I have always believed that recall is the most important command. It helps us to build our relationships with our dogs, it makes our lives easier and, most importantly, it keeps our dogs safe. A simple way to teach recall is to grab some treats, create a bit of distance between you and your dog (1-2 feet), call your dog using the words “come” or “here,” and reward your dog when they get to you. It’s important to have fun and make a game of it. Keep your body language loose, wiggly, and inviting. The happier you are, the more likely your dog is to come to you.
Here are some tips to make training for recall even better:
- Reward. The reward must be extra special for recall. I use things like hot dogs and cheese, but anything small, smelly and stinky would be a good option.
- Encourage. Verbally reward your dog many times during each component of the recall. It is impossible to be too excited for your dog to come to you.
- Communication. Give lots of feedback and use your knowledge of canine body language. Keeping your body to the side and running backward are great ways to invite your dog to come to you.
- Stay positive. Recall should always end positively. That awesome treat mentioned above should be dispensed right away. Pet your dog. Tell him he’s the best dog in the world (because he is, of course).
- Praise. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Use your high-pitched voice and be as positive as you can. Be the cheerleader your dog needs!
- Leash. Use your leash as training wheels to ensure success and rewards. If your dog isn’t successful off leash, or you’re trying it outside for the first time, your regular 6 foot leash or a long, cotton lead are really useful tools to keep your dog safe while allowing some movement to teach recall.
Remember, the premise for a recall is for your dog to choose to come to you over all the seemingly better options: trash on the ground, kids playing with balls or a dog across a busy street, but you have to start small. A few feet away from you in your kitchen is a great place to start. Then try your living room and then your backyard. Changing the environment slightly will increase the level of difficulty for your dog. If your dog is ever having difficulty, go back to the last place he was successful. Practice there a little more and then move back up. It’s important to work within your dog’s limitations.
Recall is a very important skill but takes a lot of practice with your dog, so don’t be discouraged if there are some bumps along the way. Have fun with it!
Jaime Migdal, CPDT KA, is the founder and CEO of Fetchfind, a talent recruitment and services organization dedicated to the pet industry.
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