Teaching Your Dog a Reliable Recall
What 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
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!