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Help needed with recall and letting dog off lead

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by LaineyLou92, May 3, 2018.

  1. LaineyLou92

    LaineyLou92 New Member Registered

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    Hey

    I have a cocker spaniel (show type) called Cooper, who is almost a year old. He is both mine and my fiancé's first dog, so neither of us have previous experience with dog training. So we just need a little help/ advice with training.

    One thing that we are still having a bit of trouble with is getting him to come back when we call him. As a result we haven't yet had the confidence to let him off the lead on walks. We take him out on walks where he is on the lead three times a day, but I really want to let him off and let him run around but I just have visions of taking the lead off him and him disappearing into the distance and never seeing him again. We are first time dog owners so I think we are both not very experienced with off lead walking and getting the dog to come back. He comes back to us in the house fine if we call him and when he does we always give him a treat. He is ok at doing it in the garden but sometimes he has a habit of just ignoring us. We want to let him off in our local park where we walk him as there is so much for him to explore. We'd love to go play with him and a ball in the park but I'm worried that as soon as he sees another dog or rabbit he'll be off and we won't be able to get him back. The park is really big but at one side of the woodlands there is a main road and at the other a field. I don't want him to get lost or hit by a car so worried about letting him off for the first time.

    So, I'd really appreciate some advice about some steps we can put in place to help us with his recall and how to progress/ build up to the stage when we can let him off. Some dog walkers that we have bumped into keep telling us to just let him off and he'll definitely come back, but I'm a bit reluctant to do this yet. Any help would be great.
     
  2. merlina

    merlina Well-Known Member Registered

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    Hi- he looks beyond gorgeous!
    Cockers are a law to themselves but they are trainable. I have to say though no dog's recall is 100%. In the countryside you need second sight and eyes in the back of your head. Even then I've lost him for a few minutes which felt like hours. They're dogs not robots. But you really need to find a safe environment to build up your confidence and the dog's attention and trust. I'd say find a good trainer and go to classes. In the past I've trained a dog that was quite opinionated by borrowing a friend's tennis court- the power of cheese finally cracked it. Really though if you don't feel able to do it yourself go to classes. We are taking our current 18 month old working cocker to classes having thought we'd never need to. Very humbling...
     
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  3. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    This website will give you a list of enclosed fields which could help a lot: The Only Listings Site for Enclosed Dog Walking Fields in the UK

    You could also train recall on a long line, so he has plenty of scope for finding interesting distractions which you can work on without the risk of him running off.

    I use a range of strategies for recall: I have a 'soft' recall ('This way') which means 'I'm going this way and it would be a good idea for you to come too.' Then there's a 'harder' version ('Come!') which means 'I'm asking you to come to me but I'm not quite sure if you will or not.' I somehow doubt they teach that one in training classes:oops: Then there's the heavy-duty recall, which is a whistle. I also sometimes mix it up with 'Sausage!' 'Pizza!' 'Cheeeeeeeese!' just for novelty value:D But it does help that my dog is a Mummy's boy who loves food!

    I trained the whistle starting at point-blank distance in the house, building up to him being in other rooms in the house, then outside with increasing distractions. He gets REALLY AWESOME rewards for this, with me being as excited as if he'd just got straight As in his exams and won the Nobel prize at the same time. When training, if I thought there was a chance he wouldn't come back, I wouldn't use the whistle but would use one of the other commands while walking off in the other direction. But again, he's rather clingy so something has to be really important for him to risk 'losing' me.

    I still don't use the whistle off if I think he might have gone off after a deer (there's a few in the woods and I can't see where he's gone because of the trees), though I may, after a couple of minutes, blow it so he knows where I am.

    Hopefully some of this will help, but I've a feeling a spaniel will be much more inclined to forget their humans than my dog.
     
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  4. poptart

    poptart Member Registered

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    As a fellow cocker owner I know how you feel! We trained Tiree from very young to come to the whistle. He knows he will get a treat if he comes to the whistle which is very useful if he starts chasing birds on the beach or wanders too far. He's nearly 8 months old now and spends most of the time off lead (away from roads of course), and to be honest I don't need to use the whistle much. He loves chasing a ball and doesn't wander too far when we're playing.

    In your shoes I'd find a fenced in area at a park or a large garden and start training him to come to the whistle. Make sure you give him lots of treats until he's learned the drill. Cockers are bright, it shouldn't take him long to learn. You can always use an extending lead at first if you're nervous about how well he'll behave on walks. It's really just a question of building up confidence, but most cockers are "velcro dogs" and like to stick with their owner unless there's a major distraction or something gives him a fright.

    Good luck.
     
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  5. LaineyLou92

    LaineyLou92 New Member Registered

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    Thank you so much for all your help and advice.
     
  6. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    I meant to add... the point about only recalling when you know it's going to work is because otherwise you teach the dog to ignore the recall word/whistle. This is particularly important when using the dog's name, as you want his name to be sacred and special... I cringe when I hear someone calling their dog repeatedly, getting louder and maybe even angrier....
     
  7. Mad Murphy

    Mad Murphy Well-Known Member Registered

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    This ^^ is my OH. Then he turns to me and says 'call him' I say 'no need half the town has heard you and Murphy isnt deaf' I whistle , wave and walk away.. 99% of the time Murphy comes running.
     
  8. LaineyLou92

    LaineyLou92 New Member Registered

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    Yeah we have both been guilty of calling him repeatedly, I have to admit. So like you say he has learnt to ignore us. But how do we move on from this? Obviously we stop over calling him, but, I mean, can we turn this round so he doesn't ignore us?
     
  9. Flobo

    Flobo Well-Known Member Registered Partner

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    I witness that a lot and think what's the point of just calling your dogs name with no command like 'come' or 'this way'!o_O
     
  10. Flobo

    Flobo Well-Known Member Registered Partner

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    Most dogs are really bright, teach him as said above, be patient and be consistent and he will get it..:)
     
  11. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    Perfect thread for my uncles cocker also!!
     
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  12. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    For recall, start from scratch with a different cue (word or whistle) to what you've been doing. I wouldn't actually use his name for recall as it doesn't mean 'come back'. If someone called my name, I'd turn and say, 'Yes, what?' and if they just called my name again I'd ignore them and go the other way;)

    For responding to his name in general, I've read of an exercise where you sit by him with a few small treats in your hand, say his name, give him a treat, say his name and give him another treat, and so on. You can advance this to waiting for him to make eye contact before giving you the treat. And never use his name in anger, or even mild rebuke - it should always have positive associations. I'll often call Jasper by name if I'm in the kitchen and have left-overs that need 'tidying up' - unexpected people-food is something he finds really exciting so it's a very happy association for him.

    Someone I know recommends never telling people you meet on dog walks your dog's name because they'll then insist on using it over and over and 'poison' its magic. Though that person's dogs aren't particularly drawn to strangers and I don't know if this would be the case for more gregarious dogs.
     
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  13. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    .

    this will save me - & everyone else! :D - much, much typing. :thumbsup:

    Training Levels (originals) | Mind to Mind

    TRAINING LEVELS is all written out for the handler - the instructions include every needed step of training, plus the proofing process [testing the behavior under increasing levels of 'Distance, Duration, & Distraction - the 3 Ds'].
    Proofing is where most folks make their errors, they forget a step entirely, or jump too far ahead from the dog's current stage of learning, for the dog to succeed at the next step. Using "Levels" coaches U along, & proofs the dog in the same time-frame. :)

    - terry

    .
     
  14. Violet Turner

    Violet Turner Well-Known Member Registered

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    Let Cooper see that you have a treat in your hand. Don't give it to him; just let him sniff it.

    Have a friend hold Copper’s collar to stop him from following you.

    Walk away from Cooper, a few steps should be far enough to begin with, and then turn around to face him.

    Call him and give the command, for example, 'Cooper, come'.

    Try and put on an excited voice, you could clap your hands/thighs. Any of the physical movements could be used as your visual command.

    If Cooper appears unsure of what you're asking him to do, try taking a couple of steps backwards quickly as you call his name.

    When Copper comes, immediately give him a treat, then say ‘come, come Cooper, good boy’ and make a huge fuss of him as he comes.

    Ask your friend to call Copper back, if he obeys then reward him again.

    Continue this even after he knows the command as dogs can soon forget things. Then try it outside on a long line lead.

    Hope this helps :)
     
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  15. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    i'll cheat, & post Sue-eh's fabulous training tool again -

    Training Levels (originals) | Mind to Mind

    it starts from the very beginning & builds one exercise after another, proofing each behavior to the apropos level as U & the dog go along - a dog might be Level 5 on sit, down, & stay, & Level 1 on recall, but U can always improve.

    I like long-lines - something light & strong, preferably FLAT - as a flat webbing-line is less-likely to burn yer palm if the dog takes off & engages their afterburners, vs a slick round cord. :eek:
    I clip the long-line to the dog's chest - & the dog's wearing a smooth-fitting Y-harness, fitted snug to the body so that it leaves strap-tracks in the dog's coat when it's taken off.

    If there's no metal ring or SOLID one-piece cast metal D-ring [not a bent D-ring, with a gap!] on the harness at the chest, i buy a locking carabiner, run it diagonally under the junction of all 3 straps, LOCK it, & then clip the leash or the long-line to the secure carabiner. :)
    Carabiners can be had in any color or size, & many metal finishes [S/S, matte black, etc]; buy one rated for 100# wt, & any dog up to 60# is very safely secured. [If yer dog weighs over 60#, add 20# (9-kg) to their actual wt, then double that, & buy a carabiner rated for that doubled wt, to add a safety margin. E-g, my dog weighs 80# - i add 20 = 100 & double it = 200, so i buy a carabiner rated for 200# wt.]

    If U use a carabiner, don't unlock it & take it off when U turn the dog loose inside a fence, or get home - instead, unclip the lead / long-line, & leave the LOCKED carabiner on the harness. // That way, it's extremely unlikely that someone will leave the carabiner un-locked, the leash will be clipped to it, the 1st tension on the leash will pop the clip off the carabiner, & there goes the dog... :eek:

    - terry

    .
     
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  16. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    Something else I've just remembered - don't fall into the trap of only recalling him when you need to get him back on lead. When you practise, when he comes back to you give him his reward and put his lead on (or hold his collar) and then let him off again - you don't want him to think that if he comes back, the fun stops.

    If there's something he really enjoys such as hunting for treats in long grass, you could 'plant' the treats in the grass, call him back, treat and get hold of him, then release him and direct him to search in the grass.

    Some people find squeaky balls are excellent for getting their dogs to come back. Obviously when he comes back you then have to let him have the ball as a reward - it won't work more than once if you just pocket it!
     
  17. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    I have little to add to the advice already given, but the book Total Recall by Pippa Mattinson is very good.
     
  18. merlina

    merlina Well-Known Member Registered

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    I read that as Pippa Middleton and thought My goodness that woman gets a lot done!
     
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  19. Sezzy

    Sezzy Well-Known Member Registered

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    When we first let Misty off her lead we played dog ‘ping pong’ with her running to and fro between us and getting a treat each time, we’d move further apart once we knew she would come to both of us.
    We trained her to come to the whistle by playing hide and seek around the house. I still practice this with her on rainy days.
    If I’m out with her playing ball and she won’t come back to me I walk off in the opposite direction. She’s such a Mummy’s girl that it doesn’t take long before she gallops up to me to make sure I don’t leave her behind :p
     

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