The dogs we rehome usually have strong prey drive and once they are settled in at home, they usually love their walks. When they step outside the house they know exactly what to do; they turn on all senses and work out what is in that bush / behind that gate / over that wall / in that field. They are in their element and are probably quite deaf to your instructions / commands / requests / pleas. This can make improving lead walking and recall challenging at times.

However I never taught my son his times tables when he was sat playing his favourite computer game. Instead I sat with him at the kitchen table many times, put all distractions aside and tried to think of fun ways to help him remember the boring tables. And once we were done he ran off to do what he wanted as this was now his playtime.

If I had asked him “what is 8×7?” when he was deep in the middle of a game he would undoubtedly have cried “What?? mum?? Hang on, hang on ….. I’m just …. Oh no …. Ahhh, I just messed up … so what did you want to know?”

I also find dog training can work better in areas of few distractions and you need to get to know your dog to work out where that might be. You can start in the house of course and then maybe try things like walking a dog beside a boring wall rather than hedge for lead work training For recall you could try tennis courts, indoor horse arena that you can rent by the hour, a very small well fenced dog field, even some beaches work well. If you get the training firmly established “at the kitchen table” so to speak, you then might have a chance of the dog hearing your call in the heat of the moment on an exciting walk.

It is important that you build up engagement with your dog, so that walks become an adventure together rather than purely their own free hunting time. I am not suggesting walks should be training sessions, rather that you are having fun together, sometimes you lead and maybe sometimes you let them lead a walk. What can you do together on the walk to make it more rewarding and fun for both of you?

Learning your dog’s body language is important too. You will see them start to engage hunting mode and sometimes that is fine you can sit back and enjoy seeing them do their thing and admire their skill, but at other times you may need the focus back on you and if you can catch their attention before they are locked on, then you have a much better chance of being successful. Training commands like “look at me” “watch me” “touch” are a great way to regain their focus, initially teach these at home with few distractions and then gradually start to use in more challenging environments.

 For further reading…

For Recall training we recommend Total Recall by Pippa Mattinson

For Lead Training we recommend Easy Peasy Doggy Squeezy by Steve Mann 

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