One of my most frequently asked questions is how I got such an amazing recall with both of my dogs, especially in regards to going to the dog park or any off leash area. So today I'm going to share some of my best tips with you and they are not in any particular order.
1. Stay engaged with your dog!If every time you go to the dog park, you sit on the bench and play with your phone your dog will definitely find the environment more rewarding than you. Play games with your dog, walk around and stay interesting!
2. Don't call your dog when they are distracted.When you're first starting to training your recall, don't overuse it. Don't call your dog unless your are 98% sure they will come. The dog park is a very distracting environment, there are sights and smells and other dogs. When your dog is super distracted they likely won't hear you calling anyways. Wait until your dog isn't distracted and then call them. I've also been known to use my recall word as they are already coming to me so they associate the action with the word. If you need to get your dog and your dog isn't able to listen just go get them. If they are hard to catch I would recommend keeping a leash on and letting them drag it.
3. Go when it's boring.It's so hard to compete with all the sights, sounds and other dogs. If you really want to work on your recall, go to the dog park when it's super boring during off times when there are not very many dogs or people around. The middle of the day on a weekday or early in the mornings is a good time for this. Let your dog sniff around as much as they want and then when they get bored with that pull out your best treats and practice calling them and then releasing them back to do whatever they want. Do this a bunch of times. You can even try clipping your leash on a couple of times, rewarding them for that and then unclipping it and letting them free again. Make sure they never realize when you're actually going to leave the park. Then once they are really good at recalling when the distractions are lower you can slowly start building up to going at more distracting times but don't call your dog if you aren't sure if they will actually come!
4. Reward your dog any time they choose you.Yes, I am one of those people who takes treats to the dog park. If you go when it's not busy during off times, taking treats into the dog park is not an issue. Just don't feed other people's dogs and they will eventually learn the snacks are not for them and go away. I always reward my dogs any time they voluntarily give me attention without me asking for it. Any time my dogs choose me, I reward them.
5. Play hide and seek.Wait for your dog to get a little distracted, then step behind a tree or behind a rock and out of sight. When your dog finds you make sure you give them a big reward and make a huge deal out of it! Be fun and be exciting! This is one of Zoe's favorite games and we still play it! Both of my dogs have so much fun trying to find me and actually "silence" has become one of my strongest recall cues. When I go dead silent that has become their cue to immediately come looking for me and it's more powerful than my actual verbal cue.
6. Don't end the fun when you exit the dog park.Many dogs won't come when called at the dog park because when you call them the fun ends. They leave the dog park and go home. Don't end the fun when you exit the dog park. Many dog parks are situated in regular parks. Every time we were done inside the dog park, I would always take Zoe for walks around the park. We would go around the lake and she got to hunt for squirrels and we also played a lot of training games. The time we spent walking, playing and training outside the dog park became more reinforcing than being in the dog park and Zoe always looked forward to leaving! It was never a big deal because she knew that the fun wasn't ending when the leash being clipped on and the gate was closing behind us. We were always off on our next adventure, whatever that might be.
7. Practice makes perfect.Dogs don't generalize very well so it's important to practice in lots of different environments and with lots of different distractions. If your dog isn't very reliable yet, there are no fences or if there are leash laws, I would recommend using long lines. Long lines come in various different lengths from 10ft to 100ft and they are not very expensive. We are lucky that we have a lot of designated off leash areas in Oregon. You can also practice your recall on your regular walks by calling them and running backwards a few steps. Don't forget to be exciting and fun!
Final note and words of caution on dog parks.Dog parks can be great places to visit and they can be terrible places. I would just like to caution everyone on that. The best dog parks are ones with large open spaces with lots of room. I would definitely avoid the small ones. Remember that anyone with any sort of dog can enter the dog park and you will have no idea how well socialized those dogs are.
I recommend going to a few different parks and checking them out before you enter with your dog. Watch how the dogs are interacting and if something makes you uncomfortable don't take your dog in. I would also not recommend going when it's really crowded because dogs can get overwhelmed/overstimulated easily and it's a lot harder to control the situation. If you are visiting a dog park and someone's dog is making your uncomfortable it's okay to take your dog and leave. Always advocate for and pay attention to your dog and to what is going on around you. Remember that you can't control other people and their dogs but you can control yourself and your dog.
If things are going south at the dog park, just take your dog, leave and have an adventure together on the other side of the fence!
How did you train your recall?
Today we are joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop! This month's theme is "Recall" but any positive posts are welcome! Be sure to hop around and check out everyone's posts!
Thanks so much to the hosts!