Many dog trainers say that the best time to perform recall training is when your dog is still a puppy. However, this does not mean there is nothing else you can do for an older dog, who may still benefit from this type of training.
Working Against Instinct
The key to successful recall training with older dogs is to overrun their natural instinct to go straight for whatever it is that they find interesting. This sense is in effect when they start to tune out to your commands, effectively switching off their hearing. It is also compounded by the issue of genetics and type of breed.
It is important to note that it is important to be specific with training an older dog to elicit a reaction to a particular audible signal or cue instead of words, since movement can still be seen while the dog is tuned out.
Start with Sit-Stay Training
Before you even attempt recall training for older dogs, you first need to perfect the Sit-Stay command. This is considered as basic training, which should preferably be accomplished with a 5.8 feet minimum distance. Success in Sit-Stay will make the chances of recall training success a lot higher.
Get your dog to sit on your left side, then hold the leash with your left hand. Cup your right palm on your dog’s nose while saying “Stay” three times in a quiet voice.
Stand up, then begin leading the way slowly. Use your right hand to put pressure on your leash if your dog starts to move, then raise your left hand to signal “Stay”. Keep repeating this exercise until your dog is able to get the message, upon which you can reward him with a munchable treat.
Transition the exercise to a leash-free one for greater independence when your dog is successful with the first stage and aim to extend the distance to about 100 yards away from you.
Take it to the Park
When you are more confident about your dog’s ability to follow, take your training experience to a safe public place such as the dog park. Bring a lunge rein for this, because you want to restart the training protocol to the very basic when you are in a new environment.
Resume your Sit-Stay practices using the lunge rein (preferably 25 feet in length) and incorporate some light distractors (hiding behind a tree, for example) as you call your pet, to up the challenge yet still making it manageable.
Over time, you will want to allow the dog to walk around freely while still dragging the lunge rein behind. If your dog starts to take off, stand on your lead to halt his charge or blow a stop whistle. This tells the dog that even when there is a nice opportunity to chase something, you are still in control. If he stops the chase, give him a reward.
Whistle While You Train
A handy tool to have when performing recall training for older dogs is a whistle, which is something all professional dog trainers are sure to recommend. Whistles are good because 1) the sound travels further compared to your voice, 2) it does not show any signs of panic or emotion, which can mess with how the dog interprets your call, and 3) its tone is consistently the same.
It is recommended to have several pieces of the same kind of whistle so if you lose one, you have another one handy that is the same tone and pitch that your dog already recognizes.
You can use the whistle with your mature dog when it is time to eat. Practice the signal with the whistle by using it to call the dog to his meal, then proceed with another Sit-Stay exercise before finally allowing him to consume his food.
Alternatively, the whistle tool can also be used when calling your dog to get its favorite toy. When your dog is far away, blow the whistle and give him his treat (plus copious amounts of praise) when he comes back to you. After some time, call the dog from a distance that’s significantly further away from your dog.
It is important to remember that you are not to make your dog sit because it will think that you are giving it praise and will think more about the sit exercise rather than your recall command.
Choosing Quality Tools
For conducting sit-stay and recall training, using high quality tools can never be overemphasized. Thus, invest in the best quality lead you can find plus a good, wide and comfortable dog collar. Something that is made of cushion web is particularly comfortable for your dog, so be sure to check those out first.
Your lead should come with an O-ring on the handle’s end, which comes in handy if you need to tie your poo bags on it or for when you will need to clip your dog to a lamp post.
As for the collar, ensure that it is not too thin or has the tendency to roll in and bite your dog at the neck, which can cause damage. You can also think about getting a Jingler, which is a handy device that utilizes sound therapy to help your dog better concentrate on your actions as well as your commands.
The Jingler, when used correctly, will help signal to the dog that it did something wrong – which is the opposite of the clicker, which signals to the dog that it did something correctly.
These materials work well with praise and treats, but they are important to have because positive reinforcements are never enough to generate success in recall training for older dogs.
More importantly, you must never use these tools to choke or tug on a dog harshly because negative experiences such as punishment will only delay success and put a damper on you and your dog’s relationship. Keep at it and remain consistent, and pretty soon you will find that your mature dog will also begin to follow recall training like a younger pup!
Are you frustrated at your dog’s poor response every time you call him? CLICK HERE to watch the FREE Video on how to get him to listen and come every time you call!