Recall is one of the most important skills you can teach your dog. From day one of bringing your new dog home, it is SO important that you know How to Train your Dog to “Come” when Called.
More and more I have concerned parents and soon to be parents, contacting me about their dog’s recall. Especially for pregnant women, the more pregnant you are, the harder it is to chase after your dog if they go running off. Then once you have that new born in the pram, or a toddler on the loose, the last thing you need is to have your dog run off and/or not listening to you when you tell them to “come”.
The lovely and very talented, Dog Trainer and Behaviour Consultant, Laura Mundy wrote an article on her Website which was exactly how I explain Recall to my clients, so she has been kind enough to let me share it with you guys. I hope your find it useful…
Dog Trainer and Behaviour Consultant Laura Mundy, teaches us how to train our dog reliable recall
The recall is easily the most important skill to teach your dog, and also the most common reason dog owners will want to attend a dog training class or get a dog trainer out to their home.
Common Mistakes People make with Recall
Firstly, there are some very common mistakes we make when we call our dogs. These include calling our dogs predominantly when we are about to leave a dog park or take them away from anything else they’re having fun doing. We also might only be calling them when they are completely distracted and playing with another dog, before we have taught them reliably to come when called when they aren’t so distracted. Many dog owners also call their dog when they want to put them outside, take something from them or even yell at them and scold them once they do come because they didn’t come immediately. All these scenarios are punishing your dog from coming to you when they were called.
Instead, we need to teach our dogs that coming when called is a rewarding experience, and gradually increase how challenging the recall is over time.
So how do we teach our dog’s to come when called when WE want them to?
We ALWAYS have to reward our dog for coming to us.
Coming to you has to be associated with a positive experience, and therefore we can never reprimand or correct our dog when they come or the next time we try to call them they will be less and less likely to return. If you think you are ‘punishing’ your dog for ignoring you for 5 minutes, they will not make this connection, the only association they will make is that coming back to you is a negative experience so they will make sure they run faster and farther the next time in order to avoid you.
Initially teach your recall with a low level of competing distractions, such as your home or backyard.
Make it fun and engaging by waiting until your dog is mildly distracted, calling their name with the command, “Come”, and moving off in the opposite direction (i.e. “Cooper, Come!”). Once they reach you, reward them heavily with whatever they enjoy whether it be food, play, pats and praise. You can even use another family member or friend to do a recall ‘ping pong’ where you recall your dog back and forth, making it a fun and rewarding game for them, and each person gives them a treat once they come to them.
Make yourself attractive and loads of fun.
Run the other direction so they will be driven to chase after you, use high pitched tones in your voice, get down low so you are less intimidating and more inviting. You can even use squeaky toys if your dog is highly motivated by them.
Be careful not to chase after your dog unless it is an emergency.
Dogs love a game of chase and if they think ignoring you means they are going to be chased after, they will definitely choose this game instead. Dog’s instinctively love games of chase, so run the other direction so that they are driven to chase you rather than the other way around!
Set yourselves up for success through gradually increasing distractions and distance in new environments.
Don’t assume because they come when called at one place, that they will in any new setting. If there are a lot of dogs around and they are playing, wait until they are less distracted before trying to call them and work up to being able to recall them when they are more and more distracted.
Don’t be afraid to use a ‘long lead’ when you are introducing distractions in new environments to test your recall
Using a long line is an excellent tool to test your dog’s recall reliability as they get further away from you. If they don’t come initially, run off in the opposite direction and bring them with you using the lead and reward them once they come and then try again. This way if you are calling your dog and they are ignoring you, you can prevent them being rewarded by ignoring you and getting to engage in whatever else is grabbing their attention.
If your dog does come, especially in a new and distracting environment, jackpot them!
A jackpot is giving two, three or more treats for an extra awesome effort so that your dog knows it paid off to leave such a fun distraction! Gradually build up distance OR distraction intensity one at a time. We need to do this gradually so that our dog is set up for success, not failure. Doing a recall in your kitchen and a recall at a dog beach are completely different exercises with hugely different levels of competing motivations and rewards for ignoring you if you don’t have control over your dog with a lead.
If your dog is ignoring you, wait until they are less distracted, get closer to them, and try again.
Don’t continue to call and call your dog while they are ignoring you as we are simply teaching our dog that ignoring us has the only consequence of continuing to have fun and freedom. They will also learn that repeated commands are just a nagging noise that they can ignore.
Don’t only ever recall your dog when you are going home from somewhere fun or you’re going to put them outside for example.
Be careful to not create negative patterns and associations with recalls, but instead that it is simply a chance for a positive such as a treat, and that they get to go back to what they were doing again.
Teaching your dog to come when called should be a fun and positive relationship building exercise.
We always want our dogs to associate coming to us as a rewarding and worthwhile experience. Practice it as much as you can in as many different scenarios as you can. The more your dog learns that interrupting what they’re doing and coming to you simply means an intermission from what they were doing to get a treat or some other form of reward, and then being released back to whatever they were doing.
If you want more from Laura Mundy, head to her Website.
Just remember, with any new command you teach your dog, you need to be patient and persistent. Put in the hard work and you will get the results. As I always say, if you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour, please make sure to contact qualified rewards-based trainer to come and out and assess your specific situation.
And if you have any questions on this, please feel free to get in touch or leave us a comment in the comments section below. Lastly, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe below so you don’t miss another Cooper and Kids post.
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