Want a Great Recall? Then Practice for a Great Recall!
Dogs that come when called enjoy more freedom; running loose on trails, playing in the back yard, or even visiting a beach. Owners who take the time to practice and train a reliable come when called can enjoy many fun activities and outings with their dogs.
Starting Your Dynamite Recall
1) Choose a training treat that is extremely high value to your dog. We tend to reserve liver worst as our come when called training food since most dogs love it and they don’t get it very often. Other examples include roast beef, baby food, or cheese whiz.
2) We recommend that you start inside (a low distraction, quiet environment) but if you need to start outside, keep your dog on a 6-foot leash so he can’t run off while you are teaching him how fun come when called can be.
3) Stand a few steps away from your dog and say his name in a friendly and excited way. When your dog looks at you and takes a few steps to get to you – REWARD him with a couple pieces of the high value treat.
4) Repeat saying his name from a very close distance and treating him when he comes to you several times. You may find that after 2-3 repetitions your dog is glued to you. Why wouldn’t he be? You are making yourself high value!
5) Have a helper hold your dog by the collar. Tease your dog with the treats in your hand and run about 10-15 feet away. Turn around and immediately call your dog to you. Talk to him in a happy, upbeat voice as he comes toward you. When he gets to you take ahold of his collar and give him 3-4 pieces of the treat you teased him with.
6) Have your helper do the same thing you did. Repeat and slowly increase the distance you are asking the dog to travel between the two of you. Enjoy this fun game of doggie ping pong!
7) As your dog gets great at this game start hiding around corners and in different rooms. Keep it easy for your dog to find you at first. When you start the hiding games, keep calling your dog and encouraging him even if he doesn’t find you right away. He needs to keep hearing your voice in order to find you.
8) After lots of practice indoors you are ready to move the game outside. Choose a very low distraction environment and shorten the distances (about 6-10 feet) between you and your helper. Practice calling your dog just like you did in Step 5. Until you have lots of practice we recommend keeping your dog on a 15-20 foot long line. When you move the game outside remember to be generous with your treats!
9) Slowly increase the distance you are asking the dog to travel outside, then add hiding around a corner of the house, behind a car, etc. as you call your dog to you.
10) Practice this for a few repetitions daily. You are going for quality recall practice not necessarily quantity.
Maintaining and Improving Your Great Recall
Come when called is a behavior that must be practiced. You want your dog to sit and you practice it. You want your dog to lay down and you practice it. If you want a rock solid come when called, then you need to practice it as diligently as you have practiced other behaviors.
After you get a consistent come when called in the house and then outside in a low distraction environment, think about practicing come when called in the contexts where you want it to happen. For example, I walk my dog loose in the woods daily, so come when called is important to me in the woods. When I first started taking Frankie out, I had him on a long line (15-20 foot leash) so he had some freedom but was still attached to me. We practiced come when called many many times in the woods, on the rail trail, around the pond, and everywhere we walked where I wanted him to come. When his come when called was reliable in many settings over many repetitions I would let him drag the long leash around as we continued to practice together. Now he is able to be loose in many settings and I am confident in his ability to come when I call him.
Context is important and so is the level of distraction. Do you want your dog to come to you when other people, dogs, bicycles, horses, chickens, etc. are in sight? Then you need to go out with your dog on a 20-30 foot long line and look for these types of distractions to practice around. Remember to always start from a short distance at first and increase it slowly as your build successful repetitions of the behavior.
Keep your reward generous – especially when practicing in new environments or around challenging distractions. Even now, I practice 1 or 2 recalls with my dog on every walk and he gets heavy rewards every time he comes to me.
If your dog looks up but doesn’t come running towards you right away, start running AWAY from your dog, and keep calling and talking to him.
Rules of Recall
1) Fabulous rewards get fabulous recalls. If you want your dog to stop whatever interesting doggie thing he is doing and come running happily to you, you need to make it worth his while. Use extra yummy treats and lots of them – this is no place for dry biscuits! – or a well thrown ball or a game of tug. Be generous with food, games and praise.
2) Never call your dog to you for anything that is unpleasant from his perspective. Things that come to mind include nail clipping, bath time, medication he doesn’t like or clipping his leash on to take him home after a romp in the park. Just approach your dog and take him gently by the collar for these types of things.
3) Remember to teach, not test. Set your dog up for success, by only calling him when you are sure he’s going to come. If he’s sniffing, wait until he’s done “reading”, then call him.
4) Cheerlead him in. Once you call your dog, continue to talk to him in a happy, upbeat voice. Clap your hands, tap your thighs and be a real cheerleader. Let your dog know that coming to you will be fantastic.
Come when called is an important core behavior that you and your dog can have lots of fun practicing together. Perfect practice, makes perfect behavior.
At Everything Dog, we are happy to help you train a great come when called. Contact us with your questions and concerns and let us help.