By Scott Hunt – The Dog Grumbler
I WATCHED a lady trying to catch her dog in an off–lead area recently. The dog was having a lot of fun while the lady wore herself out chasing it and offering treats.
If your dog is hard to catch here are some thoughts that may help:
If you raise your dog well it will eventually come to you whenever you call it, but it needs to learn that the recall doesn’t always mean the end of fun or freedom. You need to show your dog that most of the time it only has to “touch base” when you summon it.
Practice this by regularly calling your dog, praising it and encouraging it to immediately return to whatever it was doing.
If you are training a young dog, be patient. Be clear, repetitive and consistent. Your dog’s brain needs 18 months to two years to start working at full efficiency.
Give it a name it can hear, with at least two vowels and some sharp consonants.
Remember that the game dogs mostly play with each other is chasing; it’s much better to run away from your dog and be chased by it than the other way round. (Try it — it works.)
You need to be the leader, so show your dog that you have places to go and interesting things to smell. The better you do this, the more closely your dog will monitor your movements and the more likely it will be to respond to the recall.
Use some body language — crouch down as a dog does to make friends. Sometimes I even lay on my back.
If your dog understands the “stay” command you will find it easier to make the dog stay where it is while you go to it than to entice it to approach you.
Get your dog used to cars and driving. Show it that the car means new places and new smells. The sound of your car keys is right in the centre of your dog’s hearing range — that’s why you cannot pick them up in secret if the dog is anywhere nearby.
Rattle your keys and go to the car. If this works, drive the dog around the block, or even just a few yards to be consistent.
If your dog is some distance away, remember that it doesn’t recognise you visually by your facial features or clothing as much as by the way you move. If your dog can hear you but seems unsure as to where you are, waving your arms won’t help. Turn so that you are side-on to your dog and walk a few paces — it will pick out your gait from that of all the other people in the park or on the beach.
Mostly, as I mentioned earlier, show your dog that the recall is not the end of the fun and never ever call your dog to you to chastise it.
Remember that when canines travel together or explore new turf, they don’t huddle together; they spread out to cover more ground. Your dog doesn’t need to be next to you to be with you, but being with you is paramount, even at a distance.