Wildlife avoidance is important to protect our native wildlife and ensure that our dogs and wildlife can live in harmony. There are two main skills you can teach your dog to help with this. The first of the of the skills in our ‘wildlife avoidance’ toolbox is having a solid recall. This won’t only be useful around wildlife, but in everyday life!
To train a recall, you will need a 10m long line, or piece of rope, and plenty of high value rewards!
The long line is incredibly important in the beginning as it prevents any failure, and ensures the dog always comes back when called. If we didn’t use a long line, and they didn’t come back- they would quickly learn that the word ‘come’ means ‘come when I’d like to’ instead of ‘come back quickly when I call.’
We are aiming to associate the word come with a high value reward, making our dogs excited to come when called!
So we are first going to try it in a quiet area. Once they are coming back quickly each time, we can increase the levels of distraction. This will be different for each dog, as each dog will have different distractors, but it might look a bit like this:
- First practicing it in your backyard.
- Then moving into the front yard while people walk past.
- Then outside your front fence.
- Then to the park down the road but at a quieter time of day.
- Then you can try it in a busier park, but far away from any distractions.
- Then move closer to the distractions.
- Then you can try it using some moving props to simulate wildlife or by throwing toys etc.
It is a process that requires a bit of patience, but it is worthwhile in the end to have a dog who you can reliably trust off lead and will come when called every time!
It’s important that we aren’t turning the recall into a negative experience either. How often do you call your dog to you and then put them on a lead and take them home from the park? Dogs are very smart, and they will quickly learn that coming back means the end of fun-time! So make sure you call your dog frequently, only to reward them and release them back to play. This way they won’t associate the recall with home time AND you get a bit of recall practice in!
The second skill in our toolbox is teaching a stop. This could mean stopping in a sit or a drop. If your dog knows one of these commands, or both, pick whichever it is best at to start with. It’s crucial that the dogs understand that command before we add in any wildlife or other distractions. We need to teach the skill, then add in a verbal cue. You really want to make sure you dog understands the verbal command without any visual aids, as they won’t always be looking directly at you!
So just like teaching the recall, practice it in a very quiet environment, before beginning to add any distractions or moving to busier environments. Additionally, you can use your long line to prevent any failures.