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Everyone wants a dog who will come when called, right? We all dream of letting our dogs loose at the beach, or on a trail and not worrying that we may never see them again… not just me, right? Well this takes a lot of work. Dogs live and love to explore, sniff, wander, roll in dead things, chase live things and generally HAVE FUN! So if you unclip that leash (in a legal area) you need to ensure you can keep your dog, and the public, safe while still allowing freedom to be a dog.
Below find some tips to starting and progressing with recall! Drop me a comment for additional recall games and I'll send you a bonus attachment!
When working on recall it’s important to remember the 3 D’s .
- Distance (How far you are away from your dog when calling)
- Duration (How long its been since you last called)
- Distraction (How many amazing things may prevent them from coming to you)
I strongly recommend working on these D's one at a time and slowly adding in additional D’s as your dog is able to respond more consistently! The key is that the dog is able to respond quickly and happily at each level before stepping it up a notch. If you move too quickly, you will lose momentum and your dog will learn to ignore you for more enticing things in the environment.
There are a few rules that I recommend you follow to ensure you don’t accidentally "poison" your recall and cause your dog to see the word you are using as an ICKY thing…..But first, let's talk about the word you are using. The most common recall word is COME (if you are English speaking). Why? Because we, as humans, know the meaning. But remember that dogs place no meaning on words until we help them associate the word to a consequence - good or bad. So if you feel like your word isn’t working so well, change it!!! Start fresh with TACO or BACON or BANANA.... maybe I'm hungry.
- Never call your dog for anything negative: We know punishment is out in dog training, right? But this doesn’t mean we don’t still occasionally tell our dog off for getting in the trash or digging up the freshly planted garden. I still urge you to think first, as those things aren’t really your dogs fault (management fails) but we are all human. However, don’t call your dog to you and then TELL THEM OFF. Think about this, your boss only calls you into his office to tell you what a horrible job you are doing at work. How would you feel each time you saw him calling? Not so great, right? If you call your dogs to tell them off, they will think twice before coming next time.
- Shock collars are out! There are so many options out there when it comes to the "fastest" "best" way to teach dogs to come. One is a remote/e-collar. This is an electric shock that teaches your dog to come back or else. Punishment works by telling our dogs, if you don't do this, something bad will happen. While it may be effective, it is dangerous, inhumane and unnecessary. I want my dog to choose to come because they are excited, happy and choosing to be with me!
2. Never call your dog if the recall is IMPOSSIBLE! So, your dog chased the neighbors cat up the tree again. So you are calling from the back door - FIDO come, come, come, come over and over. He’s not coming. This teaches your dog that the words coming out of your mouth are to be ignored when distracted. Get a tasty treat, go and save your recall and bring Fido inside, maybe reconsider leaving him outside unattended after previous garden and cat incidents.
3. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS Reward a recall. Every time. Whether your dog is 2 feet away or 100 yards. Fluffy loves you. We know that, if she isn’t with you she is doing something better so you need to be convincing. A belly rub and a "good girl" isn't going to cut it when someone left a pizza on the ground... She is a dog, no she won't just ignore FREE PIZZA - The more difficult the recall, the better the reward. More on that later……
Additional recall Tips
In the video above I’m working in a distracted recall out of view. I scattered treats and went around the house. I am upping the challenge level with this dog…….
♦️TIP - Only call your dog once! You see in the video I called and waited. I know Peyton had a distraction and some distance to travel so I had faith in my groundwork and it paid off!
♦️ One sure way to build a solid recall is to reward with AMAZING reinforcement. Only your dog gets to decide what they find amazing, however!
Some ideals: Steak - Cheese - Pizza Crust - Peanut Butter Squeeze Tube - Roast Beef - (mine is tuna and cream cheese).
♦️ If your dog doesn’t respond, don’t continue to call - get closer and try again or save the recall entirely and get your dog. That’s your cue that the recall was too difficult and you need to make it easier next time! This doesn't apply if your dog is in danger - call 100000000 times if they are loose and in danger.
♦️ Practice makes perfect! Keep practicing successful recalls and increase only when your dog can respond consistently.
Have questions? Please let me know! I'm happy to send you the bonus recall games and chat all things recall. It's a tough skill that takes patience, time and PRACTICE.