Training a dog to come when called, no matter what the distraction takes time but can be super fun for you both. Recall is one of my favourite things to train. Grab some awesome treats and toys, a long line and your dog, and lets train!
If your dog is taking off, think like a dog: Where is the reinforcement, and how can I make the reinforcement be with me?
The number one concern your dog has in life is “What can I get out of this?” Let’s prove that they get the most out of staying with us.
Let your dog wear a long line if you aren’t sure about recall. This allows for freedom to learn while staying safe.
Call and LEAVE in a fun way. Do not stand still or go towards your dog. The faster and more energetically you leave, the better!
Reward with play always. That means play ball or tug, or for dogs more food motivated, toss those cookies around! Do not simply hand your dog a treat. Be fun.
Never ‘punish’ your dog for coming to you. After you reward with play, you can ask for a sit or clip on a leash, but not before!
Dismiss your dog after playing. Dismissal is a key part of training a recall. Give your dog permission to go sniff/pee on things, etc. Send your dog away from you rather than letting him or her wander off when bored of you.
Before you venture off leash, can your dog relax and be thoughtful ON leash around distractions? If your dog cannot be thoughtful and has a difficult time just chilling beside you for some yummy treats, chances are you won’t have much of a recall if you let your dog loose. Practice relaxing in many environments and near distractions. Practice makes perfect! This helps desensitize your dog to the distractions
Recall, Play, and Dismiss
Practice calling your dog throughout the walk – not only when you want to attach a leash and leave. If your dog learns (and will learn quickly!) that being called is followed by going home, he or she will be wary of responding. You never want the recall to predict the fun ending – so make sure the fun continues when they come to you.
Once you play, 9 out of 10 times, dismiss your dog. That 1 in 10 times that you leash him will be unexpected compared to the probability of play and a dismissal.
More Games to Help Train A Reliable Recall
Let Your Dog Hunt – With You
Dogs want to hunt. That’s what they were born to do. Use this desire to your advantage and let your dog hunt with you, on your terms. Play food chase games. Toss a piece of food, run away as he or she is sniffing around for it and watch your dog chase you at maximum speed when they realize how far away you have gotten
Impulse Control & Leave-It Games
If you’ve taken a puppy or beginner obedience class, you probably learned “It’s Your Choice” or “Zen Bowl” games. These are fantastic games to play out on walks to train your recall. If your dog cannot call away from a boring old milk bone, you know you have some work to do before you try a recall away from a squirrel.
(Check out Absolute Dogs for fun and detailed explanations of some of these games)
Play games that build confidence and teach your dog to love being close to you and being touched.
Over/Under/Leg Weaves. Is your dog keen to weave between your legs? Or if you are sitting, to crawl over or under your legs?
Recall to Through. Call your dog and instead of just tossing the cookie, spread your legs wide and toss the cookie through your legs. Is your dog comfortable and happy to run through your legs or would he rather avoid being in your space?
1 – Hold Cookies in both hands, one hand on either side of your face.
2 – Your dog will stare at one hand or go back and forth looking at each hand. As this game becomes boring, he will look to you for guidance. Say ‘Yes!’ and give him a cookie from the hand your dog was not looking at.
3 – Repeat in low distraction areas and work up to higher distraction areas. Once your dog is good at this, you can add a word such as “watch” or “look”. But don’t add that word too soon or it won’t have any meaning !