When we post videos of Nello running off leash people always ask “Doesn’t he run away?” Nope, he doesn’t. Why? Because we worked hard on his recall from day one on.
When we did some research online, we found out that many people think Iggies can’t be trusted off leash. It’s a real shame that some people think like that. Italian Greyhounds, like other sighthound breeds, love to run. There’s probably not much they enjoy doing more. And if never let off leash, they just won’t be able to go full speed. (Only letting them run in your yard is not the same!)
Of course you can’t just decide one day to let them off leash. It requires hard training. But seeing your Italian Greyhound run and having the best time makes all the effort so worth it.
Want to know how it works? In this blog post we will tell you exactly what we did to train Nello to always come back to us. Ready? Let’s go!
What You’ll Need for Iggy Recall Training:
- lots (!!!) of high value treats (for example ham, cheese, chicken, liver treats)
- a quiet area without any distractions
- optional: long line and whistle
How to Train Your Italian Greyhound’s Recall
1. Start with your training sessions the day your puppy arrives
The sooner you start with your training sessions, the better. Puppies will follow you everywhere. It’s their instinct! This is an amazing starting point for your recall training as you won’t have to be afraid they will run away – they would be way too scared alone!
But even if your Iggy is not a puppy any more, it’s never too late. You can always work on improving your dog’s recall, no matter how old they are.
Once your little pup hits puberty it will get harder. Some dogs forget everything they have learnt. But it’s super important not to give up and keep on practicing! It will definitely pay off!
2. Use a consistent cue like “name + come” and always stick to it
Every time you call your pup, use the same cue. We always say “Nello here” but literally anything works.
Always use the same cue and make it sound the same every time you call them so they recognize you!
You can also use a whistle if you want. Just keep in mind if you decide to use a whistle you will always have to have it with you on walks – otherwise it won’t work.
3. Start out by only calling your Iggy when they are running towards you
To build up the recall cue, only call your puppy when they are already running towards you.
Don’t use the recall cue when they are not paying attention (for example sniffing or playing with other dogs). They will be too busy to notice you. If you keep on calling them anyway, you will only poison the cue. And your puppy will learn they can just go ahead and ignore you – and nothing bad will happen if they don’t do what you asked them to.
Repeat this over several sessions until your Iggy starts getting the hang of it.
To get your dog’s attention, you have to try to be more interesting than everything else. In order to get our dogs to come we need to make ourselves someone that’s always worth running back to. And to be honest, this is the hardest part about recall training. When they are still puppies it’s easy. Most of the time, saying something with a high pitched voice is already enough reason for them to come to you. But the older they get, the harder it will be.
4. Reward your puppy when they come to you
Make sure you reward them when they come to you when called. It works best to use high value treats – something they don’t normally get.
Some puppies are way too excited outside and won’t eat treats. Try praising or petting them instead.
5. Recall training is mostly about the right timing
You need to be faster than your puppy. That means: When they are off leash, you need to be super attentive and always watch your surroundings.
When you see something you don’t want them to go to, you need to call them before they notice it. Once they do, it will be super hard for them to resist.
6. Consistency is key – Practice every day for the best results
Just like it is with potty training, consistency is key. But remember to keep your training sessions fun! It’s better to have several sessions for around 5-10 minutes every day than one long one once a week!
Recall is the most important command to teach your puppy. Tricks are cute, but a reliable recall is essential to give your dog the freedom they deserve. It can be a life saver, too.
To make recall training a bit more fun you can make a game out of it. Either teach them the “stay” command and then call them from a distance or ask someone to help you and take turns on calling your puppy to make them run back and forth.
7. Use a long line or train in a fenced-in area to provide a safe environment
Get a long line (a very long leash of 10 meters is perfect) if you don’t trust your puppy yet. It will provide your puppy with some freedom, while still remaining under your full control.
Another way for more safety is to start your recall training in a fenced-in area until you have built up trust.
8. Keep an eye on your puppy’s prey drive and know when to leash them
Watch your pup to find out how they react to birds and other moving objects. Do they follow them or ignore them completely?
Most Iggies only have low prey drive that is absolutely controllable. However, there are exceptions and if you notice your Iggy finds chasing a rabbit irresistible, better keep them leashed in areas where you might come across rabbits or other animals to avoid potential dangers.
9. Never run after your Iggy or try to catch them
Even if it’s very natural behavior, never run after your puppy and don’t try to catch them with rash movements. It will have the opposite effect – your puppy will only run further away from you and might even get scared.
Make them come to you and when leashing them don’t act like you are trying to catch a wild rabbit or something. This might sound silly but just one bad experience like this can cause your puppy to always be scared to be leashed and you definitely want to avoid that. Being leashed should be just as normal for the dog as running off leash.
Instead, lure them with treats or sounds they normally react to. When they start running towards you, step back a little bit and make them come to you, slowly grab their collar or harness and put the leash on.
10. Only let your dog run off leash in safe areas & if you feel comfortable
No matter how good your little Iggy’s recall is, only let them run off leash in safe areas. You can just never be 100% sure. There will always be situations where your Italian Greyhound may take off. That’s why we would never let Nello run off leash close to a busy road.
Last but not least: only let them run off leash if you feel comfortable with it. If you don’t, don’t do it and keep on doing your recall sessions with a long line until you’ve built enough trust.
Conclusion on Letting Italian Greyhounds Run Off Leash – Practice Practice Practice!
Recall can be hard for some Iggies to master – it just goes against their natural instincts. But the more you practice the more reliable your Iggy’s recall will be.
Keep in mind that your Italian Greyhound will probably never achieve 100% reliability. But you can get close to it and at least build trust that when you let your Iggy off the leash, they will not run away and never come back. It might just take a little bit longer sometimes… 😉
To end this post enjoy this video of Nello running full speed with his big Greyhound friend Luey: