Freedom: It isn’t free, it’s earned
When it comes to having the perfect dog with an impeccable recall well it just doesn’t exist. First off dogs aren’t perfect, their living breathing mistake making beings much like ourselves. After so much time spent with dogs of all varieties I’ve also found that every dog is different. We all know that each breed of dog has different traits and capabilities but why do we have the same educational expectations for every type of dog? Looking at a timid Yorkie versus a head strong Bull terrier I most undoubtedly would bet 100% the Yorkie would come to his owner over the Bull Terrier. If you want a dog that is off leash all the time and completely trustworthy and you choose a hound breed then you may not have done your research. So careful breed selection should be considered if you want a dog for a certain lifestyle. Then you bring into account the upbringing of the dog.
Humboldt County is a very diverse place to live and dogs enjoy all types of lifestyles with their owners. From spoiled house pet to guardian of the property dogs here in Humboldt are found in almost every home. I’ve spent years observing the differences between dog behavior on recalling to their owner and comparing that to how they are raised. I’ve seen that many dogs that live rurally and are allowed to roam their property unattended can learn bad habits very quickly. On the other end of the spectrum is the over protected dog who is always on a short leash. He’s angry, frustrated and always acting out in public so he ends up staying in the backyard. Both types of situations can be easily avoided by taking into consideration how you raise that dog. Or if you rescue an adult dog the same rules apply to how you introduce them to your household and lifestyle. When you first bring a puppy or adult dog home it’s very tempting to pamper them. You may even allow them to sleep in your bed or eat off your dinner plate. This can be a mistake in a very short time as the dog can get a bit too comfortable too quick. I recommend giving love and attention in the form of reward based activities like training cues for kibble or fetch. Any game that you can incorporate the word “Come” into where the dog is having fun and getting rewarded by you is imprinting them to that word. So think twice before you say it in conjunction with a negative tone of voice or a scolding shortly after. The dog will surely pick up on the pattern of events and balk at coming to you every time. Also take a good look at your body posture and remember that is how dogs communicate. So if your standing broad chested, angry with hands on your hips shouting “Max COME!” he will surely do anything but. Using shock collar devices is lazy and ultimately the dog won’t respect you. HE will only respect the device on his neck and bow his head in submission when you put it on his neck. I never recommend the use of Shock “E” “Electronic” “Pulse” collars. Keep it positive during recall training and never scold your dog when they come to you.
Spend time with your dog, work on his recall in your back yard, in the house and on a long line before allowing him off leash in public. Once they learn to run off after something like another dog, deer or worse people then they can get addicted very quickly. If this happens don’t feel like it’s a lost cause, put your dog on restriction. Yes I treat them a lot like kids and when there’s an infraction they go on restriction. This may mean a few weeks without off leash privileges then slowly dulling it out again. All in all I cannot stress enough the importance of giving freedom to your dog as it’s earned. I use crates for confinement in the home at first. I use leashes and long lines for outings until the dog has proven over months or years of training that they are ready for off leash time. I never leave them unattended in a space where they may run off to somewhere fun and amazing. Like say the neighbors house who has three friendly dogs or the field full or sheep or cattle next door. And I am patient and understanding to that particular dogs ability to learn and how much time I’ve put into their training. A dog must slowly adapt to their surroundings, expectations and territory line.
Truth is dogs love to have boundaries, much like children. They go a little haywire when they don’t have them. And remember to never be afraid to use food or toys with your recall training. I don’t care where you read that the use of treats is bad, that is just plain silly. Dogs love to have tasty treats and to a good time and the more fun you make things the more your dog will want to come to you. Are they much different than us? We reward each other with gifts and other things for good behavior. So please get out there and have fun calling your dog!
Things you need:
1) Reliable collar like a martingale that your dog cannot slip out of. Don’t forget to reach down and do a collar grab when your dog is taking the treat. This desensitizes them to your outstretched hand trying to take ahold of their collar.
2) Six and twenty foot cotton lines. Gloves are recommended when using long lines.
3) Pocket full of treats or kibble. I love to take my dogs meal on the go with us and have them earn it through work instead of eating from her bowl.
4) Super fun Wubba type tug toy or ball for fetching.
Start by going to your local park or a grassy area with some distractions.
Use the shorter leash at first asking your dog to Come. I love to use the word “YES!” when a piece of treat right after so that when you say it to the dog they associate with your excitement and food. You can then say “YES” the moment your dog turns and looks at you. His consideration of coming suddenly turns into him running at you full speed when he sees how happy you are. Once household and short leash recalls are reliable start using the long line and continue on from there. Slowly phase out the treats and toys using affection and praise instead. Don’t forget to have fun and end your training session on a good note!