A good recall is an important tool to teach your dog. It is an obedience skill that, at some time, may be crucial for your dog’s safety. First things first! Your dog is not being stubborn, ignoring you on purpose or being a bad dog! Many times, the dog simply has not learned a solid foundation of training. Add heavy distractions to this mix and it is no wonder some dogs do not come back when we call them!
Let’s address some common issues:
Expecting too much, too fast. Like any training session, start with minimal distractions. Once your dog is doing well, you can add distractions to the mix.
Punishing your dog or ending the fun once he or she comes back to you. Would you return if every time you were called back, the fun ended or worse yet you were punished? Too often, the only time we implement a recall is when we are interrupting the dog from doing what he or she enjoys. For example- Your dog is playing with one of his dog friends. The only time the dog is called back, is when it is time to pack things up and go home. Not very motivating! A better solution? Frequently interrupting play, to receive a reward and then sending your dog off to play again.
Making a recall a game of “Catch me if you can!” Simply put - if your dog learns that when he or she does not come back to you, it will result in a fun game (for your dog) of you chasing him or her.
Being less exciting or fun than whatever is going on around you. Calling your dog in a monotonous or stern voice while standing still or moving forward is not going to entice your dog to come back to you. Whatever is going on - be that exciting! What does this mean? Act and sound like you are having a blast!!! Crouching down, and moving backwards can also motivate your dog to come back to you.
Now let’s discuss how to begin training a solid recall. What you will need:
- A favorite toy or special treats for your dog
- A long lead or lunge line
- A second person to assist you during your training session
Start in a location with minimal distractions. This could be your fenced yard, inside your home or anywhere else your dog is comfortable. Have the toy hidden from view (tucked in your pocket behind you is a good spot). If you are using treats make sure they are out of view. This is so these items will be a surprise reward for coming back to you instead of a bribe to lure your dog close to you. The long lead will be used to maintain control of your dog until their recall is strong.
Allow the second person to take the dog about seven feet away.
Call your dog in a very happy, excited voice- “PETEY!!!!!!! COME!!!!!!!!” You may need to move backwards and crouch low to the ground.
When the dog returns to you, mark the good behavior with an enthusiastic “Good!” or whatever word you use to let your dog know they did the right thing, then pull out the toy and initiate play for a full 20 to 25 seconds. If you are using treats begin continuously feeding for the 20 seconds.
After the 20 seconds are up, release the dog, and allow the second handler to take the dog back to the starting point. Repeat this several times and then add a little more distance. As your dog responds well to this and has a pretty reliable recall without distractions, you can add distractions into training. When you do this, start off by decreasing your distance again. What are distractions? It could be: a ball rolling across the room, a different environment, or anything that may take attention away from you.
The more you practice, the more distractions and distance you should be able to add. If they are doing well and you are in a safe, contained area, you can remove the leash.
Why does this method work so well?
Because your dog is having fun and learning that the fun does not end when they come back to you, and it is building a solid foundation of training.