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.
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
- Take your dog into your usual dog walking area – a wide-open space outdoors where he is safe.
- Wait until there are no other dogs nearby, remove his lead and take a couple of steps forward – watch where the dog goes
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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