to train his dog to do as he wants it to. Difficult dogs should be worked with a professional dog trainer. Call us at the Ben-Jee Kennels for our next class. Phone: (215) 257-1278.
TRAIN; Don’t Complain.
Off Leash Recall