Mr. N goes off-leash hiking on a regular basis and we’ve been working a lot on his recall the past year. I would say he’s about 97-98 percent reliable at this point. I’m of the they are dogs and things happen and there is no 100 percent reliability school of thought. He never doesn’t come back but from time to time, his terrier brain takes over and it takes him an extra minute or two to focus.
|Mr. N checking to make sure I’m still following him|
I was very proud of him recently when he was in full throttle and chasing a squirrel and came running back to me when I called him.
- I don’t “poison” his recall cue. I don’t use it to call him for baths, or anything else he might find unpleasant. Mr. N usually don’t want off-leash hiking time to end so I’ll usually tell him to wait so I can clip his leash rather than calling him to me.
- Only use your recall cue if you’re at least 90 percent positive your dog will come to you. If you call them repeatedly when you’re not sure they’re going to come back, you’re just decreasing the effectiveness of the cue and teaching them that they can blow you off.
- Recall means the really high value rewards come out. Steak. Cheese. Liver. Fur tugs. Life rewards (going to say hi to another dog, being given permission to chase the squirrel). It’s an easy decision between chasing a squirrel and kibble.
- Recall games. I’ll hide from Mr. N so he can’t find me which reminds him that he needs to keep an eye on me at all times. You can all practice with a friend/group of people and take turns calling your dog and rewarding your dog. Mr. N will respond to Sage’s recall cue too because he usually gets rewarded by Sage’s human.
- Practice in low distraction environments first and build it up. Start first at home in a quiet environment and then gradually add distractions and different environments. Use a long line if necessary.
- We’re always practicing recall. We work on it several times a week in a mixture of different settings. Home/public space/outdoors. I also reward Mr. N for checking in with me periodically. He does it naturally but I make sure to reinforce that behavior.
- Dogs are dogs and you never know if they’re going to have a bad day or it’s the one day they can’t resist saying hi to that dog across the street. Pick your off-leash environments carefully both for the sake of your dog and the other dogs and humans around. Playing ball off-leash next to a truck route is a horrible idea no matter how well-trained your dog may be! I don’t let Mr. N off-leash around busy roads, horses (if I know they’re there) or places where there’s a lot of foot traffic.
|Mr. N with the hiking with dogs group|