Pawsibilities NY

Year: 2015

“Drop It,” Doesn’t Mean, “I’ll Take It!”

Teaching your dog to drop items from her mouth is a useful and necessary skill, especially for city dogs.  There are so many hazardous things on the street, it is easy for your dog to pick up something that is bad for her. You may have tried to teach your dog a cue that means she should drop items, but you might find that your dog is reluctant to respond when the item is very high value.  If this is the case it is possible that your dog thinks “drop it” means you are going to take something away from her.  It is important when training this cue to allow your dog to have a toy or treat that is safe for her to keep, because in the beginning you absolutely do not want to take the item away!  “Drop it” does not mean you are going to take the item away.  If your dog has resource guarding issues please visit one of my resource guarding blogs, but do not continue with this training method if you have seen resource guarding in your dog.

You want to think of your “drop it” practice as deposits in the bank; overtime you can trade your dog, or give your 10888702_778469304156_8121108130448426177_ndog a reward for letting something go from her mouth, this is a deposit in her bank.  This way if you find yourself without anything to trade and your dog grabs a chicken bone on the street, you have enough deposits to make this withdrawal! You should not believe that simply because you gave your dog an item this means you should just be able to take it away at any time; this is not true for any of your human relationships, and you probably like your dog better than a lot of humans!

“Drop it” as a cue for your dog should only mean she has to release what is in her mouth.  To properly train this cue, without poisoning it, you must practice with a toy or item your dog can safely continue to chew on.  To begin get several tasty treats and allow your dog to begin to chew on a treat or toy.

  1. Walk passed your dog and drop a treat near her toy as you pass, you don’t have to say anything. Repeat several times, until your dog looks up at you eagerly as you approach, or even follows you.
  2. Approach your dog and reach for the toy, but instead of taking it, leave a treat behind.  Repeat this several times until your dog is excited for you to approach.
  3. Say “drop it” to your dog, just once, then approach, trade her for a treat, and walk away, leaving her with the toy!  This is key; DO NOT TAKE THE TOY AWAY!
  4. Repeat step 3 until your dog will respond to the “drop it” cue before you present the treat, but still reward her at the end!  Remember these rewards are your bank deposits, so keep on saving up!
  5. Each day, or each new practice session, start from step 1, even if it takes you less time to progress.

Chirag Patel created a wonderful youtube video about teaching drop it, in this video you can see that when he begins to teach “drop it” he doesn’t even use an item, but instead gets the dog used to hearing the verbal cue “drop it” and opening his mouth, and being reinforced and rewarded by finding tasty treats on the ground.  This is a great visual aid in teaching this cue to your dog.

Chirag Patel’s “Drop It” Video

It is a good idea to practice twice a day for no more than 5 minutes each session; always ending on a good note but not pushing too far!  Even if you don’t complete all 5 steps in 5 minutes, quit where you are and try again later.  It is important not to push it.  If at any point you feel your dog is resource guarding the item, please stop this method and seek professional help.

The Five Rules of a Reliable Recall

The Five Rules of a Reliable RecallThere are five rules to teaching, and maintaining a reliable recall:

1. Choose the right word. “Come” may be the most popular word for this behavior, but it may not be the best choice. If your dog goes to day care, or spends time with dog walkers and other people who will say “come” to your dog too much, this can sometimes desensitize your dog to this word. If your dog hears this word all the time, but he is not required to come, then he won’t when you need him to. Another popular word is “here” because it is used far less, and for that I like this choice. A young dog trainer taught me a great option in one of our lessons, which was to use “treat” as your recall word because it has a positive association to your dog. You can teach your dog any word as long as you are consistent.

2. Never follow your recall with something your dog views as unpleasant. This is crucial to the success of your recall! I find it is even helpful to make a list of your dog’s least favorite things, this way you have a clear list of times to NOT use your recall word. Some examples include: leaving the dog park, going to the vet, being put into the crate, getting nails clipped and taking medications. Do not call your dog to come to you, and then cut his nails, or clean his ears; we want this to be a cue that your dog hears and thinks all the best things happen after this, not all his least favorite things. If you do call your dog to “come” and he comes over to you happily and then you leave the dog park, all his fun ends, it will only take a few times before he no longer comes over happily, so be careful not to un-train all your hard work!

3. Give your dog his favorite reward for coming when called. Since this cue is so important you want to reward your dog with his absolute favorite thing! For a lot of dogs you will want to try boiled chicken, bacon or cheese to earn a strong recall, but some dogs prefer a tennis ball, tug toy or even play with a real-fur dog toy, you can buy these from Know what your dog truly loves most, not what you want him to, and use it for this cue! Don’t stop rewarding your recall ever! You can eventually make rewards random, but don’t ever completely stop because it is just too important!

4. Don’t scold your dog when you do catch him! This might sound crazy, but just imagine you are in the park and it is time to go, you call your dog to come and instead he turns this opportunity into a huge game of tag! All of a sudden there are people in the park chasing your dog, trying to help you catch him, when eventually you do catch your dog, you might feel tempted to scold him and say “Bad Dog! Don’t you ever do that to me again, BAD DOG!” But unfortunately you have now followed your recall with something your dog definitely does not like; being scolded. Instead, don’t worry about all the people watching, and praise your dog like crazy, even shower him with treats and his favorite kinds of scratching or petting. This way the next time he considers engaging in a game of tag he will remember how much more rewarding it was to just come on over to you because you were fun and happy and had lots of good food to share!

5. Don’t skip the warm up! It is important to be sure your dog knows his recall word in each and every different kind of environment. Any time you are in a new place, start from the beginning and warm up your recall, this will make it much easier to get your dog to listen when you really need him to.

So now that you know the rules, learn how to train the perfect recall in my post Teaching Your Dog a Reliable Recall.

By in Training Philosophy 0

City Dog Living

City Dog LivingI was born and raised in New York City. I have had dogs here for my entire life. I also have parents who moved to Long Island with our dogs and I saw how different life was. City dog living is quite different from suburb living and it goes a lot further than just not having a yard.

House training is extremely different and difficult. Trying to get a puppy from his crate, out the door, down the hall, to the elevator and then outside can really cause a lot of extra accidents. I recommend carrying the puppy from when he comes out of his crate until he is outside on the sidewalk. If you have a large breed dog and the puppy grows too big to carry before you are finished house training, then I recommend being sure to have a strong “sit” cue and anytime you can’t be briskly walking, then have your pup sit. Most dogs will not go to the bathroom while sitting.

The whole addition of an elevator to a dog’s life is quite a lot. Without proper socialization, an elevator can be an extremely scary place for a dog. Strange people and other dogs are going to come into a very tight space and be enclosed, or even trapped that way, everyday, every time they have to go for a walk. It can be extremely scary for a lot of dogs; let’s face it some people are afraid of elevators.

City Dog LivingDon’t break leash laws! Even if you think your dog is great, when you are in an on-leash area, keep your dog on leash because it makes for unequal playing ground if your dog can be off leash while all others are on. I liken it to you having to attend a dinner party and be the only person wearing handcuffs; it simply would not be as fun. Your dog relinquishes a lot of control to you while on leash, and it is unsettling for a lot of dogs to encounter a dog off leash while they are on; show respect for your neighbors and obey leash laws!

Don’t leave your dog tied up outside of stores: there are just too many people and other dogs who will pass, it really puts your dog at risk. There are people who will also steal your dog. These people either take them and use them as bait dogs in illegal dog fighting rings, or flip your dog, and sell it, far away, for a lot of money.

Your dog doesn’t need to like every dog! In the city you will see a lot of dogs, don’t just let your dog run up to greet every single one, even if she is friendly. A lot of other dogs aren’t or are in training, and you could be undoing a lot of hard work. Instead teach your dog to sit to greet, it is like saying “please can I go play?” And it gives you time to ask the other dog owner if his dog is friendly. If he says “yes,” you can release the sit and let the dogs play. If he says “no,” then respect that and move on. In my opinion you should thank him for being honest because it isn’t easy to admit your dog isn’t that friendly, but it is the safe and responsible thing to do!

Barking is something that threatens my clients homes at times; in city dog living we need to end barking yesterday! I understand the urgency when I go to help people with their barking dogs, but it is important to remember dogs bark; and while it is hard to find a place that it is appropriate in the city; it is crucial to find time to let your dog be a dog.

If you live in the city and are considering getting a dog or puppy it is important to plan time to socialize that dog to the city. If your vet doesn’t want him walking on the ground, don’t just keep him in your apartment. You have until he is 16 weeks old to socialize him to the sounds, sights and smells of the city. If you are adopting an older dog it will be a good idea to be sure the dog has walked on a busy city sidewalk comfortably. If the dog has lived his life in a rural, quiet setting, he might never get used to city streets, he might be too scared to walk down the street, and eventually even leave your apartment! It is very sad, but I have seen exactly this many times. The adjustment from quiet life to city life is a transition not all dogs can make.

The last thing I am going to say might sounds silly, but pick up your dog’s poop! Come on people, he’s your dog, clean up after him! I know we have all forgotten a bag once or twice, but make a conscience effort to clean up the mess your dog leaves behind. I am an animal lover to the core, and I don’t get grossed out very easily, but even I don’t want to step in dog poop! Also a huge pet peeve of mine; snow doesn’t dissolve poop! If your dog poops on the snow banks on the curb, you still have to pick it up.

I know that there is a stereotype that people in cities aren’t as friendly, but let’s do our best to show that this isn’t true for the dog community! There are a lot more of us in a smaller space, so perhaps we all have to be a bit more courteous, but dogs are incredibly social creatures and if you live in a city with a dog there are a lot of opportunities to socialize, play and train together; take advantage!

By in Puppies & New Dogs 0

To Socialize, or Not to Socialize: This Is the Question

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks… Well not exactly, you can certainly teach an older dog a new “trick,” but you won’t likely be able to teach him to accept something he did not experience in the first 16 weeks of his life; this is your puppy’s crucial socialization period.

“…But my vet told me not to take my puppy outside…” If your vet tells you that your pup cannot leave your home until he has finished his vaccinations, then please ask questions, do not just accept this at face value. The questions you should consider asking include:

Can my puppy go outside if I carry him?

Your vet should be fine with this. Your puppy can, and should meet as many different  people as possible in his first 16 weeks of life. Carrying him around your neighborhood will help with this. Also your pup cannot catch anything from people, so if he is a breed that as a puppy will stay small enough to carry easily, this will be a great way to meet people. I find it is best to carry your pup around and look for people who notice him. Any time a person even gives me an “aww, cute puppy!” I ask if they would like to pet him. Try to find different looking people, in hats, or sunglasses, and of different races, sizes and genders. These positive experiences with people who all look different will create an adult dog who is friendly towards people of all shapes and sizes.

Can my dog play with other dogs?

To Socialize, or Not to Socialize: This Is the QuestionThis is where we have to be most careful. If you do not know the dog and owner very well, I wouldn’t risk it! It is much safer to find puppy play groups where your pup can play with other pups his age. If you choose to completely avoid dog-dog interactions until your pup has completed his shots, this can be fine, but it should be your main focus to find play groups, or make play dates for your pup right after his last shots. This is another reason to be sure you have tackled all other forms of socialization before this point. It is also important to remember that even if you have another dog, this does not count as dog-dog socialization. Give your pup a chance to understand more dogs by meeting as many possible; if you only knew your siblings you might not understand different kinds of people; the same is true for your dog.

If you live in a city I find it best to bring your puppy to a noisy street corner, and just sit; a bus stop can be a great place for this. If your pup gets scared, and you are not, you can comfort your dog and let him know that the noises won’t hurt him. He can accept this much more quickly and easily during his crucial socialization period. This is the time to expose him to anything and everything he may need to tolerate during his lifetime. Some common things include; car rides, different people, babies, children, different homes, other animals in the house, and even plane rides. If you can fit in the time to  practice these things with your pup early on, you will find these situations much easier when he is an adult dog. Socialization is crucial for your dog, and it can be done safely and still be effective, so don’t be so quick to just take your veterinarians advice without asking more about this very important time in your puppy’s life.

If I haven’t convinced you, then I strongly encourage you to speak to your friends with dogs. Ask them what they did, and how it has affected their pup’s behavior, training, and life. Try to find at least one friend who listened to the vet, and kept his pup locked away for four months, and try to find someone who did safe socialization. It can also be helpful to try to find people with the same or similar breeds as your pup.

As time passes and more studies are done about dogs, we as people should continue to evolve our opinions based on this research. If your vet simply cannot accept that dogs have a crucial socialization period, which on average is the first sixteen weeks of their life, then I would consider finding a vet who can accept this and reflects our current understanding of dogs. This may sound harsh, but unsocialized dogs take a lifetime of training and conditioning to catch up to the socialized puppies, it can be done safely and effectively without risking your puppies health, and it should be!!

What Is Clicker Training?

What Is Clicker Training?You may have heard of clicker training, and you may not be quite certain what it is. Is it right for me? Is it right for my dog? Do I always need the clicker? Where did Clicker Training come from? As a force free dog trainer I find clicker training extremely useful, but perhaps not in the way some of you are accustomed, or perhaps in a way you haven’t heard of; I like to use it for capturing.

In clicker training, the click is a marker for the moment the animal has shown us a desired behavior. To teach the dog this we start by warming up the clicker, simply by clicking and feeding a treat after we click. At first you can click anytime, as long as your dog isn’t doing something naughty. We teach the dog to understand that that sound predicts good things coming. It is the same idea as Pavlov’s Dogs who learned the sound of the bell meant their food was coming, and thus the bell made the dogs’ mouths to water in anticipation of what follows. This is exactly what we want our dog to learn about the click.

After warming up the clicker with the reward immediately following, we want to vary the amount of time between the marker (click) and the reward, this way we can still use the marker when our dog is far away, because he has learned that sometimes the rewards take a bit longer following the marker. Once we have finished warming up the clicker, we can start to use it for training. Trainers use the clicker for everything from basic obedience, to shaping. Shaping is when we decide a desired behavior, let’s say a spin, and then we will start with very low criteria for the dog to earn clicks, so we may click and treat when the dog simply turns her head. Then once the dog is offering us a head turn, we may only click if the dog turns her head at least a quarter of the way around, and so on until the full spin is the only behavior that earns the click.

I personally love to use clickers for capturing. Capturing is when we don’t ask our dog for a specific behavior, but simply wait for her to offer us the behavior on her own, and then I capture this with a click and treat! For example, if your dog barks at the doorbell, I love the clicker to help teach quiet. Dogs mimic our behaviors, so when they are barking, any talking from us is likely to make the barking worse. Especially the yelling match that sometimes happens: BARK, “QUIET,” BARK, “QUIET,” which came first? I find it much better to ring the doorbell, let your dog bark, and wait for the quiet, as soon as your dog offers you some quiet, click and treat! Remember the example of the spin, criteria should change, so when you first start this your dog should earn a click for even a moment of quiet, but as you train you can change the criteria to two seconds of quiet, then four, and so on.

Another good example is using the clicker to train your dog not jump using capturing. Allow your dog to jump, and as soon as she stops, click and treat. After a while, if you notice that she looks like she wants to jump, but holds herself back, click and treat for this and even jackpot her with 3 small treats in a row for making such good choices!  I love to use clickers for capturing because dogs think they are training us to click by offering us nice behaviors. Even if you don’t think you will need a clicker I think it is best to warm up the clicker to your dog so that if you need it, she already knows what it means, and the best news is, it is never too early, or too late to start clicker training! If you are interested in clicker training, please go to our ‘Contact Us‘ Page and fill in your information, include a note about the clicker blog, and your favorite colors, and I will happily send you a Pawsibilities Clicker to get started!

The Importance of Feeding Your Pet on a Schedule

The Importance of Feeding Your Pet on a ScheduleI want to start by saying that the following does not apply if your veterinarian has given you other instructions based on your dog’s health, age and/or size. This article applies to the average, healthy, house-dog.

While you may have heard different things regarding feeding, I find it is very important to feed your dog on a set schedule, usually two feedings a day, and do not leave the food out for your dog to “free feed” or graze as she chooses. Some may tell you to feed your dog on a schedule to help prevent resource guarding, and to show that you bring the food, so you are the “boss,” or “in charge,” but the truth is those are not the best reasons for a feeding schedule.

The first reason most closely relates to my previous blog about Separation Anxiety. Again separation anxiety is probably the hardest behavioral problem to correct in dogs. Feeding on a schedule will allow you to know when your dog is most hungry. If your dog can eat all day and just eat three pieces of kibble here, and three pieces of kibble there, it will be much more difficult to pin point a time when she is hungry. If we know when our dog is hungry we can use this to our advantage in so many ways. For separation purposes we can feed our dog before we leave so she has something to look forward to, instead of something to worry about. If your dog free feeds she will likely just not eat while you are not home. Feed your dog her food, and leave your house for a little while; five minutes, and then come back in, and take the food away, even if your dog has not finished. This way she is learning that she should work on that food while you are gone, because it isn’t always around! This is a good activity for the weekends when owners tend to have more time, it is not necessary to leave each time you feed your dog.

If you are trying to house train your puppy or adult dog, having them eat on a schedule will make this process so much easier! Your dog will be on a more regular potty schedule if she is on a regular feeding schedule. Most dogs will got to the bathroom in a certain amount of time after they eat or drink, and if you are consistent with this, then your dog will be too!

When training your dog it is important to be reinforcing the training with rewards that your dog sees as high value. If your dog is eating on a schedule, you could delay the meal prior to a training session to ensure that food is an even higher reward. You can feed your dog dinner after the training is over.

If you plan to, or already have, young children, feeding on a schedule will also help during that “exploring” phase that most toddlers have. If you leave your dog’s food out all the time, then your crawling baby will likely find his way to the bowl at some point, and what he will do with it… well I won’t even try to think of all of the fun things a toddler could do with dog food, not to mention eating it—gross! If your dog eats on a schedule you can more easily monitor her while she eats so the food does not become a toy for your child.

If you have a dog that may be getting up there in years, skipping a meal can be a sign of a serious health issue, if you aren’t really sure when your dog eats, or even how much because there is always a full bowl, how will you know if she has stopped eating? It won’t be clear to you as quickly as a person who knows when their dog eats; this will make it easier to tell a vet exactly when the last time her appetite seemed normal. This could save your dog’s life! When a dog has an obstructions she often will stop eating because she is uncomfortable, and the sooner you realize this, the better the prognosis.

If you are already free feeding your dog I would recommend a gradual change over the course of a week. Choose the times you will be feeding your dog, and take away her kibble the night before you will begin. The next morning give your dog her food at the set time and let her have it for 10/15 minutes. After that time take the food away, but don’t throw it away yet. Put it somewhere she won’t smell it like the fridge. Wait another 5/10 minutes and give it back to her for 5/10 minutes. After this second try you can throw the food away. Your dog will eat when she is hungry, she may just need to build an appetite and get used to the new schedule. Repeat these steps for your dog’s second meal of the day, and as needed throughout the week.

I hope that I have convinced you, because just like it would not be good for us to eat all day long, it is not good for your dog, and feeding her on a schedule will help improve her house training, behavior and even health!

By in Training Philosophy 0

I Am a Treat Trainer

I Am a Treat TrainerWhen I was 11 my dream came true! I was in the car with my father, who is an orthopedist, so he had a cell phone, before I knew anyone else had one, but it was huge and you could always hear both sides of the conversation. Our family’s dear friend, the late Howard S. Kessler D.V.M. called my father to let him know that he had gotten his parents a corgi puppy as a gift, but they had decided after their last dog had passed, they wanted to travel. They were not eager to keep the pup if another home could be found. I couldn’t control myself, I was screaming at the top of my lungs that I was getting a Corgi puppy! A true dream come true for an 11 year old equestrian!

“Max” came to us less than a week later. He was perfect in my eyes in every way! He was a four month old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, he was fawn and white with a perfect lucky thumb print on the top of his head. I loved him from the moment I laid eyes on him! My mother told me if I wanted a dog I had to train (thank goodness she did!) So she took me to the book store and we picked out a dog training book. To this day i wish I knew exactly which one, but it was 1993, and the majority of people were training their dogs using choke chains. Somehow amongst all the other books we found one book that was a lure-reward book, and we weren’t even looking for it! We honestly just picked it because it wasn’t very long and had a lot of pictures showing how to train a dog to do specific things, while the other books were written descriptions.

I trained Max all his basic commands using his food and our bond was quite strong. He used to sleep back to back in bed with me, and I woke up every morning to walk him before I went to school. I loved him with all my heart, he was my best friend. Even though I loved him so, I still did stupid things; I was kid! I definitely put him in his crate when I was mad at him, and he definitely did not think of it as a happy place. I also thought a fun game was to chase him around my mother’s bed barking at him. I always thought he thought this was a lot of fun, but looking back I do realize it was probably quite stressful for him.

I know Max had his behavioral issues, but I can say as an educated dog trainer and behaviorist that his issues all stemmed from our lack of knowledge and using punishment as an easy solution. Unfortunately these choices had negative fall out, for example, even once Max was older and it would have been a lot easier to transport him to and from the vet in his crate, but he hated it, and it only caused more stress. Thank goodness he never had a serious injury and had to be confined. Don’t get me wrong, Max was a great dog with much more going for him, than against, but I just want to point out that our decisions on punishment had a lasting affect throughout his life, long after we used his crate for punishment.

Today I truly believe that part of the reason I am a dog trainer, besides Max, is that book. I love animals and always have, I think if I had tried training Max using forceable methods it would have upset me terribly, and I doubt he would have ever learned his commands, or I would be doing this today! There is nothing like the relationship that I built with that dog, and this is why today, I am a treat trainer; and when I work with my clients, I work to make them treat trainers too!

Too many people now a-days believe their dog is trying to “dominate” them, or they need to show him who is boss. I was 11 years old when I trained my dog, not only would it be very wrong for me to have ever tried alpha rolling Max, but it would have been incredibly dangerous. Even if you are an adult, why would you want to risk something that could potentially result in pain for both you and your dog?

Some people might think that treat training doesn’t stick with dogs, or it is an easy way out, but I can honestly say that using treats effectively is the same thing as using punishment effectively; without the negative fall out. If you train with treats properly you can, and should fade them to become sporadic life rewards as your dog knows the behaviors you are looking for. I can’t even say how many times I have seen people who use a prong collar for their dog’s entire life, or complain that their dog only behaves with their shock collar on. This is the same problem as a dog who only responds when you have food in your hands, it means training, or punishment has been used ineffectively. The difference is if you use treats ineffectively, the most serious risk you run is an obese dog, and while this not something that should be ignored it is far less serious than when punishment is misused. When punishment is misused you can teach your dog to hate children, other dogs or even their own leash. Negative associations can happen in one trial, all it takes is one choke chain jerk in the presence of a child to forever change your dog’s mind about children.

I am a treat trainer because it is a scientific fact that we can change a dog’s conditioned emotional response using food. We can follow something your dog finds unpleasant with his favorite things and hopefully through counter conditioning we can make this thing less unpleasant. So you can try your choke chains first, and then I can tell you to prepare yourself for a lifetime of treats at the ready to counter condition anything you have trained your dog to hate with your leash jerks. But that sounds like an awful lot of work! Perhaps trying the treats first isn’t so bad?

I am a treat trainer who believes that sometimes punishment is necessary, but I will say that punishment is never necessary for something you have not trained and proofed with your dog! This means that it is not ok to jerk your dog on a prong collar for pulling on leash, if you have never even taught him that you want him to walk by your side. I will never say that the use of painful punishment is necessary, so I will never condone the use of a prong collar, but sometimes punishment is necessary. Punishment should never be harmful or scary, and if you have to use the punishment more that a few times, it isn’t working. The definition of punishment is to lessen behavior, so if the behavior isn’t decreasing, than your punishment isn’t working, it is that simple. Even if you are shocking your dog every time he does something wrong, and he keeps doing it, the punishment is not effective, and really cannot be classified as punishment, it is really harassment.

I am a treat trainer who has a rescue dog who could be described as not that food motivated. Guess what? I can still find things that she is excited about! I have to be more creative than some other dog owners, but I can certainly find things she is eager to work for, such as bacon. You don’t need to jump to bacon if your dog will take treats but the point is there will be a point where your dog is hungry enough, and the reward is good enough to strike his fancy.

I am a treat trainer who has used to treats to train dogs to sit, down, stand, look, stay, come, leave it, drop it, take it, find it, heel, speak, quiet, hand target, retrieve, give paw, high five, roll over, play dead, on your side, stick ‘em up, bow, crawl, ride a skateboard, put his head in a person’s lap, walk with a wheelchair, alert a deaf owner to doorbells, and other alarms, signal a visually impaired person to safety, stay home alone comfortably, get used to his crate, not bark at the doorbell, walk nicely on leash, not be shy or anxious about strangers, to get along with other animals such as cats, to adjust to a new baby, or get used to a wobbly and unpredictable toddler, not to chase squirrels, or bark at traffic, and even counter act aggression against people, children and other animals.

I am a treat trainer and nothing will ever change my mind about that!

Teaching Your Dog a Reliable Recall

Teaching Your Dog a Reliable RecallWhat does recall mean when it pertains to dog training? Don’t worry, you don’t have to send your dog back to the factory! Recall is the fancy word dog trainers use to explain the behavior of coming when called.

Teaching your dog to come when called is very important, in fact it could be the most important cue you teach your dog. This cue could save your dog’s life, end a possible dog fight and especially bring you peace of mind when you are in an appropriate place to have your dog off leash.

How do you teach your dog to come when you call him? Remember CPR Cue, Praise, Reward; as this is always the best way to teach your dog a new cue. Choose the cue you want to use for your recall. If you aren’t sure check out our Five Rules to a Reliable Recall. I like to start indoors, with little distraction and I usually keep the dog on a 6 foot leach. Put the loop of the leash onto your wrist, or belt, and have some very tasty treats in your pocket or treat pouch close by, but not in your hands. Once you are set up this way you are ready for the warm up.

For the warm up start by getting your dog interested in you. Do this by doing some of his favorite things, be careful not to do things you love to do to your dog, these are fine for affection time, but not for our recall. You can test this out by petting and scratching your dog in different places and just see if he tends to move away from you or closer, for the areas he moves closer, these are his favorites! Once your dog is very interested in you, back up a few steps, about the length of the leash, say your recall word, only once, and if your dog is happily following along praise, and then reward with a tasty treat. If your dog doesn’t come along with you, try to stay low and make some movement such as tapping the ground. The warm up should almost seem silly because it should be that easy for your dog to get right! Do several of these short easy recalls so your dog can warm up his recall. Use your warm up anytime you are in a new environment, to ensure a
reliable recall.

Once you are getting it, you can add some distance. At this point you may want to use a fixed length long leash, 15-30 feet. These leashes are great for teaching a dog his recall, but use caution as they can be thin, you may want to consider wearing gloves when using one, or even buying a horse lunge line to use because these tend to be thicker, but are the right length. Don’t use your “stay” cue to try and increase distance, because if we ask our dog to stay and walk away and call him to come we are weakening our stay cue. Instead drop some treats on the floor, or practice with two people so one can help distract. Call your dog to come to you by saying your recall word only once and then encouraging your pup to come with fun noises, or tapping on the floor. A dog’s vision is attracted to motion so this will help, but try to make sure the movement is nice and low, don’t just clap your hands at full height because it will likely be out of the dog’s vision range.

Don’t ever chase your dog; let him learn to chase you. As you increase the distance for your recall, if your dog is dawdling to come over to you, run away a few feet, but be excited and make it a game so your dog speeds up to chase you and finishes his recall.

The final key to a great recall is to be sure you praise as soon as your dog even starts to get this right. Your praise should be very powerful to your dog at this point, especially if you have been training using CPR, because your praise is always followed by rewards. Try to think of practicing recalls like a game of hot and cold. If your dog isn’t facing you and sniffing the ground away from you: COLD, if your dog even looks your way, WARMER, so give him a little praise, as soon as he looks your way tell him “Good Boy” and see if he continues to come your way, if he does it means he is getting warmer and warmer so up your praise along with what he is doing. If at any point he veers off path, then stop praising, but as soon as he starts to get it right again praise again, and as soon as he gets to you, HOT! Shower him with rewards.

Finally don’t forget that part of your recall will usually include clipping on a leash or putting on a collar, so practice grabbing the leash and collar and clipping them on and off along with your training. This way your dog won’t come to you, but then run away when you try to put the leash on. It is always best to end with the treat, so clip on the leash and then give your dog a treat. This is the idea of the good follows the bad, if the leash is the bad because it is ending the fun, follow it with some tasty chicken and it won’t be so bad! Practice your recall every single day, and try practicing in different places adding distance and distractions. You only need to practice for five minutes, we all have a spare five minutes, and it could save your dog’s life so it will be the best five minutes you have ever spent!