How to Train a Dog to Come "Progressing to Off-Leash Training"
Try recalling your dog off leash. After several days or weeks—depending on your dog—of on-leash training, choose an enclosed area, and see if you can get your dog to come while off leash. If he doesn’t respond to the command, you may have to start using the back-up method again to make him chase you. Remember that the process will take time and patience, so don’t allow yourself to get frustrated if your dog doesn’t quite understand yet the first time you take him off his leash. The important part is to keep trying.
- Also, avoid repeating the command over and over if it’s proving ineffective. Each time you repeat the command without the dog understanding, you risk weakening the association he had already begun to form with the command. If he’s not responding at all, go back to using the long-leash training for another day or two before trying again.
- If you do initially have to take a step or two backward to initiate the behavior, reduce those steps, take smaller steps, and other similar actions to wean your dog off needing you to move to respond to the command.
- Occasionally ask him to come when he is not expecting you to. For example, call him when he is sniffing around the yard to test his attention to the command.
Use restrained recalls. As you try to increase the distance from which you recall your dog, you may have to get help from another person. The restrained recall variation involves having someone else hold your dog still, so you can get farther away without your dog following along. When you’re ready, issue the command once (along with any hand signals you may also be teaching) and have the person restraining your dog let go.
- As always, use your clicker if clicker training and offer plenty of positive reinforcement when your dog reaches you.
- The best way for the person holding the dog to restrain him is by lacing fingers across his chest.
Try a “round-robin” approach. Once your dog is successfully responding to the command for you, a round-robin approach offers new challenges and complexity to the process. Have two or three additional people besides yourself stand in a large circle at least twenty feet apart, and then have people on different sides of the circle take turns issuing the command and having your dog come.
- Make sure that each person has the proper amount of time to give your dog praise and a treat before the next person issues the command. Remember to use the clicker if you’re clicker training and to have each person use the proper signal if you’re using hand signals in addition to the command.
Expand the range of training. After you feel more comfortable with your dog’s progress, alter the training environment and increase your dog’s exposure to distractions. If you notice that your dog always seems distracted during training, you should backtrack and work in a familiar setting again before moving onto more complicated environments.
- Make sure that you never progress all the way to open areas (or even enclosed park dogs where safety may be an issue) until your dog is successfully obeying the command in various locations with all different levels of distraction.
Get help. If your dog is consistently struggling to make the leap from obeying the command on his leash to obeying it while off his leash, then don’t be afraid to get help from a professional dog trainer. A training session with an instructor can guide you through these difficulties. You can also contact a professional trainer or canine behaviorist to get more advice.
- Each dog is different and therefore not every dog learns in exactly the same way.