Help! My dog doesn't want to stop playing!
(Q) We have a two-year-old Jack Russell, called Alfie. He has started to refuse to be put back on his lead while out for walks. We have tried varying the routes so he doesn’t know when they are about to end, rewarding him when he does return, letting him tire himself out, and even long lead training. He just loves chasing his toys and we don’t want to stop him from enjoying himself.
(A) Trainer Elizabeth Kershaw says: It sounds as though you missed out on an early stage of recall training when Alfie was a puppy. It is the simple stage that requires him to come right up to you for a food treat held in your right hand against your legs while the left hand slips into the side of the collar while he is eating.
If you don’t teach the dog to come right to your legs for the reward and instead reach forward to bribe the dog with the food, you teach him to grab the food and run! This leads to you grabbing at the dog, and ultimately teaches him to avoid coming to you when he thinks that play might be coming to an end.
Spend a little time in a safe area with some quality food, such as sausage. Call Alfie, but stand upright and drop some food a short distance in front of you. When he comes to investigate, stay upright and make no attempt to grab him, just give verbal praise. If he won’t come at all, just drop food and walk on.
Gradually drop the food closer and closer to you until you can drop it between your feet and he will come and eat it there. As long as he is grabbing and running off with the food you need to remain upright and this stage may take some time. Once he will confidently feed between your feet, start to bend your knees a little and if this doesn’t send him running, start to massage his rump, not his head.
Gradually move the massage up his back until he allows you to touch or even take hold of his collar. Then let him go. Only occasionally should you put his lead on and even then only for a few yards before you let him off again. Over a period of time you should be able to get him to you so you can get a hand in his collar regularly. The choice is then yours — lead on, or play. There is a very good book called ‘Total Recall’ by Pippa Mattinson, which is well worth a read if you’re having recall problems.