Dog training is an essential aspect of building a strong relationship between a dog and a dog owner. Puppy training should start at eight weeks of age. Formal training in dog classes usually starts when a dog is at least six months of age. The keys to success in dog training are consistency, patience and positive reinforcement.
The “Chasing Recall” or Emergency Recall as it is sometimes termed, should be taught to all dogs. The ability to recall a dog at a distance, whilst it is in full flight after something, is extremely important.
In fact, this could potentially save the life of your dog, prevent a serious accident, or even save a human life. Not to mention the fact that if your dog ran into a road and caused an accident, it is you that would be liable and could end up in a court of law under very serious charges.
There are, of course, other methods and I have used different techniques in the past. So why do I adopt this one more than any other? Simple – It is the one that produces the most reliable and consistent Chasing Recall.
Many years ago I would train the Chasing Recall by attaching a long line to a choke chain, letting the dog run at speed after whatever it likes to chase, then calling it just before the line got tight. Whilst this method did work in the training field, it was common that as soon as the dog was away from the training area, and it felt no line attached, it would be off. I am sure that this method is still used today by trainers, but times have moved on, and so has our understanding and methods of training dogs.
Before teaching the “Chasing Recall” you must ensure that your dog can complete a normal recall with no distractions in the area. By Normal, I mean that the dog will return to you when given the command. If not, then your first priority is to teach this.
Select five rewards that the dog likes such as:
- Tennis Ball
- Old Socks rolled up
- Soft Toy
- Squeaky Toy
- Retrieve Ring
Once you have five toys which the dog as previously played with and enjoys, you must grade them from favourite to least favourite.
To do this put all the toys in a box, let the dog know that they are in the box, standing up with the box in your arms, show the dog the toys, tease him for a short while. Then throw all toys onto the floor in a pile and let the dog pick one up. This we shall take as his favourite, remove it and place it outside of sight.
Continue doing this until all toys are gone. You will now have a list of toys from favourite to least favourite, from now on the dog is NOT allowed access to these toys, you control when and if it gets them.
Notes: So we will imagine that this has been done with Rover and his list is:
- Tennis Ball
- Soft Toy
- Squeaky Toy
You now need an assistant and finding an area where the dog knows and ensuring there are no distractions you can commence training.
Taking toy 2 (Tennis Ball) & 3 (Ragger) with you in your pocket without the dog knowing. The assistant should stand approximately 15 meters from you. Show the dog toy 3 (Ragger) and throw it to your assistant, allow the dog to chase it, the assistant catches it and gives to the dog, recall to the dog to you, praise when it gives you the toy. This should need only be done a couple of times, so the dog gets the idea of what’s happening and has no fear of retrieving from the assistant.
Now throw toy 3 (Ragger) to the assistant, but this time the assistant stands on the toy, the dog should see where it is but not be able to get it. Call the dog, and when it starts to return, show it toy 2 (Tennis Ball) and throw it behind you, allow the dog to retrieve and have a play. Repeat this building up the distance between yourself and the assistant.
The dog should within a short period of time learn what’s happening and may even turn on his own as soon as the assistant gets toy 3 (Ragger), still throw toy 2 (Tennis Ball) behind you and allow play. Once the dog is completing this without any problems, you can get the assistant to hold the toy rather than stand on it and tease the dog, again recall but this time throw toy 1 behind you and allow the dog to play with it. Continue till dog terminates a chase of the toy and command and returns even if the assistant makes fuss and even runs away from dog with toy 3 (Ragger), in his possession.
Now repeat this but throwing toy 2 (Tennis Ball) to assistant.
Once competent throw toy 1 (Kong) to assistant and repeat the process from the beginning but this time when the dog returns to you give him real surprise like roast chicken. (This is best if dogs stomach is empty, NOT straight after a feed) Then take a similar toy 1 (Kong) from your pocket and allow a play.
Notes: AT NO POINT DURING ANY OF THE STAGES SHOULD THE DOG RECEIVE A REWARD FROM THE ASSISTANT, ALWAYS FROM YOU!
Once the dog has been taught the concept of the Chasing Recall, then up must allow it to practice the technique.
Through practice, the dog will learn what is expected of it to get its reward. The more practice you allow it, the more consistent the exercise will be.
Do not just accept that if the dog completes the exercise once it is trained.
Just like driving a car, you may have learnt to drive, but you need lots of practice to be a safe and good driver, changing gear, checking for other road users, braking, judging the road ahead becomes natural with practice till its second nature. So you must allow the dog plenty of practices sessions.
There must be lots of variety in the practice sessions, locations, rewards, distances, length of walk before the training commences etc. The practice exercise can become part of the dogs walk, have your assistant placed out on the walk route. As you approach, throw the toy to assistant in view of dog then carry out the Chasing Recall.
Notes: “Variety is the spice of life” as the saying goes and this is true in dog training. Do not just repeat the exact same exercise each time but vary; locations, reward, assistant, distance’s as much as possible.
Now get a friend with a known dog that is not a fighter, have them in the distance walking on a lead. Walk with your dog into the area with the dog off lead. As soon as your dog notices the other dog, gets its attention and throw toy 1 behind you, move away from the area playing with the dog.
You could, at this stage, use a long light line attached to the dogs collar. Something like a “Crab line” that you can get in fishing shops to catch crabs with at the seaside is ideal. It shouldn’t be used as a method of controlling the dog, rather just a safety catch. So have it unraveled and trailing on the floor. You should only have hold of the end “Just in Case”.
Repeat getting closer distance between you and assistant. The aim is that if your dog starts to move towards the other dog, you can stop it and get it to recall for a reward. Vary the reward, toys 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and food (Chicken, cheese, liver etc.).
Once the dog is completing this phase consistently, you can start to vary the distraction; using more than one dog as a distraction, person jogging, person eating, for instance.
Overtraining is a technique of conditioning the dog to accept distractions above that you would Normally expect the dog to encounter. This can often be difficult; as how do you introduce the dog to a highly stimulating distraction in a controlled training environment.
One method is to use a “Running Bunny”. This is not a cruel way to use a family pet but is, in fact, a name I have given a training aid I use when teaching the chasing recall. Components and construction of this device can be found in my FREE EBook available from DogSchool:
The device should be placed across the path the dog will be taking as part of its walk.
It is advisable to use an assistant to spring the “Bunny” on your instruction. This will allow you to concentrate on the dog 100%. Again a light line can be used in the very early stages but should be dispensed with as soon as possible.
The distance between the dog and “Bunny” should be controlled, early on you just need the dog to be attracted to something running in the distance, so depending on the size of dog this could be up to 50 meters away. DO NOT be tempted to spring the “Bunny” to close to the dog early on as this may be to tempting.
Initially, you should recall the dog when it is very close to you, upon return, reward and move in the opposite direction from the distraction playing/rewarding the dog. The exercise can be repeated up to three times each session, but there should be a break between sessions.
Move the “Running Bunny” to different locations to prevent the dog from anticipating what is happening and desensitising it to the device.
As training progresses, the distance between yourself and the dog before recall can be increased, and at the same time, the distance between dog and “Bunny” decreased.
Testing is done at the very final stage, and once you are confident that the dog is FULLY trained in the Chasing Recall. A walking route should be selected in a quiet area away from a lot of public access. Testing should still be controlled, so try to gain permission to use some farmland or quiet public land. Early morning in a public park can be used as there is minimal Non-Controllable distractions.
Have a variety of distractions pre-placed on the walk; “Running Bunny”, friends* with dogs, friends jogging, friends walking and eating are some examples.
The dog should then encounter the distractions at a variety of distances. The dog is walked loose around the circuit and never knows what is coming next. As before when the distraction appears, recall the dog, reward and move away for about 10 meters, wait till distraction moves away then carry on. If the dog is tempted to go and investigate where the distraction was, have it walk at heel till passed the area.
Vary the rewards, for a very stimulating distraction with an excellent recall, give bonus rewards; a hand full of favorite food with a play of Toy 1.
Notes: By using the term FRIENDS, I am referring to people that have agreed to help you with this training. They should not be known to the dog or be casual acquaintances. Any dogs used by them should not be known to your dog and must not be known aggressive. Using known people or dogs makes it difficult for your dog as these are associated with his social pack. However, if no one else is available, then you can use known people/dogs, although the results may not be as promising.