What is the least effective method to retrieve a dog that has got off leash?
Do you have a dog who likes to run away and not listen to your calling?
You might have gotten all kinds of well-meaning tips on how to get him back already, but what actually is the least effective method to make a dog who has gotten off-leash come back to you?
The quick answer might surprise you: It is running towards the dog.
`Let’s look in detail at why running toward your dog will make him move away further, and what you should do instead!
The Least Effective Way To Retrieve A Dog
What should you not do to retrieve a dog that is off-leash?
Dogs were once predators. As such, they are highly motion-sensitive.
This does not only apply to the dogs we expect to run and chase (such as Border Collies or hunting dogs) but in fact all dogs across all breeds.
Every dog – from the Chiweenie to the Great Dane – is drawn to pursue motion. Anything that moves erratically and away from our pups can awaken their chase instinct.
You probably already know that – your dog might enjoy chasing squirrels, bunnies or even just leaves that blow in the wind.
On the other hand, dogs do not really appreciate anything moving toward them. Their initial reaction to having someone approach them fast is to run away.
With that in mind, it is clear what you should definitely not do when your dog has gotten off-leash: Running after him.
Even though in our mind this might show him that he needs to come back, in the dog’s mind it is a signal to race away even further.
Do Not Chase Dogs Away
Unfortunately, most owners do not know this rule.
We have all seen dog parents who desperately run after their dogs, only to drive their dogs further away.
This can quickly get dangerous: if your dog is near a busy road, the last thing you want is for him to move closer to it!
If you see a loose dog that you are not the owner of, the same rule applies: Never run towards the dog.
You will not only NOT catch him, but by chasing him away you are making it much harder for the owners to locate and retrieve their dog as well.
How To Retrieve An Off-Leash Dog
In order to safely and quickly retrieve an off-leash dog, you need to trigger his chase instinct.
You can do this by for example running away from the dog yourself. Especially dogs that like to play with their owners are likely to turn around and race after their humans.
If you are carrying a toy, you can also use the toy to make your dog come back.
Any kind of squeaky toy works best for this. Squeak it, make sure that the dog is looking in your direction, and then toss the toy. If you are in luck, the dog will forget all about his escape and go to chase the ball.
Of course, this is not an option if you do not happen to have a toy with you.
If you already know that your dog is an escape artist, keep his favorite toy in your car so that you always have it ready should you need it.
How To Get A Dog Back On Its Leash
Once you retrieve your dog, you need to put him back on his leash asap.
Do not fumble with the carabiner and try to clip it to the dog collar or harness.
The quickest and safest way is to make a slingshot by putting the end of the leash through the handle – this makes a slip leash in 5 seconds!
Quickly slip it over your dog’s head. This leash will also not allow your dog to wiggle out of it.
Should he try to back up, the leash will tighten around his neck. If he walks next to you calmly, it will be loose.
Using Food To Retrieve An Off-Leash Dog
Can you use food to retrieve an off-leash dog?
If you are close enough to the dog and he likes treats, then by all means you should try to use food to lure him back to you.
However, if the dog is further away than 10-15 feet, chances are he will not even see or smell the treat in your hand.
For dogs that are just out of reach, you can also try dropping a handful of food on the ground and then approaching as the dog is eating it.
You need to make sure to be slow and not make sudden, rapid movements. Any kind of surprise motion may startle the dog and cause him to run away again.
The Least Effective Method To Retrieve An Off-Leash Dog
Which approach is least effective in retrieving a dog who has managed to slip off its leash?
The least effective – and sadly, widely used – method to get an escaped dog back is to run after him. This will only make the dog run away from you faster and further.
Even though it seems counter-intuitive, you should actually run away from the dog instead of towards him.
By racing away (or using a toy that you toss away), you are triggering the dog’s prey drive and chase instinct. He will forget that he was about to take off, and instead, go and race after you or his ball.
When he is close enough, you can use food to get him back to you as well.
Always make sure to quickly drape a slip leash over his head, so that he does not take off again right away.
Every dog breed and every individual dog is different, so results may vary. However, in general, a dog will want to remain with its owner and return if it feels like it is being left alone.