Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Learn to work with your dog to get them to do what you want!
Do you call your dog multiple times on a walk and he doesn’t come back, in fact he makes you question that he even knows his name? Yep – you aren’t alone!
Having the control over your dog from a distance has to start in the house. If you don’t have a high standard of control over your dog in the house, when you can touch it and physically place it in the place you are asking it to be, then you won’t stand a chance hurling commands at it from afar on a walk. This is because if it doesn’t have a fixed concept of consequences and consistent associations between commands and actions then while on a walk they will just please himself. Once that lead is off we need your dog to know it relies on you for any decisions it has to make and any actions it has to execute. Otherwise he will make his own decisions and they will mostly be wrong!
GET RID OF YOUR STRETCH LEAD RIGHT NOW! These things are a monstrosity if you want your dog to learn to follow you and stick with you on a walk when off the lead you are diminishing your chances of this every second you have your dog on the end of one! Make the distinction between on and off the lead as it had a big effect on decision making, socialisation and keeping up with the pack. By using a stretch lead you are giving your dog a lot of mixed signals and freedom. They are far enough ahead and away from you to feel as though they have to defend himself and make his own decisions but does not have control of their neck so this can produce defensive traits when socialising. Your dog cannot play fully so it stunts their interaction and they will have absolutely no concept of recall or following and quite frankly he doesn’t need to. You aren’t going anywhere so they don't need to keep up or follow you, you don’t need to use their name, the lead will just yank him when he’s gone too far and that’s his concept of recall. So in a nutshell you are giving him all the freedom to walk ahead and make their own decisions and you will follow their direction and lead, thereby reinforcing that they are in charge of this pack (you and your dog). When it is time to go he has not learnt the command to follow and doesn’t need to be aware of his pack, therefore he will just be yanked. So, when he is off the lead he has all the same freedom and control but nothing yanking him when you want to go elsewhere so he is not going to come to his name and he will not have learnt to follow.
Do not worry though – it is not the end of the world if you have an adult dog that doesn’t come to his name, ‘recall’ is a totally human concept that we push on our dogs for personal reasons and comfort. Dogs do you not use names with each other they just do not wait around for dogs that do not keep up. Some dogs take longer to learn to follow but they all have it in them as they are not solitary animals. Stick to your guns on a walk and carry on moving forward. Even if it is baby steps, make them and don’t let him catch you looking back. He will come and the time it takes for him to follow will decrease the more times you show him you aren’t going to wait for him. So forget recall for the moment with your adult dog, stop using your dog's name and just start teaching him to follow. This will mean far more to him than the human idea of name calling.
If you need help then Dogtor Grace is at hand, take a look at the training plans for either online or in person and we will be sure to give exactly what you need to get the behaviour you want!