Why Your Puppy’s Recall Suddenly Became Non-Existent
Adopting a puppy is amazing whether you’ve had dogs before or it’s your first furry family member. We all get a huge rush when we bring them home for the first time.
Those first few weeks with your puppy (nay, the first 48 hours) will turn your world upside down. Once you reach an equilibrium and routine, you’ll probably find your puppy is amazingly attentive! Chances are they will follow you everywhere and come when they’re called (this is always a magical moment). Your training is going well.
But our puppies are going through a psychological growth that as humans, we are commonly tricked by.
What I am about to tell you is a mistake I see owners make time and time again, and yet it’s so simple to avoid. This one tip can help you avoid your pup’s recall going from fantastic to practically non-existent.
A false sense of security
Right now your puppy is learning all about the world one day at a time primarily through their nose and through their other senses. At home you are the provider of all resources – comfort, company, food, shelter, play and rewards. Of course they love you, but you are also currently their main form of entertainment. They need you and will stay close by as is their survival instinct. They are still cautious about the big, wide world. Although they are not timid, they are still in a phase where independent exploration is yet to come. Their main experience in life is restricted to the calming walls of your home and garden.
By the time your pup is 12-14 weeks old, you will have probably finished their course of vaccinations and be taking them out for walks in public places – maybe even group puppy classes one a week.
Many of us walk with friends who have older dogs with good recall or a generally calming energy. This is a great call.
At this point, you may already feel confident that your puppy already knows to come when they hear their name. After all, they stick to you like glue at home.
This is the mistake I see 100s of owners make. You decide that now is the time to experiment with them off-lead.
Well, what’s wrong with that?
We’ve all been there. We adore our pups as their personalities emerge. They are adorable, funny and loving. We are confident we know who they are as individuals and the conditions seem right, so why wouldn’t you take the next step?
They are about to stray like recall was a transient glimmer in your imagination.
Your puppy has not yet reached their destination
It’s easy to forget that puppies do a lot of psychological growing. It’s extremely rapid. Your puppy’s personality will develop – right now they’re on the cusp of learning about the world and how they respond it.
Recall is about repetition to cement understanding, and so far, your puppy has not experienced enough repetitions to be reliable.
You’re about to let them off lead somewhere that smells 100x more interesting than your home with an unlimited horizon. There will be distractions.
Your pup is still learning about the world and will do a huge amount of learning for the next 3 – 18 months. As they explore, their confidence will grow dramatically and they will test the waters of “not coming back”.
Their senses will be awakened and their breed characteristics will begin to emerge. You’ll probably notice this by the time they are 4 – 5 months old.
Suddenly you’re on a walk, they’re 18 weeks old and they catch a scent or sight of something. They’re off. For the first time you panic that they aren’t coming back. People are looking and it’s embarrassing.
What can you do to rectify it?
Whether you have a new puppy on the way or are struggling with recall the process is the same.
- Don’t rush recall. It takes a long time to perfect for 99% of dogs. We’re talking 12 months of consistency.
- Invest in a long line and work from there. A long line will give you a point at which to encourage them back and snap them our of a daze when they spot something fabulous in the distance (or should a stranger try to distract them).
- Practice – and I mean really practice every day until you are 100% confident a long line is not needed.
How long will it take?
How long is a piece of string? All dogs are individuals and breed characteristics will play a huge part in their behaviour. We all achieve training goals at different rates. How much you train together is also a factor.
If you’re thinking about letting your dog run free without an average success rate of 98% it’s fair to say you are rushing it. Be warned, it could take over a year to get right, particularly if you have a breed led by their nose (Beagles and Spaniels – I’m looking at you).
Let’s be realistic
Sometimes we get lucky – our dog or puppy is a great fit for our family life and they are disinterested in the daily distractions on walks or in pubs. If you’re an experienced owner you will already have lessons to draw from the past.
Having said that, for most of us training a companion will often take well over 18 months to cement (especially as you maneuver your way through teenager phases and new experiences). If you’re re-training a rescue dog, it could take longer. Like humans, dogs are always learning from their experiences and can develop good and bad habits at any time.
There is no quick fix for dog training. We all spend a long time committing to our best friends to reap the rewards later on. Even dog professionals.
The most important thing to remember is your dreams of long, summer rambles through the countryside fields are in sight, you will get there with time.
Most importantly – enjoy your journey together. It’s one hell of a ride.
If you’re struggling with recall training, heel work or general manners and obedience, you can book your dog’s residential dog training holiday with Jarvis today.
We’ll even train you in free one to one sessions to make sure the whole family is a dog psychology expert. Watch our video!