A reliable recall can open up so many options & make your walks much more enjoyable, for you & your dog! It’s never fun when they disappear off & you’re not sure if they’re going to come back!
It’s not always easy though, because the outside world can be exciting & perhaps sometimes overwhelming for our dogs.
If distracted, your dog may struggle to pay attention & listen to you. Good recall training is all about having a great relationship with your dog & ensuring they’re motivated to come back to you & capable of responding under distraction.
They need to perceive coming back to you as worth their while!
How to train a reliable recall:
Long lines can be a great tool to use while teaching a reliable recall. They prevent your dog from being able to rehearse running off & not returning to you, while allowing them freedom to explore.
Any time your dog checks in with you they should be rewarded. This can be with a treat, a game of tug, throwing a ball, or whatever they find rewarding. It’s important to remember that reward preferences are individual & while one dog may happily come back for their normal food, others will need high value treats, or an exciting game instead.
Initially, it helps to be EXCITING! It’s normal to feel silly, but jumping up & down, waving your arms around & using a high pitch of voice really can work wonders to get your dog’s attention (assuming it doesn’t worry them!). You need to peak their interest & make them want to check in with you, until they understand what your chosen recall cue means at least.
Introducing a reliable recall cue
The best time to add in your recall cue is once they’re reliably & regularly returning to you for their reward. This will help them make a clear association between recalling to you and the recall cue. Cues should always be consistent and clear. It’s totally up to you what cue you use, but if you find yourself regularly sounding like the following:
‘come, Rover come, I said come, COME ROVER, COME HERE, Rover HERE!’
try & break this habit. You’re not alone, most people do it, but it’s unclear & confusing for your dog. To add to the problem, our tone of voice tends to get more & more frustrated as we call them. This will make them less likely to want to come back to you. They’ll switch off & probably return to sniffing, running or exploring.
Instead, train them to come on one simple cue, for example a whistle blow or ‘here’ & make it worth their while! This way they’ll have no doubt what the cue means. Rehearse this regularly & they will learn that you are well worth paying attention. You can also feel super proud about your dog’s awesome recall.
Where to start your training:
A suitable environment is important for any type of dog training. Initially, you are unlikely to succeed if the environment is too distracting. That is why recall training should always start at home, or in a quiet & calm place. Slowly add in distractions as you progress with training.
Sometimes, other behaviours may need addressing before focusing on recall. For example, if your dog regularly barks & lunges at people, other dogs or traffic on walks, or if they freeze & try to flee situations. This is because these behaviours often occur when the dog is under stress, which can reduce their ability to learn & make good decisions.
Benefits of training a recall:
Finally, training a good recall has SO many benefits! There’s the increased potential for safe off the lead exercise & enrichment, reduced risk of loosing your dog, more general focus & not to mention ensuring you’re a responsible dog owner. It takes time & commitment to train a recall, but the benefits will be well worth the effort!
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