Quite a few people have been asking questions about recall for their Patterdale terrier. How do I train him/her to come back when called? How do I know when I can let my dog off lead? Will my Patterdale terrier ever go off lead?
Introducing our Rescue Patterdale Terrier Blake
Let me be honest about our rescue Patterdale Blake. We never thought he would be able to go off lead at all when we first got him. He was aggressive towards men and maybe hadn’t been fully socialised with other dogs (read Help! My Patterdale terrier is aggressive!). But after 2 years of VERY hard work and a great deal of recall and socialisation training, we are finally able to let him off lead in SOME situations.
Puppies off Lead
If you have a puppy, you will find that it is much easy to start letting them off the lead because they will stay with you much better than an adopted adult dog. the instinct to stay with their owner is very strong in puppies. Start to let your pup off lead in a safe place as soon as possible.
If you have adopted an adult dog, off lead walks may still be possible although not always, and a lot of recall training will be required — training your dog to come back to you when called.
Early Stages of Recall Training
In the early stages, we recommend that you book an enclosed space such as ‘Mutts off the Lead‘ and try him out off lead in a controlled environment. There are lots of places like this where you can hire a field for half an hour or an hour to do off lead work with your dog. If you can, bring in a few dog trainers and well trained dogs to see how your pooch will be with them. Here’s Blake having an off lead training session with Sky and April from Pawsitively does it.
You can also start recall training on a long line. Get a 30ft or 50ft long line lead and when you call him reward every time he comes back to you and then let him carry on playing. Many dog owners repeat this with an even longer line again for several weeks or months until the dog is coming back to you 100% of the time despite distractions.
When you buy a long line make sure that you get a strong rope style long line with sturdy trigger clips. Don’t go for the cheap and flimsy kind that dogs can often break or escape from.
If you would like to find out more about this then check out my article on long line dog training.
When can I let my Dog off lead?
You need to test your dog around many distractions such as squirrels, bikes, cars and other dogs. Basically, it’s not good enough for your dog to come back to you when there are no distractions, he has to come back to you everytime regardless. 100% recall is really what is needed to let your dog off lead. If your dog bites a cyclist, stranger, child or another dog, you are responsible.
Blake doesn’t have 100% recall yet. I’d say he is about 90% there. We let him off completely in controlled environments or when there is not much else about. When it’s busier or unfamiliar people or places, we keep him on his long line. But this is massive progress as when we got him we thought he might be an on lead dog for life!
Have an Emergency Stop Command
You need to give your dog an ’emergency stop’ command, which means that whatever is in front of him he will stop immediately. This could be traffic, a child or another dog, but whatever it might be your dog should respond to this every time.
Avoid High Traffic Areas
This goes without saying, but avoid having your dog off lead in high traffic areas. This includes roads near your home even if they are not busy. If traffic does take you by surprise you can use your emergency stop command and if the dog has been trained with that properly it could save his life.
I can’t express my heartache for the loss of my whippet cross Patch when I was a child. He was a gorgeous off lead dog who sadly got too excited about what was out there, and got run over. Patch was just 5 years old and I was heartbroken.
Some Dogs will Never be able to go off Lead
Unfortunately, some dogs will never be able to go off lead. My last Jack Russell Milo was a rescue who was dog aggressive and as a result he could never go off lead in public. Some dogs are unpredictable around traffic or children which can be dangerous. Unfortunately dogs that are dangerous or seen as not under control should not be allowed off-lead in public places.
With a dedicated training regime it’s often possible to train these behaviours out of problem dogs. But some owners may have to accept that they have an on-lead dog, which is ok if it’s keeping dogs and humans safe.
Problems with Terriers
The main problem with terriers is their prey drive. If your dog is instinctively trying to kill cats, rabbits and squirrels he will not be able to go off in certain areas. What is extremely worrying is that terriers such as Jack Russells and Patterdales have an instinct to follow prey down warrens and rabbit holes where they can get ‘stuck’.
One woman reported her devastation when she lost her Patterdale for 3 days in the Suffolk countryside. She knew he was underground but couldn’t find or get to him. Thankfully, another dog sniffed him out and they dug him out. He was just hours away from death but survived. For other terrier owners that have been lost underground, it’s not been such a positive ending to the story.
Consider a Muzzle whilst training
If there is a minor aggression issue with a dog that you rescue, you could consider use of a basket muzzle during socialisation. These muzzles are safe and allow for drinking and panting. You can train the dog to be comfortable in the muzzle using treats and by increasing the time in the muzzle slowly.
But dogs should be supervised when muzzled (never leave a muzzled dog alone) and should wear a muzzle for extended periods. It’s often a good idea to muzzle train your dog for public transport, vets and any other situations where it might be necessary. Your dog would then wear it without stress.
On Lead Dogs can still Live a Good Life
Remember that if your dog is unfortunately an on-lead dog, that’s ok. It’s not ‘cruel’ to keep your dog on lead if you are doing it to keep him and others safe.
There are many exercise options for on lead dogs. If you are lucky enough to have a garden that’s great, but even if you don’t there are places you can hire to let your dog run free. You can also still exercise him on a long line as we’ve mentioned. It’s not cruel if your dog is always an on-lead dog, it may just be the most responsible thing to do.