Practicing “off-leash” recall on a hike with the dogs

On Sunday, we took the pups on a much-needed hike at a nearby park. We found trails in the mountains that took us about an hour and a half to complete, which was perfect, as we needed to get back to town in relatively short order.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

The best part, though, was that the trail was completely empty, so we got to practice some much-needed off-leash recall.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

We had both girls on long drag leads, and we were outfitted with bits of cooked, real turkey, which proved to be a very strong reinforcer.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

I have to say, I was so impressed with our girls! Living in the city, they are very rarely off-leash, so this is not a behavior that we often get to practice. But they did so well. They stuck to the trail and came back to us every time we called.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

Pyrrha’s recall (to me) is pretty foolproof. During the latter part of the hike, she just walked right alongside me. We still need to work on her coming to Guion (as you can see from the first picture of the dogs in this post, she is still nervous about interacting with Guion), so we practiced with him being the only one to reward her when she came back to us.

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

Eden still needs to work on the actual coming to us, but she always stopped to wait for us to catch up during the whole hike — and she always stopped to reorient and turn to us when we called her. It was very cute, and it put us both at ease, as she never allowed herself to get out of sight. We worked on only rewarding her when she came right up to us (instead of rewarding her as we walked closer to her), and she seemed to catch on to this gambit rather quickly.

I love using long drag leads to practice this behavior, because you still have the reassurance of control if you need it, and 30-foot leads mean that they can never really get too far away from your reach. The only trick is not stepping on the lines while you hike!

Mint Springs Valley Park hike

We came home with two tired and very happy pups!

How do you practice off-leash recall?

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11 thoughts on “Practicing “off-leash” recall on a hike with the dogs

  1. Great work guys! I know how happy this must make you feel!

    Another idea once you’ve done this way a few more times- tie the girls together! They’d had to really figure out how to coordinate a run off- and it’s a great way to provide yourself peace of mind!

    Woofs & Wags- Bear & Scooter from SheSpeaksBark.com

    1. I think you’ll be surprised how well it works! Our dogs are super smart no doubt- but figuring out how to run off together while tied is still quite difficult! It’s been great for us to teach the younger dogs to stick close with the pack too- knowing that when they have been tied to the older dogs who already know this they will catch on so much faster! 😀

  2. We let Silas off leash at my in-laws’ house. They own a large piece of property that’s pretty effectively isolated, even though it isn’t fenced. Silas is good there, but otherwise he does NOT go off leash. I’m probably being overly cautious, but he’s a legit bite and/or flight risk if something were to scare him.

  3. That’s awesome! What beautiful place and pictures:D I started off our off leash training pretty much like you described. Teaching Kaya fetch really sealed the deal for her recall skills for some reason. Norman is still not as great at it as she is but he does not have the potential to get in the same trouble she does either being a lower energy dude.

    Some things to try and overcome the turn and look at you without actually coming back…crouch down, use the embarrassing high pitched puppy voice, a squeaky or favorite toy or turn and jog away while calling come like come with me instead of come to me:)

  4. This is something that we desperately NEED to practice with our dogs more. It’s our fault for being lazy and not practicing enough…but we usually build up the ‘excitement’ and practice recall at home first (which can actually be quite challenging w/ Lola because she doesn’t think she needs to come to us if she’s comfy on the couch…). We then move to a park and make sure to carry high- value treats like you mentioned. Rio’s recall is great, and I truly don’t think Lola’s will ever be as reliable as his. We still have to work on recall when playing w/ another dog though. Constantly training 🙂

  5. So great! With Emmett, he has no desire to go anywhere other than next to us, so we’ve never put in much practice. Lucas…. a 30-ft line isn’t long enough. As soon as we don’t have a handle on him, he’s OFF. He thinks it’s just hilarious to run huge looping circles around us. He almost never gets to go off-leash because he’s just too mischievous! What worked with with Coop when he was younger was having him run off-leash with a bunch of other dogs who had excellent recall. He stuck with them so came back with the group.

  6. We don’t practice it as much as we used too. This is going to be a nice weekend and I want to get the puppies out to the beach – with 4 dogs, we have to go crazy early so that they have time to run and play before being leashed up for the crowds. Fingers crossed! Rodrigo and Sydney have great recalls. Scout and Zoey are teens now so they sometimes can’t hear us 🙂

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