Keep Your Dog Close on Walks and Improve his Recall

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Is your dog going too far away on walks, and not coming back when you call him?

[wp_ad_camp_5]In this article, you’ll find out how to train your dog to stay closer and check in more often.

Many people find their dogs getting further and further away from them on walks as they leave the puppy stage behind.

In this article we are going to look at the very effective ‘about turn’ method of improving Labrador recall.

It will also help you keep your dog close when you are out walking together

Walking your Dog

Many people go for regular walks with their dogs.

The whole walk is often a circle, but such a large one that the dog owner is effectively walking in a straight line throughout.

For some dogs this causes no problem.

The dog trots along happily 20 or 30 yards ahead of the owner, stops to say hello briefly to other dogs and quickly catches the owner up again.

But for many young labradors, the ‘linear’ walk is an invitation to go hunting further and further ahead.

And to begin ignoring the  shouts or whistles of his owner.

Like most labrador training problems, recall issues tend to get worse over time if not addressed,  so it is important to take action straight away.

If your dog is straying too far from you on walks, and your recall is breaking down, this following technique will help:

The About Turn Walk

The ‘about turn walk’ will not have any affect on a dog that genuinely ‘runs away’ when you let him off the lead – he is not interested in where you are.

However, true absconding is rare and the vast majority of dogs do care where their owner is.

Though they may be disobedient, they do not actually want to lose you completely. This is your trump card.

The ‘about turn walk’ will only work if you apply it consistently for at least a month.

You will find it impossible to go for a normal family walk whilst you do this, as it will drive everyone with you quite mad. The technique will only work if you do not take your dog for any other kind of walk for at least a month.

STEP 1. PUT SOME TREATS IN YOUR POCKET

Arm yourself with something your dog likes to eat – bits of cheese, bread or a good quality kibble are fine. The tastier the better to begin with.
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STEP 2. STOP CALLING!

Please stop calling your dog – he probably isn’t going to come so all you are training him to do is to ignore you.

STEP 3. RELEASE THE DOG

  1. Take your dog into your usual dog walking area – a wide-open space outdoors where he is safe.
  2. Wait until there are no other dogs nearby, remove his lead and take a couple of steps forward – watch where the dog goes
  3. Set off extremely quickly in the opposite direction to that taken by your dog. Do not look back. Trust that your dog will find you. He can smell you up to a mile away. The first time you do this he may be gone for some time. When he realises you are not with him, he will come to find you.
  4. You will eventually hear him dashing up behind you.

STEP 4. ABOUT TURN!

As your dog rushes past you, make a complete ‘about turn’ and set off extremely quickly in the opposite direction (facing in the direction from which he just came).

Do not call him; do not try to attract his attention. You are not training him to come to you at this point; you are training him to believe that you are unpredictable and that he needs to keep an eye on you.

Repeat several times until the dog is starting to slow down a little.

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STEP 5. RECALL CONDITIONING

Now as the dog approaches you from behind, turn to face him and call him right into you as he approaches. Praise him and give him a treat from your pocket, before sending him on his way again. Immediately he sets off, about turn again.

Do not follow your dog at any point. You are leading the way, you chose the direction, and he is learning to follow you. Practice every day for a week. Turn to face the dog and call him every time he approaches you. Make sure he touches your hand each time.

Give him a tiny treat every time for the first two days then reduce the treats over the next five days, until you are treating about half of the time.

STEP 6. RE-INTRODUCING THE RECALL COMMAND

After a week or so you will find your dog beginning to remain closer to you. He will be watching you more carefully. Now you will begin to look for opportunities to re-introduce the recall as a command. Up until now you have only called him as he comes running to you, now you will begin call him to you at different times. Pick your times carefully to begin with.

  • Do not call him when he is following, or interacting with, other dogs or people.
  • Do not call him when he is deeply interested in investigating a fascinating smell.
  • Do not call him when he is travelling away from you at speed
  • Do not call him when he is a long way away

In situations like these you have no real power over the dog. Better not to call him than to risk reminding him that he used to be the kind of dog that ignored you.

Bide your time. Wait until the dog is simply trotting about doing nothing in particular, and very close by to re-introduce your recall as a command. Use it sparingly and reward every recall to begin with.

In the meantime you should be working on your dog’s overall obedience by following a training programme such as the one in part two of this guide. Keep up your ‘about turn walks’ for at least a month or until your dog remains near to you during your walks, whichever takes longer.

Further Information

I look at the complex subject of recall in more detail in my book Total Recall.

One of the keys to enjoying a close relationship with your dog, is to keep him occupied. If your Labrador has a passion for ‘doing things’ and a reluctance to trot along calmly at your heels, the best way to bond with him, is to keep him busy with occupations of your choosing. Otherwise he will find occupations of his own, and they may not be to your liking.

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There are a number of activities that you can get involved in with your Labrador, and one of the most rewarding is gundog training. Even if you never intend to go anywhere near a gun, gundog style training is designed to harness the natural instincts and desires of the gundog and will give him and you great pleasure

Summary

To have a good recall, you will need to follow a well-structured training programme.  Total Recall provides one that you might find helpful.

Make sure to get the basics well established, before you add complications like strange places and other dogs.

Keep your puppy close and out of mischief.

And don’t forget to have fun!

This article was first published in 2011, and has been fully revised and updated for 2015. 

More information

If you like the idea of starting over and teaching your dog a great recall from scratch, then Total Recall may be the book you need

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Total Recall is one of the most popular dog training books in the UK

TRYou’ll find lots of examples of different training scenarios and set ups in there too.

Total Recall is an Amazon best seller and has had many fantastic reviews.

Good luck with your training and don’t forget there is also help and support available in the forum

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Previous articleHow Gundog Training Can Help Your Labrador
Next articleThe fight against blindness in Labradors
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

51 COMMENTS

  1. Fantastic training idea, I’ve got to try it with my 19 month rescue lab/collie Archie. His recall is fairly good… till he sees another dog lol.
    The trouble is, some other dog people around my area can be jerks. There’s a big field near my home where I run Archie which is renowned with other dog owners. Most accept the risks that come with off lead dogs, but some like to bring their reactive and even post op dogs and let them off lead there, then have a go at anyone whose dog comes over to them.
    Unfortunately I had a nasty incident with a selfish woman who, upon my dog trying to play with her collies, screamed at me saying her dogs had just had operations and couldn’t be chased. She however decided that taking them to an open field, letting them both offlead at once and then throwing a ball for them was a smart idea. It didn’t help that one of her dogs decided she liked Archie and chased after him, ignoring her owners recall, and I spent two painful minutes trying to grab Archie while this awful woman was screaming at me to catch him. As if me trying to nab my dog, while her dog was in my face, wasn’t obvious enough to her. Even had the cheek to tell me my dog shouldn’t be off lead. Same to you, you nasty woman!
    Needless to say, my confidence is shot. It’s been weeks since and I still feel awful. I used to let Archie offlead most of the time as he’s great with dogs and everyone elses dogs were the same, always coming over and greeting him, with varying levels of recall I might add, so it’s not just me. Now I’m stunting his development because everytime I see another offlead dog, I pull Archie away and keep him on lead. Course this feeds into him and my nervousness makes him excitable and bouncy, which makes my nervousness worse. I’m not good with conflict, years of bullying has messed me up good, so I tend to avoid it where possible. Getting Archie was a way of developing socially as it made me talk to people and it worked. I was so confident walking Archie all over my home town. Unfortunately, now I see every incident as a possible negative experience and even questioning all the previous incidences and whether I did the right thing. Loads of people’s little dogs come over and I’m supposed to accept that, but my big lab cross isn’t allowed because he’s big, black and a bit puppish.
    Anyway, I’ll be trying this method. Arch runs me ragged sometimes because he acts like a puppy, but is 33kg of muscle and extremely clever. Brilliant dog, just needs a little bit more training.

  2. This is great advice, dogs really do run further away when we chase after them, and they’re almost always faster than us. In some situations, my dogs have escaped and I have had to keep after them to make sure they weren’t about to get hit by a car, but I never try to catch them. They always come back!

    I also do a lot of hide-and-seek and recall games to make sure they know that coming to me means a fun time!

  3. Hi Pippa, Thanks for the great article. You write ‘the technique will only work if you do not take your dog for any other kind of walk for at least a month’. Does that mean any kind of walk or only off leash walks? Thanks for your reply, Marc

  4. Hi Pippa.
    We have a 17 week black lab retriever bitch. Myfi is her name and she is coming along very nicely.
    I read your site most days and have got your puppy hand book which is brill.
    I have been letting her off her lead since she was about 9/10 weeks and her recall is very good so far not excellent mind you but when she sniffs aboutthen she will look for me I encourage to return to me and all of a sudden she is by my side. Also she does stay by my side for quite some way.However reading your article on recall,I am going to try the part about turning round quickly and wailing in the opposite direction? Just to seal the deal so to speak.

    She is so quick on he uptake and of course plenty of her kibble or favourite treats works wonder ha!
    One question not related to this article is what is overt socialisation and can you over socialise your pup?
    Many thanks
    Maggie (Peggy)

  5. I am delighted that I came across this site. So much useful information and so clearly written. Thank you.
    I’m working on the ‘about turn’ with my two year old rescue lab/schnauzer cross breed. He’s a darling, he tries so hard but is a big, strong, friendly, lively and very curious fella. He’s a big challenge. I’m having great fun with him doing the ‘about turn’. He’s responding very well considering he has always torn off like a shot out of a gun when the lead is removed. So what I have been doing is using the long line for the initial sessions. I’m doing this to help him ‘get’ what he is supposed to do and to prevent him running off on impulse. I’m not sure if having him on a long line is ok (correct) as far as the training is concerned. But since he is inclined to bolt I figure having him on the long line as an initial step will help consolidate the practice. So far it’s going well and he is managing to ignore most distractions in favour of the treats. I am so grateful for the articles and help this site provides.

  6. I tried this today with my lab x collie, it was fantastic and he kept bounding after me. Me hiding behind the tree really caught him off guard. I was fortunate enough to find a large open, safe place and it worked well. He did really well for the first attempt. Would you suggest sticking to this same area during the next month or should I try different walks? I contacted you in the week as my dog doesn’t stay close during walks preferring to go off after animal scents, and sometimes wild animals.

  7. My male black lab is 16 months old and we do practice the walking techniques you outline and they really do work. We’re having a really hard winter so getting outside for long periods is tough right now. We tried the whistle and clicker in the beginning but they didn’t really work well. I use an electronic collar which really gives me the best peace of mind when he is off leash. I use the beep for recall and for him to turn his attention to me and I limit how far he is allowed to wonder. I’m also dealing with cross streets and traffic so I can’t let him just bolt off. In a park or safe area he is allowed to wonder and explore some more but always stays within sight. In the spring, I’d really like to start the gun training but have no plans to hunt with him. Your thoughts on electronic leash and incorporating it into training.

  8. going to work on this recall method,thank you Pippa.We have a 10 month old black lab female who does do well off leash if she has no distraction.I have hidden on her numerous times when we are out and that works well,she is frantic if she can’t find me.
    Would love to get another lab but know I can’t handle two yet until I improve my communication with her.
    Look forward to your “leash training” because she pulls++ on leash:)

  9. I love this website so helpful. Although non of the above would work with my lab if she smells food she switches off and doesn’t hear anything. I have tried everything nothing works !
    Worse in the summer with all the picnics
    Thank you for all
    Your tips and advise
    Su

  10. Hi Pippa,
    I have 1 yr old Labrador female…
    She never act on my recall..
    When ever I call her she starts running away ….as she think I am playing with her..
    Please help me what should I do and how to do…..please help

  11. Hi There. I found this information particularly interesting as i have 3 dogs and the one that has started to ignore my recall is a lab/retriever rescue. He has been trained by myself as when i took him on at approx. 10 months old he had many “bad behaviours”. Since then he can perform tricks,seek items out and dance a routine with me. Just recently since moving to Ireland the dissapearing on me in the woods started to occur and i feel i needed to go back to basics again.
    I will try this method although i suppose it means separate walks from the other dogs which involves a lot of time.
    Thanks for the ideas which i will put into practice from today.
    kevin

  12. Excellent article and we will try this when we are next down on the beach. My question is will this work when we have a young tag-team of 8 mo lab x and 16 mo lab, both recent rescues. They’ve been quite good on the beach, staying around us and the water, but yesterday they both decided to check out some of the cottage properties, which is a no-no. Fortunately no-one’s around right now, but the season is starting. They to goad each other on!

  13. Hello Pippa,

    Advice please for a lovely 2 year old black lab. Normally a gorgeous, loveable dog, but at times gets very excited and growls and bites me. Only me, not my husband or daughter. He can bite through clothing and draws blood and causes bruising to my arms. I can tell he is excited and wants to play, but how can I stop this behaviour? He is very intelligent and learns tricks etc very quickly – I am the one who trains him. Many thanks,
    Sue

  14. We have a lab that is coming up to a year old. We got him when he was a very young pup and he is very well behaved around us and has always had a good recall. We let him of the leed from the start so he would get used to always following us which worked really well. Although around other people he gets very over excited. If he is off his leed on a walk and he spots another person or dog before i have had chance to call him back he sprints of and we have absolutley no control over him. Also as of late his recall is getting a little worse. We never had any problems calling him back on his own before but lately he has started to ignore us. Is there anything you can recommend?

      • OMG I have just posted identical problem under another heading.Mine is 11 months old and I have exactly the same issue just other dogs not people. He was excellent until about a month ago and getting increasingly bad. Just had mine castrated as he was also trying to hump other dogs and wouldn’t leave bitches alone even if they were spayed. I’m thinking of trying the long line.

  15. Hi we have recently rehomed a ESS 1yr old bitch who is working bred. We have started on your gun dog training series the about turn walk works great but she will not come close enough to me to treat or praise. I also have to corner her to catch her to put lead on. In despair she has such poor recall.

    • Hi Stephanie, a structured programme of recall training is the way to go. Have a look in our recall training centre, you’ll find the link in the training menu at the top of the page. Pippa

  16. I have a sprocker who is a 20 months and a labrador puppy, he is five months. Our sprocker is a working dog and I intend Bryn our lab to be too. He’s a really good boy and is making great progress with training and even though he doesn’t bolt when I let him off the lead, he also most the time doesn’t listen either. He’s so relaxed and interested in new smells, I can call him and its as if he’s deaf! He does respond to the whistle but slowly and in his own time, being used to a very spritely wired sprocker bitch is slightly different to a male lab and I have to remember to stay patient. Then today I discovered this article… I took them both out and tried this straight away, well he wandered until he looked up and noticed me gone, I’ve never seen him move so quick, he ran to me as fast as he could and my sprocker did too catching him up. I did this through out our walk and what a success it was, he suddenly was all about me. He stayed close, kept coming back wagging his tail and licking my hand almost smiling at me!! I will keep on at it but I think its a brilliant training trick my dogs both love it and the treats and praise at the end!

  17. dear i have a lab he is 14 months old i have trainrd him to sit only And come but hAlf of times when i call him he just ignores me plxx help me to what to do.. i want to fully train him. plxx help me i am so worried about him

  18. If anyone has any additional hints, stories, or suggestions that they think might be helpful, i would love to hear them. I have to prove to ky husband that she is a good girl and can be an amazing family dog. Thanks!

  19. Thank you for tue helpful article, as well as all of the replies.tha We had an amazing lab who passed away last month. We got him at a year and a half, and he had been trained as a cattle dog. He was the best dog that my family could have hoped for. Last night we brought home Obsidian (Siddy), again a year and a half, but this time a female with much less training. She is extremely hyperactive, and my husband is already beginning to wonder if we did the right thing. She is extremely smart and i know that i can turn her around with time. I dont think she is ready for this technique quite yet, but the article still gave me some great insight that will be very useful, and i do plan on applying this in the future

  20. Love this exercise and still use it from time to time to keep my dogs on their toes. Following on from one of your replies to ‘the about turn walk’, I would love to read more about fun training exercises you can do with two dogs. Any previous articles or references? Thanks.

  21. I agree with Project m wholeheartedly. I came across your site a couple of days ago and have tried this technique out yesterday and today. Ruby, my 19 month old lab tends to run ahead and will come back but not always on recall. This technique was really great fun for both Ruby and me. I could see her start to think she needed to keep a close eye on me and after 30 minutes or so she decided it would be best to walk right beside me at heel! I took the opportunity to praise her and popped a couple of bits of cheese her way.
    We have some way to go yet but it’s an encouraging start.

    http://Www.walkingalabrador.com
    Ps – Total Recall in the post and heading my way from Amazon.

  22. My boisterous Choc lab has always been a bit hit and miss with recall – I always felt unable to relax totally as he is prone to bolt off – he generally reappears eventually but its a bit of a nightmare at times. Just lately ( hes almost 2) this seemed to be getting worse. I had always realised ( having discovered by accident ) that if I could catch him with an about turn before he bolted out of range he might just come back – but having read this article I have started to do it in a much more systematic and structured way and it remarkable. Still not sure it will work when we meet other dogs yet but definitely a big improvement. The best article on lab recall I have come across. Keep you posted.

  23. I have just “inherited” a 2 & 1/2 yr old chocolate labrador, after my son split with his partner. The dog needed completely resocialising and training.
    Richard warned me not to let him off the lead as he bolts for freedom. So, I took him over the local country park (200 acres). He did as predicted, bolted. BUT,THEN surprise surprise he stopped in mid tracks and came looking for me. I didn’t catch him, just walked off in the opposite direction until he caught up with me, thentold him how wonderful he was for looking for me, gave him a small reward and a pat on the head and let him on his merry way . \This we repeated several times. By now it was coming up to dinnertime — so next time told him we were going home for dinner, slipped his lead on and went on our way. I have never looked back. His recall is now perfect – even at training school surrounded by several unruly juveniles. I have never wanted a labrador before — I am a GSD person, but Oz has shown me the joys of a lab — Choc labs are not thick — they just have a wonderful frustrating sense of humour. He is loyal loving and is so desparate to please. Perhaps because he has a second chance. Since learning fetch he is permantly carrying something in his mouth “to give” to me on command. I LOVE HIM .

    • Totally agree Chocs arent thick – sometimes think mine is too smart by three quarters !! but they are nosey, stubborn free spirits and as I now am begining to see need handling in a specific and consistent way to get results – they will exploit the tiniest chink in your armour !! Love mine too !!

  24. Hi Pippa,

    I stumbled across this post a few days ago while I was tearing my hair out wondering what I could do to get my 4 month old golden retriever to pay at least a bit of attention to me.

    The following morning I put your technique into action and 3 days later I’ve noticed an incredible difference. It’s worked like magic!! He now realises he has to keep a close eye on me at all times as I could wander off anywhere and can’t be trusted to be let loose. Oh how the tables have turned
    😀

    Obviously we still have a long way to go but I just wanted to say thank you so much for the brilliant advice!!

    Lesley

    • Thanks Lesley for your kind comments, I am so pleased that you have found this helpful. Hope you continue to make good progress.

  25. Hi Helen,
    I am so sorry to hear that your dog has had an unpleasant experience. I find it almost incomprehensible that any professional dog trainer, whatever their training philosophy, would attempt to ecollar train a dog without the owner’s permission.

    Nor am I in favour of sending dogs away for obedience training, partly because at this stage the owner needs training as much as the dog, and partly because you cannot assess the trainer’s methods if you are not there. My suggestion was that you get help and support from a gundog trainer, not that you send your dog away to be trained in your absence. 🙁

    However, what is done is done. Please do not despair, or blame yourself. What has happened to you is most unusual and you could not have predicted that someone would do this. Moreover, there is a great deal of misinformation flying around about ecollar training. And the chances are, your dog will not suffer any long term effects.

    Bear in mind that probably at least 90% of USA retrievers are ecollar trained, and these dogs are not gibbering wrecks. Indeed, most are happy and contented.

    Bear in mind also, that whilst I do not recommend punishment in recall training, many trainers do use punishment, and an ecollar is the only way of delivering a punishment accurately to a dog that is at a distance. There are of course lots of reasons why I do not like ecollars, but that is another article.

    With regard to your concerns about aggression, ecollars can exacerbate aggression if used to stop a dog interacting with or fighting with, other dogs. Apart from that I have not heard any evidence that ecollars cause aggression. I doubt this would happen with recall training.

    Four weeks is a very short time to cure a serious recall problem, and quick fixes in this respect do tend to fall apart. However, it is possible, that your dog has been trained effectively to recall in a limited range of different situations whilst wearing the collar. And that you will be able to build on this.

    You now have to decide whether to continue to have him wear the collar, which may have a buzzer only function you can use, whilst you make the necessary changes to the way you manage him to consolidate your recall using positive methods, or whether to start over without the collar and with a different trainer.

    I recommend the latter.

    Should you be determined to continue with ecollar training, do bear in mind that ecollars are likely to become illegal in the UK soon, and please please do join the USA retriever training forum where you can get the advice you will need to use one properly, effectively and with long term results. They will also be able to put your mind at rest on the aggression/fear questions.

    There are so many wonderful gundog trainers in the UK, you have been most unlucky. I hope it won’t put you off all gundog trainers, for good. There are a few obedience trainers too that use these devices, usually to cure sheep or car chasing, but it is almost unheard of for someone to carry out this kind of training on a dog without discussing it with the owner first.

    To help prevent others getting into the same situation, it would be a good idea to identify this trainer to the Kennel Club in case he or she belongs to their Accredited Trainer scheme, and to the Gundog Club whose Instructors all undertake not to use harsh treatments on student’s dogs.

    And if it were my dog that had been electrocuted without my consent, I would probably be refusing to pay my bill. But that’s just me!

    Pippa

  26. Hi Pippa,
    We took your advise about a a Gun Dog Trainer for Charlie. He has been with one on an intensive 4 week programme. I had a call from them today to arrange collecting him. I asked how he had got on and the Trainer informed me that he has fantastic recall on an electric shock collar and that I would have to get one. I am heartbroken that we were never told of their harsh training programme. If we had been told this we would NEVER have sent Charlie there. We are so worried now that this treatment will have changed his character and present us with other issues such as aggression and fear. I too would do as requested if I were being shocked on a daily basis. I cannot tell you how upset we are that we put our lovely boy in the hands of someone that would use such ruthless methods and without our consent. Do you know anything about electric shock collars and the results of their use. We collect him tomorrow and I am very worried and won’t sleep tonight thinking about what he has been through. He has had a terrible start in life as a rescue dog in the first place.

    Thanks
    Helen 🙁

  27. Hi Pippa,

    Thanks for the information. The problem with Charlie is he is not interested in treats, toys or praise when outside, inside he loves all of them. I have been using the whistle indoors for a week to get him used to it which works 100% but again outside he totally ignores it. Have used a long training lead but as he pulls so hard it is not effective. We have had a 1-1 session with a gundog trainer and he said he was easy to train (for him!). I go to dog classes every week and work with him as much as I can. He is a Labrador x Pointer who just doesn’t want to listen. He doesn’t disappear for long maybe 2 – 3 minutes. He chased deer the other day and was extremely close to a shoot that wasn’t on when we let him off and that was nerve wracking for us. Thanks for all your help but we feel we are failing at every hurdle and now just don’t know what to do.

    Helen 🙁

    • Hi Helen,
      You raise a number of interesting issues in your comment and I think it would be better to deal with some of these individually in the FAQ section. I will try and cover rewarding your dog outdoors first as it is crucial that you find a way to do this.

      The training lead is meant to trail behind the dog only to be used in emergencies or to enforce a recall. So pulling on it shouldn’t be an issue. With the about turn walk you don’t start recalling the dog until after you have established a good return with the dog running after you instead of the other way around.

      Retraining a recall command from scratch as you have tried to do with the whistle takes time. Weeks or months in the case of a dog that has been allowed to discover the joys of free hunting. I wouldn’t expect a dog to respond to a whistle outdoors after only a week of practice at home, and without any reward. Your new recall command needs to be proofed against distractions in stages.

      I think you have a choice between a full retraining programme, to cover the above, or persisting with the about turn walk, but neither will work effectively until you have worked out a proper reward system.

      To fully retrain the recall you will need to first put a stop to rehearsing recall failure which may mean changing the places or manner in which you exercise the dog, so that you do not need to call him unless he is already coming towards you. Retraining may take many weeks and needs to be done in carefully thought out stages

      Therefore, if your dog is coming to find you after only two or three minutes, and if you can find somewhere safe to exercise him on this basis, I think it may be worth persisting with the about turn walk for a bit longer. I would take a watch with a second hand and keep a note of how long it takes him to find you so that you can be sure he is gradually improving. Walk away from him as fast as you can, to keep him on his toes and make him responsible for coming after you.

      Dogs like Charlie can be really hard work and I do think you would benefit from some regular support and encouragement from a sympathetic one-to-one trainer who understands the difficulties of fixing a broken recall in a hunting dog. If you cannot find a suitable gundog trainer in your area, the APDT may have a trainer that can help you. You may also find that the rescue society you adopted Charlie from will be willing to offer support and advice. Your problems are common and you should not feel responsible. I think it is great that you have taken Charlie on and are giving him another chance. 🙂

      I have put up a new article today on recall problems, and an article on establishing a basic recall and another on proofing the recall will be going up shortly. I hope you find them helpful. You might also find it easier to chat about Charlie in our forums where it can be a little easier to keep track of conversations.
      Pippa

      • Dear Pippa

        We have had Golden Retrievers for 30 years – all bitches except our beautiful Boris a 5 year old entire male.

        We are desperate Boris is a hunter and since he was a pup has disappeared after rabbits etc. for long periods and once over night!!

        In desperation we have used an “electric collar” which has worked over the years and has not caused Boris any distress but over the last 4 or five months since we got a new puppy bitch (they are walked separately) he is not responding to the collar and shoots off at speed at any time during the walk and doesn’t come back although sometimes he is within 100 metres and we can see him.

        I should point out that he is the perfect dog at home and can be on his walks in fact he is a bit of a “Jeckle and Hide” character – very un predictable but oh so lovable in fact a beautiful boy – HELP!

        • Hi Christine, sorry to hear you are having such problems. As you will be aware, retraining a recall when a dog has got into bad habits can be a long task. For good results you will often need to change the way you exercise the dog and may need to use a training lead for some time. There are some links here: Labrador Recall Training to articles that may help and you might benefit from some one-to-one advice from an experienced gundog trainer. You can find a list here: Information for Gundog Owners, or you could try the APDT who may be able to recommend a trainer in your area who specialises in serious recall problems.
          Hope that helps, Pippa

  28. Hello, we are looking for some advice on how to begin training our two male black labrador litter mates so we can eventually walk them together without them paying more attention to each other than us! They are only 4 months old this week and can both now sit and lie down and stay on command ( for about 30 seconds!) have recently begun socialising with other dogs ( next door older lab and my old Jack Russell) but because the breeder hadn’t started their jabs before we picked them up they are a little late getting out and about. I do train them separately for short periods at home and have just signed up for a one to one training programme with a local dog trainer at the end of the month, but wondered if you have any helpful tips in the meantime?

    • Hi Jo,
      You have probably already discovered that many people throw their hands up in despair when they hear someone has bought two puppies from the same litter. But it sounds to me as though you are well aware of the pitfalls and are taking precautions to ensure both pups look to you for encouragement and instruction rather than each other.

      I know it is a bit of a bore, but I would exercise and train the two dogs quite separately until they are six months old, and have the basics of obedience (heel, sit, recall) in place. Once each dog can sit still for 30 seconds or so, walk to heel for say ten yards, and comes to his name fairly reliably in lots of different places, then by all means get them out together, but keep them fairly close and intersperse your walks with little short training sessions to keep them focused on you.

      There are lots of fun training exercises that you can do with two dogs that you could not do with one, and the next couple of months preparing the dogs individually will set you in good stead in the future.

      Good luck and have fun!

      Pippa

  29. Hi Helen
    The about turn walk is all about tightening up a sloppy recall. It sounds as though Charlies problems go deeper than this, and you may need to completely overhaul his training with a new recall signal.
    Recall problems are very common in rescue dogs, and pointers are wide ranging dogs with strong hunting instincts. You will need to use lots of rewards in an effective way to combat this. And a whistle would be an ideal way to make a fresh start with a brand new recall command.
    I am putting up a series of articles on recall and control issues this week and hope that they will be helpful to you and Charlie. The first one “losing control of your labrador” comes out tomorrow. In the meantime it might be a good idea to use a training lead on Charlie and/or to get some ‘hands on’ help from a gundog trainer.
    You might also find my training articles on the Totally Dogs site helpful.

  30. Happy New Year. Just a quick update and some advice would be welcomed. Have been doing the ‘About Turn and Walk’ for nearly 2 weeks now and Charlie has become too confident. He has disappeared on occassions but has returned. He just runs up and down the hedge rows whilst we run the other way. He is still not responding to any recall after 3 months and just ignores me. I have followed the instructions to the letter. He has perfect manners in the house and will come when called and is very obedient in every way but outside he seems to go deaf and blind and has his own agenda!! I wondered if whistle training can be used in conjunction with this method or you have any thoughts that might help us as we are not sure he will ever just trot along with us like Hattie our other dog.

    Thank you.
    Helen – now desperate dog owner!!!

    • Hi Helen, happy new year to you.
      I hope to put up some information on recall, and on leadwork too, in the next day or two!
      Pippa

  31. Hi Helen, thanks for your comment. We will be posting some articles on leadwork soon.
    There are a number of different methods for training heelwork, and you can find the clicker heel method in our clicker training section
    Pippa

  32. This is the best article I have read on recall. We have resuced a Labrador x Pointer (Charlie) who has just turned 1 year old and his recall was virtually non existent, infact he would just bolt and disappear for about 5 or more minutes and would only return when he pleased himself not when I was calling him. We have used this method for only 2 days and it seems to be working, although today he did get a little confident and disappear for about 3 minutes but came to find me I popped his lead on and off we went, but generally he did exactly as you said. I really hope he will eventually lead to him staying with us and our other dog Hattie. We have been struggling for 3 months and this is the plan we intend to stick with.

    Thank you so much for such great advice and hopefully Charlie will be an under control dog eventually!!

      • Hi Pippa, I wondered if you have any useful hints on lead work? I have used a Halti, a slip rope and normal collars and leads and Charlie still pulls like a train. I have tried and am still using the stop and wait until the lead is lose then moving on method but he still pulls. At 29 kgs this is quite difficult and very unpleasant. I have only had him for 3 months and am going to dog classes but I really need to get him sorted because I cannot physically walk my two dogs together. I would be really greatful for any help you can offer.

        Thanks so much
        Helen

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