One of the most important behaviors you can teach your dog is coming to you when called. Not only is this convenient to have on cue, but it is an important safety tool when you are out and about. Giving our dogs off-leash time can be incredibly rewarding, but ensuring our dogs will come back to us is crucial. In the dog training world, this is often called recall.
First things first, bring home the bacon. But seriously, you want to choose the absolute best treats possible to get your dog’s interest. This is not a job for kibble, we recommend Pocket Trainers, torn -up Jerky treats or our RAWBBLE Freeze-Dried. Remember, your dog gets to decide what’s their very favorite, not you, so try some different treats and proteins to determine what gets them going (you’ll be able to tell by how fast their tail wags).
The first step to training a solid recall is picking your cue word. “Come!” is an obvious choice because it makes sense to us humans. Our dogs could care less about what word we choose, just make it concise.
Now it’s time to give that word meaning. Have you ever had to spell the word W-A-L-K instead of saying it to prevent your dog from exploding into an excited frenzy? That’s the kind of reaction we want when we say this magic word. Using your extremely desirable treats in a low-distraction room in your home, say the word and give your dog a treat. Sound’s too easy, right? At this stage, your dog doesn’t have to do anything to get the treat, you are just associating the word with the best treat EVER. Repeat this 10-20 times a day for a few days in a row. You will start to see your pup perk up when you say the word -that means you’re doing it right.
Once you and your dog have mastered phase one, you can start working up some distance. Start small, with just a few feet between you two. Say the word to get your dog’s attention and see if they run over to you. If they don’t run to you right away, lean down and pat your legs, make some kissy noises – basically embrace your “inner crazy dog person” until they come over to you. Then treat them (and tell them how cute they are).
When your dog is reliably coming to you at a short distance, up the stakes. Start from further way. Call your dog from a different room in the house. Practice in more distracting environments. Remember, if your dog blows you off and doesn’t come, they are not quite ready for that scenario. Figure out how you can get back on their level by starting closer to them or removing some distractions.
As your dog progresses you can set up some distractions before practicing in the real world. Have someone bounce a ball, give your dog attention, or leave a pile of treats to call your pup away from.
Recall training takes time, practice and should be fun for both you and your dog.
A Few Things To Remember
Always keep recall positive.
When your dog has a choice to come or not, you always want returning to you to be their best option. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are recalling your dog.
Say the Magic Word… and then don’t.
When you say your magic word, only say it once! The more you say the word, the more your dog will ignore it. If they expect that you will keep saying it, there’s no rush for your dog to engage. You can always follow up with some leg pats, kissy sounds or baby voice to get them excited.
During the training phase, make sure you are not calling your dog when you are sure they are not going to come. If your dog loves chasing squirrels or is in a play-wrestling match with their best puppy friend and you know they won’t listen to you, don’t waste your time with recall. This not only gives them an opportunity to ignore the cue but allows them to decide if it’s actually worth it in a situation where it’s probably not. Set your dog up for success by calling them in the moments in between activities. The more practice they get, the more reliable it will be when you need it.
Don’t Trick your Dog
Don’t use recall to call your dog into a situation they don’t like. This goes for bathtime, dogs that don’t like getting in the car, or crate time after they were out running around having fun. This is the way to quickly build up the opposite of recall -avoidance. Instead, give your dog a few minutes between playtime and crate-time to relax and adjust, better yet, teach them a crate specific cue. Use treats to lure your dog to the bath, they may still be upset, but at least your recall isn’t associated.
Oops…. Did I ruin my dog?
Are you guilty of some of these? Is your dog completely ignoring their recall? Its okay! The best thing you can do is introduce a brand new recall word that doesn’t have any previous associations. Make sure you go through the complete training process with your new word and you’ll be back to recalling in no time.