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We’ve all been there – one minute we take the lead off our dog, the next minute they’ve picked up a scent and are off! Being unable to recall your dog is a potential danger to both your dog and other people. Your dog may get lost, a car may accidentally hit them, or other dogs may attack them. Having a consistent and reliable recall is an important skill that every dog exercised (off lead) needs to develop. Thankfully, the training is fun and rewarding!

How to Stop Your Dog Running Away Once the Lead is Off 

Choose a recall word and provide consistent, positive reward

“Come” is a commonly chosen recall word. Additionally you could use your pets name. Use a friendly, positive voice, and when they come give them an instant, positive reward in the form of treat. Never call your dog to come in order to discipline them.. Never use a growl or an angry voice, as both of these can act as deterrents.

Start in a quiet area and gradually increase the amount of distractions

You can start recall training at home. When you’re in the house, randomly call your dog using your chosen command. As soon as they come provide them with a treat. Once they’ve picked this up, you can try training in your backyard for short, five minute sessions. Let them sniff around the backyard and get distracted, then call them using their command. When they come, give them a treat straight away.  Once they’ve mastered this, you can do this practice in a quiet part of an off-lead area in public. Note that in Queensland every public area is on-lead by default, unless it is clearly designated as being an off-lead area.

Once you’ve mastered the recall in a quiet public place, you can try it in a  much more distracting environment of a busy, off-lead area. Some dogs get too excited to recall. If this is the case, an intense run in the backyard before going into public can help to burn off some of this excitability.

What if they don’t come back?

If your dog doesn’t come back when you call them, sometimes getting their attention then running away from them can encourage them to catch up to you. Avoid the temptation to get angry or growl at them when they eventually return, as this provides negative feedback.

What if I don’t want to keep giving them treats?

When your dog is well trained, you can also try teaching them a release command. This gives them permission to go and play. Eventually, the release command can be used as the instant reward instead of the treat! If they return, give them a verbal reward, “good boy” for example. Then say, “okay, go!” and let them get back to their play.

Usually with enough time, consistency, and increased exposure to more and more distracting environments, we can keep our dogs under control while they have fun in public.

You can read more helpful advice article on the Cairns Veterinary Clinic’s website.