Ah… recall. It’s every dog’s worst nightmare to learn – and that’s because it’s so, so very hard for us! While it’s a tricky thing for us to grasp – and our owners to teach us - it is one of the most important things every dog must learn. Why? Because without it, we could find ourselves in a sticky situation –running up to another dog on the lead that doesn’t like to socialise with his canine peers, leaping out into the road at the thought of what could be on the other-side, worrying livestock when our instincts kick in. I could go on.
Learning a recall is something that protects us from harm and indeed protects others - humans, other animals and wildlife - from the potential mischief that we could cause. Without it, we simply aren’t safe. I’ll be the first to put my hands up here – I struggled to learn it at first. I’m a cockapoo – we’re nosy little poos. We like to go and say hello to everything. I would have never have meant any harm, but I wouldn’t have known the circumstances of the person or other dog I would have bounded up to. My mum, Anna, knew this and so she didn’t take me off the lead until I had learned a solid recall. She knew I would get myself in some sort of pickle if she had – probably something like sniffing the behind of an old dog that wanted nothing to do with me!
You see, it’s not enough for you just to think ‘my dog is friendly, he never means harm so therefore it’s okay to take him off and let him bound up to others’. What if the dog he bounds up to is on a lead because he is scared of other dogs and suffers from fear aggression? What if it’s a dog recovering from an operation, what if it’s a young child that they bound into knocking them over?
It’s not some kind of dog owner’s law or right to take their dog off the lead. And it is a common misconception that a dog can’t enjoy itself when on the lead. A lead isn’t a restriction, it’s a safety device. Get your dog a nice long lead and a long line for the beach and work on your recall in all situations and scenarios. Teach your dog how amazing it is to be with you on the beach and to come back to you. And then, only when you know they will respond, take them off the lead. Tell them it’s okay to go and play when you do and recall them every now and then – and when you see another dog on the lead, a waddling toddler or an elderly person, call them away.
It will take them time to learn so don’t think it will happen overnight – it took me 18 months. This is because running off or chasing something is self-rewarding. You have to make sure that staying with you is more rewarding so take toys as well as tasty treats if you like – sausage is my favourite! When the summer beach restrictions get under-way, we will all be trying to enjoy ourselves in busy, concentrated areas. Please be responsible and considerate of others, that’s all I ask.