Training your dog to recall is one of the most important skills your dog should master. It’s critical to teach a young puppy recall as soon as practical, but what about older dogs? Are they able to learn to recall too? Maybe you’ve just adopted an older dog from a rescue or shelter, or perhaps your dog is up in years and needs some refresher training, but regardless of the circumstances, an older dog can learn new tricks. It will just take more effort, time, and commitment.
Recall is vital for all dogs to learn because your dog needs to listen to and focus on you no matter what distractions may abound. For the safety of your dog, yourself, and anyone in your immediate area, you need your pup to come when he’s called the first time. These training methods will put you and your senior canine on the road to a better recall.
The challenge with recall is making it more exciting for your pup to come to you when called rather than investigate the rabbit in the next yard over or the dog across the street. While we all want to let our dogs run free, we also don’t want them to run into danger or cause difficulties for other people or pets. Therefore, a proper recall can allow your dog some freedom while he remains responsive and under your control.
Older dogs may take longer to pick up on the recall especially if they were never taught this skill or were taught differently or incorrectly. Patience is essential in this situation, as is consistency. Above all, keep it interesting for your dog, so he doesn’t get bored with you and let his attention wander. Ultimately, you want your dog to return to you on cue because what you offer is better than anything else out there.
Have some high-value treats on hand, preferably ones that you don’t regularly give to your senior dog. That will make the treats seem special and help prevent boredom on your dog’s part. Change those treats up frequently so he doesn’t become accustomed to what reward he will receive. If the dog is not food-driven, consider having a new squeaky toy or ball to use as a reward for recall.
For the best training results, use a long lead line consistently as this allows your dog room to move but you are in control at all times of his movements. Long lines can be dropped on the ground and dragged behind the dog but can quickly be stepped on or picked up by you if necessary. Choose lead lines in bright colors as they are easier to see on the ground outside. Do not use retractable leashes for training.
Start each of the following training methods in a low-distraction environment such as a large room in your house or a fenced-in backyard. Once your older dog masters these levels of recall, you can begin to work in larger spaces on walks or in dogs parks or on trails.
I adopted Lucy recently. She is very sweet, gentle and obedient in most areas...but she is a runner, and will take off sometimes, if she’s in the right mood...it isn’t always, but she gets a look in her eyes. If you chase her, or even think about it, she will run faster and farther away, and it becomes a game to her. I believe she learned bad habits previously, and I also think someone hit her in her past...she is a high energy dog, and gets a lot of joy from running free- and I think her previous owners did not give her the exercise she needed. I have a feeling that when she escaped, she would get in trouble, and it would create fear in her people, which made Lucy run farther...in the few times she has run off on me, I have found that if I ignore her, or walk in the opposite direction without giving her a lot of energy, it is the most effective way to get her back. I know how much she loves being free and off leash, and I really want to give her that freedom...am I dreaming to think that I can retrain her to come consistently enough that I can safely let her off leash? I forgot to say... when we are at the house, or in the yard, she is very good at coming to me...she will come running on the first whistle for her. It’s just when she’s off leash and distracted and aware of the freedom she has when she has escaped, that she runs like the wind and pays absolutely no attention to her people, like she’s in a complete world of her own.
Hello Sarah, Check out the Reel In method to practice come in places outside of your yard closer to distractions - don't give her too much leash at first though because you don't want her to pull you over. As she gets better at responding to you, you will let her venture further away on a long leash before calling her back. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for the next steps for getting a dog from basic Come to an off leash Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Getting to an off-leash level starts with teaching a dog the meaning of Come - which she knows, then progresses to practicing on a long leash around distractions (the reel in method), then using the Premack Principle (mentioned in that second article I linked below), and ends with e-collar training. Some dogs can learn Come using just a long leash, lure reward training, and Premack principle. Some dogs need e-collar training to become reliable though. I suspect you fall into that category but she may respond well to the leash and the Premack principle alone. You won't know until you get her training to that point and can see if she is still unreliable. If e-collar training is needed, check out the video linked below for an overview on how it should be done, then look for a trainer who can help you teach that part once you get to that training level - don't skip the leash work or premack principle training - e-collar training just makes those things more consistent; it will not train the dog for you though, the repetitions of leash work and premack principle have to be done still. E-collar come training overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtJxSXu4rfs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?