We were at a friend’s house last weekend in Lawrenceville when one of their neighbors who heard we were dog trainers came up to us. It seemed that he had a really energetic German Shepherd that would never pay attention to him. He and his Shepherd loved going to their hunting cabin in the hills of Tennessee, but he was afraid that Duke would run off and not respond to his commands of staying near. I told him that we had the same problem when we first adopted our Belgian Shepherd from Everglades Rescue several years ago. I recanted my story of getting our crazy Shepherd, Molly, to pay attention to us…

Practice the Recall Exercise to strengthen your dog's focus on you

Molly, our Belgian Shepherd, was one of the most energetic of all the 5,000 dogs Robin and I have worked with over the last 15 years. She could run circles around any dog she came into contact with, was overly hyper-energetic, and was always exploring everything in her view.

When we first adopted Mollie, we still lived in South Florida, but often came up to visit and vacation in North Georgia. While we were up in the hills outside of Big Canoe, I decided to work with her while on walks in the woods. This provided her with a plethora of new sights and smells and an excellent opportunity not to pay attention to me. In order to have her pay attention to me, I knew that I had to start with small steps, allowing her to make mistakes and slowly adjust her passive perspective back to me. Here is what we did to successfully transform Molly from a crazy pooch to a happy and focused doggie:

  • I put a 30 foot training lead on Molly as we began our walk. I made sure that the area was quiet to minimize over-exuberance. (no deer, no hunters…)
  • As we began the walk, I would let her wander to the full extent of the 30 foot training lead. As she reached the end, I would put my foot on the lead to give her a little tug to direct her in my general direction. I would maintain my speed and direction and allow her to remain in that 30 foot radius.
  • I didn’t care where she was, just that she was moving in my general direction. Every once in a while, I would stop. I would step on the lead to give her a little tug if she tried to pull beyond the 30 foot radius.
  • After about 15 minutes of walking, when she started to get farther than about 20 feet from me, I would step on the lead, go down low, and call her back to me. I also included a verbal sound that I would make as I stepped on the lead.
  • We continued walking and I continued to call her back as soon as she got farther than about 20 feet from me.
  • As she began to consistently react to my recall, I would only give the verbal command and stopped stepping on the leash. This took a little bit of trial and error, but eventually she didn’t need the tug at all to return.
  • I continued this every day we were up in the hills. Although she loved to sniff and explore, she naturally moved with me and always returned as soon as I commanded her with my verbal sound.
  • Four years have passed since that initial training and now Mollie, Robin, and I live in North Georgia.  I still love going on walks with Mollie and always have the 30 foot training lead attached to her.  No matter if we are on a street in our neighborhood or the woods behind our homes, she never wanders more than about fifteen to twenty feet away.  As soon as I give her my “return here verbal sound”, she comes right back to me.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.