Question from Chelsea:
I have a 5-month-old staffy Tyson who is very friendly and an all round happy puppy. We’ve started taking him to the dog beach where all of the other dogs are off leash. Every time we let Tyson off the lead he runs off and just totally ignores us, which leaves us running up the beach after him. Just wondering if anyone has any tips on how to train him to stay close to us and to come when he’s told.
Advice from Cheri Lucas:
Consistent leadership is the key to teaching solid recall to your dog. If he doesn’t see you as the person in charge of his pack, he has no incentive to obey you. This can be said for any behavioral issue, but it’s particularly important when it comes to asking your dog to come to you.
If you’re running after Tyson when he bolts from you, the panic and frustration in your voice will make him even more reluctant to return. Allowing him to play “catch me if you can” only reinforces the behavior, and it turns it into a game instead of a serious disobedience issue. It’s never a good idea to ask your dog to do something if you can’t enforce the outcome.
My advice is to establish solid recall with Tyson before you attempt to take him off-leash again. Using a six-foot lead, practice asking your dog to come to you when called. Use the “Say it once, then make it happen” strategy that I always abide by. By having Tyson on leash when you call him, you’ll be able to reel him in if he doesn’t obey the command immediately. Once he comes back to you, reward his compliance with calm, assertive praise.
Make sure Tyson has a long STRUCTURED walk before going to the beach. A long walk will not only drain his energy – it will also remind him who the pack leader is. Keep him by your side or behind you during the walk. Stay calm and assertive, and keep Tyson calm and submissive as you practice this primal activity of “follow the leader.”
When you feel more confident of Tyson’s recall on a daily basis, you’ll be ready to attempt the beach activity again. Purchase a 35 or 50-foot lead at your local supply store. They are inexpensive and a must-have for challenging your dog’s recall in an uncontained area.
When you arrive at the beach, make sure Tyson is calm before he is allowed out of your vehicle. Don’t just open the door and let him charge out of the car. Practice having him walk beside you using the long lead for the first few minutes. The beach is new and exciting, so give yourself and Tyson plenty of time to acclimate to an environment with higher energy. When you’re ready for Tyson to have more freedom, let the line out, keeping your grip on the end of the lead in case he doesn’t respond when called.
Going to the beach should always be seen as a “dessert” activity, reserved for dog’s that are 100% trustworthy. Trust is something you build with your dog over time. Stay patient and consistent and soon you’ll both be rewarded by frequent, stress-free visits to the beach!