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?

Hiking in Shenandoah with dogs

We enjoyed GORGEOUS weather this weekend (bright, sunny, with low humidity), so we finally took advantage of all of the beautiful mountain scenery around here and went hiking in Shenandoah National Park with our friends James and Sara and their sweet Great Pyrenees mix, Silas.

Hiking at Shenandoah
James, Sara, and Silas.

Silas was the first dog Pyrrha met after we adopted her, and she was terrified of him during that initial meeting. So it’s encouraging to see her interact with him now (e.g., zero fear and lots of invitations to play). Silas is a stoic 5-year-old, so he was less interested in play time, but they licked muzzles a few times and were generally very companionable on the day hike.

Hiking at Shenandoah
Excited to be on the trail!
Hiking at Shenandoah
In the stream.
Hiking at Shenandoah
Watching Guion scale rocks.

We did a little practice with her retractable leash — which is something I ONLY use very sparingly on solitary walks. Whenever I use it, I am reminded of how very little control you have over the dog. So, we just used it on the hike down, when the trail was empty, and she could practice a little recall with it.

Hiking at Shenandoah
Silas and Pyrrha (on retractable leash).

On the way back, we saw lots of dogs, and so it was a little tricky maneuvering to let them pass, as the trail was very narrow in places. Aside from one barking incident, however, she did very well with the leash reactivity. I think Silas’s calm presence may have helped.

Something I was impressed with: We saw two different pairs of standard dachshunds hiking the trail. Watching these little dudes scale rocks was very impressive! I confess, I kind of had no idea that dachshunds were capable hikers. I didn’t get any photos of them, unfortunately.

Hiking at Shenandoah

We had a lovely day on the trails, and we came home with two very tired pups!

Hiking at Shenandoah