Recalling your dog – an important exercise

Recalling your dog is one of the most important areas of training when it comes to safety.  But so many of us let it lapse once the puppy training is done or the training classes are finished. Then, we only rely on it in an emergency.

And when a dog’s distracted by something exciting, that recall training from years ago may not work!  Or the dog learns to associate you calling with only a negative consequence eg putting the lead on to go home.

So here are some tips for successful recall:

  • Practice regularly, at home and outside, with and without lead.  Make it a game.
  • Keep calm and always sound inviting, no matter what your dog is doing.  Why would your dog want to come to you if you sound angry? The panic and stress in your voice may even be interpreted by your dog as encouragement to carry on with what he/she is doing.
  • Always praise your dog for coming back to you, regardless of what happened before that.  It’s too late to tell them off for what’s already happened and it will not encourage them to return next time you call.  Consequences of actions have to be immediate. So for your dog, if the last thing you asked was for them to come back, they need praise/reward for doing that.
  • Do not follow your dog while calling to them at the same time – this confirms to your dog that you are following the chase that they have now created.  Either stay still or walk in the opposite direction as you call or if you have no alternative but to go and get your dog, don’t call out as you go.
  • Please don’t let your dog become a nuisance to other people and other dogs when off lead.  Your dog may be friendly, but not all dogs will be friendly back and not everyone will appreciate your dog as much as you do.  Keep an eye on what your dog is doing and where they are. And don’t forget that if your dog does a poo when off lead and some distance away from you-you still need to go and pick it up! See also this video about training a puppy the basics.
  • If you’re not confident that your dog will come back to you when you ask, and you’re in an open area with access to traffic, other people, other dogs etc,  then you must keep the lead on.  It is against the law not to be in control of your dog and may end in tragedy if you, your dog or someone else or their dog gets injured – or if your dog goes missing.

Panting

Panting is a dog’s way of cooling down.  But it may also be a sign of stress or anxiety.  So dogs will pant when they are very hot, after very vigorous exercise or when they’re in pain and that’s normal.  Short-nosed dogs such as bulldogs and pugs often pant as part of their normal breathing.  But otherwise, your dog shouldn’t pant in normal situations or at a normal walking pace at a reasonable temperature. By the way, if you’re thinking about getting a dog, read this article about adopting a dog first!

If your dog does pant on a leisurely walk, you may want to ask yourself if your dog is really enjoying that walk, or is your dog panting due to anxiety?  Everyone assumes that their dogs love going for walks but there’s a lot of things out there for a dog to worry about: traffic, other people, other dogs, bikes to name but a few.  If there are other signs such as pulling on the lead, lunging or barking at cars/people/dogs, you may need to consider that your dog’s not enjoying the walk as much as you think.  And just because he/she gets all excited, jumping around etc, when you get ready to go out, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re looking forward to it – they’re simply getting ready, psyching themselves up for this big event.

And while you might expect to see your dog panting while in an understandably stressful environment such as the vet’s waiting room, you shouldn’t expect to see them panting in other situations.  For example, getting in the car, visiting a friend’s house or having visitors in your house shouldn’t cause your dog stress.  If this is the case, you may want to consider getting advice so you can help your dog through these events and let him/her know that everything is fine, you’re in charge and there’s nothing to worry about.