Spring Into Training With Your Dog

Border Collie Dog on a Walk

Created: 3/10/2015 Updated: 8/3/2022 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

Behaviour & Training, dogs, spring advice, training

At last, after a cold and icy winter, spring is on the horizon. Longer days and brighter weather signal the opportunity for us to get out a bit more with our four legged friends! It is the perfect time to spring into action and brush up on some outdoor training.

Reliable recall

If your dog is very young, or hasn't had much time off the lead throughout the winter, it is essential to have a reliable recall in place. Starting your training with a recall lead can be especially helpful. A recall lead, is a 10 metre long line, which clips onto your dog's collar and allows you to give them space to run around, whilst still having control. It is a great way to improve your dog's recall, and can help to build confidence, trust and reliability.

In order to help communicate clearly with your dog, try to establish a recall word or whistle, rather than just using their name. I use the word 'here' for Alfie. Other popular choices are a simple 'come', or 'here boy/girl'. You could try 'this way' or even tempt them with 'treats'! The list is endless. It is then important to make sure that the recall word you choose is used by everyone in the household. Consistency is key.

Recall needs to be fun and exciting for your dog. Getting cross, if your dog doesn't come back straight away, can make coming back for them seem like a form of punishment and certainly isn't fun. So only recall your dog when you know they will come back to you! This way you are setting your dog up to succeed.

If you have a current recall word that your dog is not responding to, you might like to consider introducing a new word for recall. Make sure that this new word is always linked to lots of praise and reward and never linked to any negativity.

During walks, frequently recall your dog back to you. This will help to stop any predictability of the walk ending or your dog being put back on the lead. If this is new training for your dog, rewarding each time will teach them how much fun recalling is. Over time, you can reduce the amount of rewards. If your dog is more experienced, only reward for good recalls. This will encourage your dog to respond better. We all like to be told when we have done something good, and our dogs are just the same! Making sure you have a high value reward in your pocket will always help. OSCAR Meaty Rolls are absolutely ideal.

Border Collie dog outside with owner

Walking on the lead

Getting out more with your dog can be troublesome if your dog pulls on the lead. First on the tick list should be a padded, comfortable lead, for you to hold. Our classic dog leads come in different colours with matching padded collars, giving comfort and security for your dog.

You can teach your dog that walking by your side is fun, by rewarding them with treats and praise when they do so. If your dog pulls to the end of the lead, stop, and encourage your dog back to your side with the treat. Don't pull your dog back. This isn't a nice experience for dogs.

If you have a powerful dog that pulls on the lead, a Gentle Leader

is a good way to help you maintain safe control. Before taking your dog out on a walk with the gentle leader, follow the training instructions carefully. You should only start going out for walks using the gentle leader once your dog is comfortable with it at home and in the garden. If you take your dog out for a walk before they are happy wearing it, it can cause them considerable stress.

Black scruffy dog walking on the lead

Making walkies fun

For me, walks are not about letting a dog off the lead and allowing it do what it wants, whilst following behind, thinking about day to day life, and playing on a phone. I see so many dog owners guilty of this. Apart from this being unsafe, your dog isn't connected with you. You can’t expect your dog to respond well, if you don't stay interactive with them. So, ditch the phone at home and think dog!

Here are some ideas to keep walks fun for both you and your dog...

  • For the retrievers: Our tennis balls are ideal for dogs that like to retrieve. You can make the game more challenging for your dog by throwing it into wooded areas or hiding it in long grass.

  • For the stick lovers: We all know that sticks are not safe for dogs. A safe alternative is the Olive Wood chews

  • For the water lovers: Our Durafoam Ball floats , and is ideal for dogs that like to retrieve in water.

  • For the chasers, our Flingball Launcher is ideal for dogs which like to chase. The flingball launcher enables you to throw the ball much further, and is low impact.

Be respectful on walks

Here comes the serious stuff! Springtime doesn't only bring out people with dogs. It brings out cyclists, joggers, small children, and lots of people who don't own dogs! Whilst it is lovely to see our dogs running around and playing happily, we need to be mindful of everyone. If your dog chases bikes and joggers, or jumps up at people they meet, you will need to make sure that you can put them quickly and safely on the lead. You should also speak to a qualified behaviourist who will be able to assess your dog and provide a training programme to help control this unwelcome behaviour.

Remember to be respectful of other people who are walking their dog on a lead. It is possible that there may be a medical reason or a behaviour problem. If you approach a person and they have their dog on the lead, you should put your dog on the lead before you meet. Respect that their dog is on the lead and avoid walking your dog over to them.

Be respectful of springtime wildlife and farm animals. Don't allow your dog to worry sheep with their lambs or cows with their calves. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act states that dogs which are allowed to access such areas, must be kept on the lead. Discourage your dog from chasing wildlife by distracting them with a game or keep them on the lead.

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk.