How to Train Your Border Terrier Dog to Come Back

Hard
2-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

After much research and careful consideration, you settled on a Border terrier as the ideal dog for you. As a small to medium-sized dog but with the energy of a larger canine cousin, you decide this compact model would meet your needs to get out and exercise while also being compatible with apartment life. 

However, what you hadn't fully appreciated was just how independent-minded this characterful terrier can be. You can be out in the park and it's as if someone threw a switch. The normally well-behaved dog gets sight of a squirrel and becomes oblivious to you. So far there's been a number of near misses where the dog took off across a field and ended up on a road. 

It seems the very thing that appealed to you about a Border terrier, their independent spirit, is also the thing most likely to bring a premature end to your relationship. 

Defining Tasks

By their very nature terriers are used to thinking on their paws and making decisions for themselves. This is all down to their roots as working dogs, hunting out vermin and catching rats. However, for the owner of a pet Border terrier, this can make for problems if the dog exercises his independence by not responding to his owner's recall. 

However, this doesn't mean that Border terriers are untrainable. They can be taught a solid recall, but it requires the right motivation and making training into something fun and interesting for the dog. Then with plenty of practice, your Border terrier will become a veritable boomerang of a dog. 

Getting Started

Teaching a solid recall depends on practice, practice, practice... and a little motivation in the form of tasty treats or a favorite toy. Your Border terrier cannot be forced to learn, instead, you're going to have to make things fun for him, which means working with reward-based methods.  To this you need basics such as: 

  • Treats, the tastier the better
  • A treat pouch or bag so those rewards are always handy
  • A squeaky toy or two
  • A friend
  • A longline

The Indoor Recall Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
It's never too early to start teaching a terrier recall. Even when your puppy is too young to go out, start his training in the home. This also applies to adult dogs who need work on their recall. The idea here is to take advantage of times when the dog happens to be moving towards you, to praise the dog and make him feel like the center of your world. This makes the dog understand that good things happen when he comes to you, which encourages this action in the future.
Step
2
The puppy approaches
Imagine your puppy happens to walk or run in your direction. Make use of this action by calling him in an excited voice and making yourself interesting to the dog. Try slapping your thighs or squeaking a favoirte toy to peak the dog's interest. As he picks up the pace and comes trotting to you, say "Come" in a firm but happy voice. When the dog reaches you, praise him like he's been lost for a year and you've just been reunited. This teaches a strong positive link to the work "Come"
Step
3
Encourage 'come'
Play games that involve the puppy coming to you. For example, prepare his meal and when he comes trotting over for his food, say "Come". Likewise, call him from another room or squeak a toy and shout "Come" as he moves towards you. Again give him a big reward such as a game with the toy, a big fuss, or a food treat.
Step
4
Run away from the puppy
Young dogs are programmed to stay close to the security of the mother dog. In a young pup, you take on that protector role. Ironically, you can trigger the pup to move towards you, by backing away from the puppy. Do this is a playful manner, again slapping your thighs or showing the dog a toy. When he comes trotting over say "Come" and then reward him.
Step
5
Play games
With the help of a friend, plays games where you each in turn call the puppy over for a reward. For example, Person A squeaks a toy. As puppy runs over they say "Come". Play with the puppy and as they start to lose interest, Person B squeaks a different toy. Puppy runs over as 'B' says "Come."
Step
6
Building on the cue word "come"
With all the exercises suggested above, once the puppy gets the hang of things, start to use the cue word ahead of any other means of getting the dog's attention. Now he links "Come" to moving to you and getting a reward, hopefully he will spontaneously return to your side.
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The Make Recall Fun Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
Terriers are independent thinking dogs who are bred to make their own decisions. This can make training difficult if you try to dominate the dog. He may simply decide he has a better idea and stay away. However, when you make recall training fun, he's more likely to be motivated to respond and training will go well. Strategies that will help include keeping the training sessions short and mixing things up a little so each session is slightly different and therefore more interesting to the dog.
Step
2
Keep the dog safe
Terriers are highly likely to get distracted and run off. Until such a time as the dog has a reliable recall, take steps to keep the dog safe at all times. This means training in a contained space such as a fenced yard or keeping the dog on a longline.
Step
3
Have the dog sit
Start with the dog is a sitting position. Take a few step away from him, and then slap your thighs in an excited manner and say "Come". When the dog comes to you, give him lots of praise and a treat. Repeat this several times each training session.
Step
4
Increase the distance
Have the dog sit, as in the previous step. Once he is reliably coming straight to you over a short distance, start moving further away. Gradually build up the distance over which the dog has to travel to come back to you. Each time the dog does well, make him feel super special with lots of praise and a treat. Keep the mood light and fun, so the dog thinks he's taking part in a game, rather than being trained.
Step
5
Work outside
Once the dog is returning over a decent distance, start practicing in different places and under different conditions. It may help to up the ante with your treat and offer a super-scrumptious snack that the dog simply can't resist. Now is the time to introduce sausages, cheese, or liver, something the dog is going to be motivated to seek out over and above any distractions around him.
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The Dos and Don'ts Method

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Step
1
Do: Work with scrumptious treats
Make yourself instantly attractive to the dog by packing some irresistible treats. Often a dog with a poor recall can be won over when he realizes that it truly is worth his while responding in order to get the treat of his dreams.
Step
2
Don't: Punish a slow recall
No matter how frustrated you feel or how late for work the dog's slow recall has made you, never punish him. Indeed, no matter how long the delay, when he does come to heel, praise him enthusiastically. This is essential if the dog is to learn that coming to your recall is a good thing, and not something that will be punished.
Step
3
Do: Use a longline
For the independent-minded Border terrier with a dodgy recall, use a longline. This allows him the freedom to sniff and explore, but while keeping him under your control. A longline is preferable to a flexi lead, as the dog has to pull on the flexi lead to get extra line. This teaches him to pull on the leash, which is not something you want to encourage.
Step
4
Don't: Become 'white noise' to the dog
If the dog runs off and doesn't answer to recall, stop wasting your breath. Repeated shouting after him will just cause him to tune your voice out and ignore it. Instead, try strategies such as hiding behind a tree, so that when the dog looks round he can't see you. This will often cause the dog to wonder where you are and coming trotting back to investigate. At this point, you can call him excitedly and hope his training clicks in.
Step
5
Do: Practice
As the dog becomes more accomplished at recall, practice in more challenging situations. Also, never rest on your laurels and always keep up training for the those times when he sees a cat and is about to give chase.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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