You will often hear trainers saying that recall training should be started as young as possible, I agree, our puppies naturally want to stick close by when they are little, if we get a little far away they often come racing back as quickly as their little legs will carry them. You can use this desire to stay close to start their recall training, every time they come running towards you give your chosen cue. That said, letting them off lead can be abit daunting which is why one of the things I advocate for when teaching recall is a longline, not only does it give you peace of mind but it also helps keep your puppy and other dogs safe. Our puppies tend to think everyone is their friend, and can go flying over to say Hello. For most it’s not a huge problem, but for some people and dogs it can be terrifying.
So, what is a long line and how do we use it safely ?
The name gives it away really, a long line is a fixed lead, usually around 10m and made of either webbing (can get wet and soggy in wet weather), or biothane which is a rubberised material, it doesn’t get too heavy but can be a little pricy.
What it isn’t:
A long line isn’t just an extra-long lead for your dog to roam around at the end of, I like to think of it as an emergency brake.
Our dogs and puppies learn through reinforcement, if they come back to us we reinforce them (usually with food), if they toddle off to see another dog and don’t come back, they are reinforcing themselves and are more likely to do that in the future instead of coming back to us.
The long line is used abit like a brake on a car, if your puppy spots something they want to go and investigate and then don’t respond to their recall cue, we can slow them to a stop to prevent them going off and reinforcing themselves elsewhere.
The sequence should be:
Get their attention (either with a word or whistle), give your recall cue (again, either a word or a whistle), pause, if they carry on in the direction they were heading we apply the brake.
Once we have applied the brake we give them chance to think about it, if they come back, brilliant. If they don’t we can ‘walk’ up the long line, either hand over hand or by physically walking up to them, abit like walking a tightrope, asking them for a behaviour they know such as a sit and rewarding that and then moving off again.
Don’t be tempted to use the long line to reel them in.
I like to set myself little challenges with the long line, the aim is to recall your puppy before they reach the end of it – if they can manage that, it isn’t the long line that is stopping them it’s their recall cue !! (Give yourself a big pat on the back :0)
We should remember that the long line becomes part of our puppies recall cue, if once they have mastered recall (maybe wait until after the teenage phase!) we suddenly take the long line off, our cue has changed and we sometimes find they don’t respond as well as before. Instead you can start chopping bits off your lovely long line until there is almost nothing left, then you can take it off.
Remember, only ever use your long line on a harness not a collar in case we brake a little hard.
Also, if your puppy is off playing with other pups (allowed) I wouldn’t advise the long line as it could get tangled, instead, if you need to get your puppy back try something like a hand touch or ‘hidden treasure’ when there is a pause in play.
If your puppy is doing really well with their recall (and you haven’t chopped it up) it is always an idea to use the long line if you go somewhere new and exciting, lots of new smells and distractions can mean they ‘forget’ their recall cue temporarily.
Have fun with them, your puppy will enjoy their new found freedom.
If you need any help with your recall training please get in touch.