It’s the end of playtime at the park. You’re calling your dogs over to get leashed up and go. But there’s that ONE that just won’t come. You try treats, squeaky toys, tennis balls, ignoring them, and finally, you have to ask everybody else in the park to help you herd the mischievous pup into a corner so you can grab them. NOT FUN. And kind of embarrassing.
So how do we avoid this as walker (or as an owner)?
Make recall practice part of your park time. Try to call over every dog frequently (5, 10, 15 times). The more the better! If you just call over your dogs at the end of the park, they will start to think you calling them means playtime is over. If every time you were playing with your friends and your mom called your name it meant that playtime was over, would you run over to her, excited to go home? Probably not. Same deal with dogs.
A trick that we use in the park: When we call over a dog, we gently grab their collar, give them a treat and praise, then release. This gets them used to being called over and playtime NOT ending. There’s no punishment waiting them here! This builds their recall, AND their trust. Double whammy.
At the Citydogs workshop we attended in June, we learned a fun new game to use in the park: hide and go seek. Does one of your dogs LOVE chasing after you? Go hide behind a bench or a tree and call the dog’s name. How long does it take them to find you? How fast do they run to you? Make your recall practice a game and you will see crazy improvement.
Keep in mind as you work towards total recall that there are 2 major hurdles to overcome:
Work on one thing at a time! Slowly work on distance. Start with just being 2 feet away. Then maybe 3. Then 5, 10, 15, etc. Work on distance in a distraction free environment (NOT the park). Walkers need to understand that if a dog isn’t responding to your recall, don’t go over and punish them for it. Decrease the distance and try again. The park is the highest distraction environment you could possibly be in! That’s HARD for a dog!
Don’t expect any dog to get this down immediately. It takes time, patience, and fun practice sessions. If you are looking to be able to call a dog away from 2 other dogs playing the park, or somebody throwing a ball, you have a LOT of reinforcement training coming your way. Embrace it. Having total recall in your pocket will decrease your stress at the park, and keep your dogs safe.