The recall is one of the most important of the basic obedience cues. It is also the cue that typically causes people the most problems. We have a very clear understanding of how the recall cue can be undermined over time and will show you how to avoid the common pitfalls.
Regard a solid recall (calling your dog to come) as an insurance policy. One day it may save your dogs’ life.
It is very natural for your puppy to stay close to you, follow you, or come away from a distraction at a young age (8-16 weeks). It is equally natural for them to stop coming shortly after that — about the time they hit their Juvenile and Adolescent Period at 4 to 8 months (check Your Puppy’s Development).
It is not uncommon for people to undermine the young puppy’s natural desire to stick close to us. This can happen easily when calling a puppy to come for something they perceive as unpleasant. Common examples of this would be calling a dog to come away from other dogs, or calling a dog to come to have its nails clipped.
Coupling the dog’s natural instinct to turn a deaf ear during the Juvenile and Adolescent Period with the unintentional misuse of the cue word, will ensure that a dog does not come reliably when called.
The first consideration when training a solid and predictable recall is to ensure that you only call your dog for something that he thinks is wonderful. Treats. Games. Playtime. Walks. Going to the Park.
Remember, if you call your dog to come to you and something wonderful happens when he gets to you, he is far more likely to repeat this behavior regularly. If, however, you call him to come to you and something that he does not like happens, he is going to stop coming when you call him.
In reality, the recall is taught so that you will have the ability to keep your dog safe should the need arise. Think of it as an insurance policy. The recall is essential in order for you to be able to take your dog to the park and let him off the leash to play.
Behavior that gets reinforced and rewarded gets repeated!
We have included this exercise because in real life there can be some very persuasive distractions for a dog. A child with an ice cream cone, a dead bird or fish, someone with a ham sandwich, etc. You want your dog to come to you regardless of the distraction.
Always work in an environment that is secure for your puppy. Employ the use of a long line or work in an empty tennis court for added safety.
- Never under any circumstances punish your dog for coming to you, no matter how long it may have taken him to get there!
- Take hold of your dog’s collar when he gets to you. At the same time, offer him a treat. Release immediately.
- When you call your pup to come, praise him as soon as he makes eye contact with you. This will help get the pup coming to you more quickly.
- Bend down or squat and open your arms to look warm and inviting as they start running towards you.
- Your voice should never sound angry or uninviting. You can change it depending on whether or not you need to ham it up a bit with some high-pitched silliness and animation.
- In the beginning, do not be too concerned with the pup coming and sitting directly in front of you. This is something that you can perfect later if it is important to you.
- Avoid chasing your puppy. You only ever want them to chase you!
- Running in the opposite direction away from the puppy, clapping your hands and acting as silly as possible, will usually get him chasing you!
- Release the pup quickly and enthusiastically after he has come back to you. “OKAY YOU’RE FREE!”
- Call that pup to do something fun, not for something that he’s not going to like.
The key to the success of this exercise is repetition and using controlled distractions. When you begin doing this exercise, go to a place where there are no other distractions. If there are things that the pup is more interested in than the staged distraction, that’s no good, the puppy will leave the scene of the exercise and nothing will be learned.