Pet Advice Line & Dog Training Recall


Puppy Connections     by Zoo Products

Before you can train a dog you need to understand how your dog thinks and learns.

So you need to learn how to communicate with your dog.

Will every owner become the pack leader?

No, because we are all wired emotionally different, some of us will struggle to pass on to our dog that we are its leader, but hopefully you will adjust to meet your dog's needs in time.

So what is a puppy?

A very clever pack animal that requires your calm assertive leadership.

Dogs operate on a social structure of rank – a hierarchy. Each pack has a designated leader. That leader is usually called the pack leader, alpha dog, To put it in simple terms, the pack leader is the boss of the rest of the pack. That natural behavior will also occur in your home. Your dog will seek out the leader of the pack. If there doesn’t appear to be a dependable leader in your pack (family), your dog will attempt to become the pack leader. When your dog assumes that he or she is the alpha, you will have a bunch of problems to deal with. In fact so many problems that you may start to question your decision of having a dog in your life.

If he leads you then you follow. When it comes time to command him he won’t take you seriously if he believes he is number one. However, if you put in some clear leadership roles and become the “alpha”; then your dog will respond and present more positive behaviours.

So you’re wondering about how to become a pack leader to your dog.

Being the pack leader does not mean being a bully. Leadership is most often carried out in silent dominance, resource control, being confident and having the ability to give direction and follow through. It is the combined effort of learned behaviours and sound leadership that will create lasting results and a great relationship of love and mutual respect.

So what does a dog understand? He understands your body language, your emotions, your daily life cycle and sounds. He does not understand human baby talk and long sentences. He cannot spell, so human words only mean a sound that will, in time become associated with a command if constant.

Our dogs don’t watch TV, read books etc. but they have great sight, hearing and smell by which is the way that they learn to be a part of our world.

But take note, there is a cunning fox within trying to take command and make your life hell, but by you becoming the pack leader your furry friend will be a devoted companion, hang on your every move, following your trail to the end of the world. 

Your dog should earn everything – work for a living just like we do. If he learns to earn his rewards then he won’t expect everything for free. (If you give him everything he wants when he wants it, then he will become “bossy”). This means no petting, feeding, talking to or even eye contact if he is demanding attention. He has to complete an obedience command before he gets anything.

Control all aspects of his feeding arrangements. He is not allowed to begin eating until you release him to eat and not begin until invited.

Control all “entertainment” resources. He has to work to get them released. When you pick them up in the evening, be sure he is watching you control these items. Put them away and bring out different toys the next morning. If at any time he protects a toy or tries to control the situation, remove the toy and put it away for the day.

Have him move out of your way a few times a day. If he is lying down in a hallway, walk through him by gently shuffling your feet until he gets up and moves. The alpha never walks around his littermates. Don’t let your dog treat you like a sibling, be the parent. In control, but calm and silent dominance works best. Save the verbal corrections for when you really need them.

Do not let him jump on you or others, ever. It is a very rude way of greeting and is also associated with dominance. What if you went to a friend’s house and the first thing he did was start body checking you and scraping his fingernails down your arms and legs. Not so polite when you think about it that way now is it?

Do not let him take positions above you. Dogs have a literal sense of hierarchy; if he is up on the couch looking down at you he will feel more dominant. In a social pack, the alpha dog would never let that happen unless it was during invited play.

Play – Control games; whether it is fetch, tug, keep a way etc. You must always initiate play and make the rules. Start and stop when you feel like it, not when he tells you so. If he isn’t listening, immediately stop paying any attention and walk away.

Never let him bite you. If you are playing, training or even just petting him and he puts his teeth on you give him a sharp verbal correction (eh-eh or no) and then disengage for a few hours. No petting, no talking to him, no eye contact etc. It is tough love but if he learns now it will create more freedoms for him later. Would you rather lay down some ground rules now and teach him right from wrong or wait until he uses his teeth and hurts someone?

Continue obedience training throughout his life. It should be a part of a daily routine: he waits at doorways, gets in the car when invited, comes when called etc. As he masters the basics, teach him new advanced commands to stimulate his mind.

Dogs want us to step up as the pack leader. Animals select pack leaders because they instinctually know who is strong and who can best lead them. A pack leader is concerned for the pack, not for himself. The pack leader’s natural instincts are protection and direction for the entire pack. It’s an unselfish role and an instinctual role, just like human parenting. In return, the pack completely trusts the pack leader, the parent. You need to earn your dogs’ trust, loyalty, love, and respect before they will look to you as their leader and you do this by giving them clear boundaries, rules, limitations and conditioning good behaviour.

 Whether you have a puppy, a recently adopted dog, or are simply looking to take back control with the dog you’ve had for years, it doesn’t matter. You CAN take control and become a pack leader. Not only can it can be done in a humane and safe way but the process can actually be relatively fun! In addition, by being the pack leader, your dog will live a much less stressful life. Less anxiety in a dog always equates to improved health and behavior. If you become a pack leader, it will be beneficial to any dog at any age and of any breed.

Owning Your Home

Does your dog have free access to furniture in your home? Does your dog sleep in your bed? Do you give in when your dog begs for scraps from the dinner table? If so, you are not being a leader to your dog. If you are not seen as the pack leader, you must restrict access to certain areas until your dog earns access. For now, do not allow your dog to have access to any furniture, period. No beds, no couches, no chairs, just the floor. You can set up some comfortable dog beds or areas your dog may relax, but the furniture is yours. By showing the dog that you control all access to all areas of the home, you are asserting yourself as a pack leader. Once your dog understands that you own the home, you can start to allow the dog back on to furniture if you really want, but your dog must ask for permission. My dog will sit and look at me. Sometimes he’s allowed up on the couch with me, other times not. At dinner time, your dog should go lay in the other room quietly. Just like in wild dogs, the pack leader eats first and then there is a pecking order with the rest of the dogs. You and your family should always been seen as higher in the pecking order than your dog.

Owning the Food and Water Supply

In the wild, the pack leader controls who gets to eat what, when they get to eat, and how much they get to eat. Other precious and life dependent sources like water are also controlled by the pack leader. Access is only granted with the pack leader’s approval. Sometimes, wild dogs who are lower in the pecking order don’t eat for days, even if they assisted in a successful hunt. Luckily, our pets don’t have to live that way, but you must still assert the same philosophy in your home. If your dog is protective over food, it means your dog does not see you as the leader. Your dog actually believes he or she controls the food supply. If your dog feels as though he or she is dependent upon you for basic survival, that gives you a huge leg up on becoming a pack leader. If your dog has food aggression issues, that’s got to stop immediately. No more making excuses for your dog. Once you are a pack leader, you should be able to freely take your dog’s food away with absolutely no growling or aggressive behavior. With my dog, I make it a routine exercise to randomly take his food away for few seconds before giving it back. You shouldn’t do this with a dog who is already protective over food, but it’s a great exercise to maintain good behavior around food. You giveth and you can taketh away! Don’t humanize your dogs emotions. That’s just how it is in nature!

Come and Go As You Please

The pack leader never needs permission to go anywhere. When a pack has a strong leader, they do not feel anxious when the leader leaves because they have confidence in the leader. They know everything will be ok and the leader has everything under control. If your dog has separation anxiety, that means your dog doubts your abilities to be a true leader. Your dog is anxious because your dog is fearful you can’t “handle it” out there. Your dog feels anxious because he or she feels they need to be out there with you to ensure you don’t hurt yourself or screw anything up. That’s not how a healthy pack operates. When the leader leaves, the rest of the pack waits patiently. The same should happen in your home. You also shouldn’t make a big deal out of leaving the house. A quick, “be good” and out the door you go. When you return, don’t make a huge deal out of your arrival. Put the groceries away, let your dog calm down, and then greet the dog only while your dog is in a calm and relaxed state. I know it’s fun to greet a happy and excited dog, but until you’re able to work through separation anxiety issues, you need to keep things low key.

Communicating With Energy

Dogs do not really speak to each other through audible communication methods. Sure, dogs bark, howl, whine, and make all sorts of noise. For the most part, however, they communicate through energy. In fact, wild dogs very rarely bark at all. Humans have a very difficult time using energy alone to communicate. We rely heavily on audible and visual communication methods. In order to become a pack leader, you must learn how to properly portray energy and emotion towards your dog. When you’re happy with your dog, your dog needs to really “feel” that positive energy. Conversely, when you’re angry about something, your dog needs to feel that you’re not happy. That doesn’t mean you hit your dog or yell and scream. In fact, you must always remain “calm and assertive” as Cesar Milan from The Dog Whisperer likes to say. A strong pack leader handles each situation with a firm, assertive, and confident manner. You should do the same.

Be Consistent

Leaders show consistency. By changing the rules and making exceptions to rules at ambiguous times, you will cause your dog a great deal of confusion. You can’t make it ok to beg for food at the kitchen table today, but not ok tomorrow, but then make it ok again on Thursday. You can’t make it ok to pull on the leash during yesterday’s walk, but suddenly today it’s not ok. You must be very consistent in your training. Dogs learn through repetition. If something doesn’t happen the same way over and over again, your dog won’t understand what the rules are. That makes your dog confused and unsure how to behave. When rules aren’t clearly defined, the dog sees that as a lack of leadership. Many people tend to do a real good job for the first year or 2 of dog ownership and then they begin to slip and start making exceptions to various rules. To become a pack leader, you need to be consistent.

Be Clear

Yeah, this is along the same lines of consistency, but this is a very important step. Your rules must be very clear to your dog. If you don’t want your dog to pull on the leash, but you only enforce that rule on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and sometimes on Sunday (during daylight hours), your dog will be left feeling very confused. If you make exceptions to any rules, you better be darn sure your dog understands those exceptions. Dogs have a very tough time with this. It’s best to set a rule and make that the rule no matter what. If you don’t want your dog to pull on the leash, make sure your dog knows it’s never ok to do so in any circumstance. Once you begin creating exceptions for rules, you begin confusing your dog. Pack leaders always set very clear rules and hardly ever deviate.

Have Fun

This may be the most important step to become a pack leader! If you and your dog aren’t having fun together, there is something very wrong. There’s no way you can be an effective leader and properly define rules if you’re frustrated, angry, or stressed. When you begin feeling any of those emotions, it’s time to just take a deep breath and maybe take a little break from your dog. This is especially true during training sessions. Once frustration kicks in, it’s time to stop. Training should be fun for both humans and dogs! Don’t worry, everyone gets frustrated from time to time. Even professional dog trainers. Just take a break and come back to it later. Having fun should always be a top priority for both you and your dog!



Dog Training Recall


Most dogs love the freedom of running around off the lead, but before you can do this it’s vital to know that they will come back when called, regardless of where they are and what’s going on around them. To teach good recall your dog needs to learn that coming back to you is always a good thing, something that will bring them plenty of praise and reward.

But before we start, remember, your dog cannot spell, so all words are a sound, as is a click, clap or whistle.

First of all ensure that your dog knows their name. This lets them know that you want their attention. To teach this, have your dog very close to you, say their name and give a reward.

Choose a special word or sound as your recall cue that you use ONLY when you want your dog to return. It should be short and sharp, for example a verbal cue like, ‘come’, or a whistle. (What we humans do without realizing, is move our hands or arms when we talk and our dogs pick up on this as part or all of the command as well)

Start in your garden or another enclosed space with some tasty treats in a pouch or your pocket. If you need to, get your dog’s attention with their name, then use your recall cue and take a step away from them. As they return to you reward with praise and or a tasty treat.

Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog.

Use a long line to walk your dog on during training. Let them move away from you before using your recall cue, if they ignore you very gently guide them back to you with the long line and reward them once they are with you. This will prevent your dog getting rewarded by the environment for ignoring you! Make a big fuss of them and reward with high value treats or praise when they return without this extra guidance so they build up a really positive association with coming when called. You want your dog to learn that coming back to you straight away is much more rewarding than ignoring you and continuing their fun running around.

Key points

Think about how you sound and appear to your dog when you call them. Use a happy, excited voice and welcoming body language (crouched down, arms open) to train recall. Moving back from your dog as you call can encourage them even more.

Always praise your dog for coming back no matter how long it takes and reward them even more if they come back quickly. As your dog improves you won’t need to give them a treat every time they come back, but reward them every so often to keep them motivated.

Use high value rewards for recall, especially if they have come away from something especially interesting (e.g. another dog). Try making your recall exciting by throwing their treats, or using plays or chase games to get their reward.

Set your dog up for success by initially training in a quiet place when your dog is already looking over at you, and gradually increase the level of distraction as they improve.

Make recall a fun part of the walk, not just something you do when its home time! Do this by calling your dog back then allowing them to go and play again several times during a walk, but not to the point where they get bored.

Gently hold your dog’s collar as you reward them so this contact is not only associated with being clipped back onto their lead.

Use your recall cue sparingly, give your dog at least five seconds to respond to your first recall. Don’t call again if you think they’re unlikely to return, as this can have the opposite effect by confirming it’s alright to not come back.

If your dog ignores you stay calm, getting angry or shouting will only discourage your dog from returning to you. Instead, gently guide them in with the long line, or go and collect them. Alternatively, run in the other direction or hide (if safe to do so) to encourage them to come looking for you.

Encourage your dog to stay aware and focussed on you. If they run off ahead of you try changing direction or hiding behind a tree and waiting for them to find you (if safe to do so).

Various types of Recall methods.

Voice, just remember that your dog understands a sound, he can’t spell. Voice sounds differ in pitch, which can be sometimes confusing for your dog so keep it simple. e.g. Man woman and child.

Whistle, varying the pitch can be different commands.

Arm movements, different positions can achieve a new command.

Clickers and hand clapping mainly used to get dogs attention.

Some breeds of dogs are a little more difficult than others to train and their response time will can take longer than others.

Remember, keep it fun, be calm and patient but be the positive pack leader.

For further help on you dog readjustment and Health Food options, phone or call at our shop in Claremont. 0893851115.