You’re at the park with your dog having a jolly old time when they suddenly get off the leash and start sprinting away. Maybe their lead broke, or you purposefully let them off to experience a bit of freedom.
Either way, you didn’t plan for their sudden escape act or their beeline away from you!
Many dog owners experience this situation at some point. You invest so much time in behavioral training that you often forget that our furry friends are driven by impulse.
It’s only when they get off the leash and cause a panic that you realize your mistake.
We’ve all been there!
How you react to the situation and what you do next is critical. Your dog can get into a lot of trouble off the leash. The goal is to retrieve them as quickly as possible before they can wreak havoc or get injured.
So, what do you do to get them back?
The Least Effective Methods for Dog Retrieval
Before we get into what you should do, let’s talk a bit about what you shouldn’t do!
It’s easy to panic and not think clearly in moments like this. However, there are a few mistakes you need to avoid making.
Don’t Shout at Your Dog
It’s challenging, but you should always resist the urge to scream and shout. Doing so will only cause your dog to get excited even more.
Whether that excitement comes from fear or because your pooch thinks you’re playing, it’s not good!
Stay calm and avoid making loud noises. Doing so will only excite your dog, causing them to run even more!
Avoid Running After Them
If your dog gets off the leash, stay put! Running is nothing more than a game of chase for your canine companion.
They don’t know that their actions are wrong or that they shouldn’t be on the leash. When you suddenly chase after them, your pup just thinks you’re playing a fun game!
Don’t be the person that thinks they can outrun their dog. Many dogs are capable of reachings speeds of 20 MPH.
Athletic breeds like German Shepherds and Greyhounds can be as fast as 30 MPH and 45 MPH, respectively.
You’re not going to reach your dog once it starts going into a full-blown sprint, so you might as well stay put.
Punishment Makes Things Worse
Avoid punishing your dog. Positive reinforcement is a much better route to take.
When you take on an aggressive stance or put on your “serious voice,” your dog knows that it’s in trouble. Why is that a bad thing?
Well, what dog will want to return to you if it knows that it’s going to be punished?
Keep things light and avoid negative reinforcement at all costs.
Tips for Effectively Retrieving Your Dog
Overcoming the panic of an off-leash dog isn’t easy. However, you must remain calm and approach the situation with a clear head. Instead of turning to the mistakes above, try these tips.
Give Your Return Command or Call Their Name
Hopefully, your dog has some form of training to fall back on in these situations. If not, it’s certainly something you can work on in the future.
Ideally, you should have a return command that draws your dog’s attention and lets them know it’s time to go to you. In most cases, owners will use simple work like “Come!”
You may also accompany the verbal command with a physical cue, such as a point.
Whatever the case may be, use it! Even if your dog isn’t used to following that command in the exact context you’re in, it’ll likely grab their attention.
If all else fails, you can also try their name. That usually is enough to get them to pay attention.
Regardless of the command you choose, remain calm and firm.
Entice Your Dog with a Treat or Toy
Do you have your dog’s favorite toy on hand? Use it to your advantage! Toys that make noise tend to be the most effective.
Give it a good squeeze and watch your dog’s attention shift once they hear that signature squeak.
Edible treats work in the same way.
Entice your dog with treats to lure them back in. Once they’re close enough, snap that leash on and give them the snack as a reward for returning.
Walk in the Opposite Direction
Here’s a way to apply some principles of reverse psychology to your dog.
Instead of running towards them when they get off a leash, head in the opposite direction. When you do this, it’ll catch their attention and cause some confusion.
They expect you to chase after them and play. Doing the opposite is a “Wait, What?” kind of moment.
So, they’ll likely follow you.
Ultimately, dogs don’t want to be too far away from their owners. This is especially true in an unfamiliar situation. Acting like you’re leaving is a great way to bring them back to you.
Fall to the Floor Dramatically
This next technique sounds a bit crazy, but hear us out!
Try lying on the ground if you can. Like the previous tip, this sudden change in behavior on your part will cause your dog to investigate.
Most owners get down low to play with their pups. Whether it’s snuggles or tug of war, you’re likely close to the ground when you do it.
Getting on the floor when they get off a leash will trigger them to see what’s up!
If you’re ever faced with that panic-inducing moment of realizing your dog is no longer on your leash, stay calm! That’s the most important thing to remember.
Going crazy, running after your dog, and screaming will only make things worse.
Take a deep breath and give these tips a shot. Once your dog comes back to you, use positive reinforcement to know they did a good job. Moving forward, you can work on off-leash training for better peace of mind in the future