Teaching you dog to consistently come to you when called may be the single most important behavior you will ever teach them! It is a necessary tool to keep them and others safe and to avoid a lot of potentially dangerous situations.
The first step in teaching recall is to choose a command that you are comfortable saying out loud in public. “Here” or “front” are popular choices. If you have been using a cue or command that your pet does not respond to consistently, it is best to choose a new one before starting these exercises. During the training process, if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t think your dog will come or you can’t reinforce it (for example, your dog is off leash and playing with another dog) do not use the command word but try hand claps or whistling.
Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind when teaching the recall command:
- Always use a happy tone of voice to call your dog.
- Always reward your dog when they come to you. The reward can be a food treat, a highly valued toy, petting or verbal praise. When first starting the exercises, it is probably best to use a highly valued food reward.
- Never use the recall command to do something the dog doesn’t like!
- Do not engage in games where you chase the dog – only play games where the dog chases you.
- Start in a calm, safe environment free of distractions (such as your home) and gradually increase the level of distraction when your dog is responding consistently (different environments, playing with other dogs etc.) With each new level of distraction, start with short recalls and work up to longer ones.
- Keep it simple and keep it fun for your dog –try to set them up for success!
There are many different ways to teach the recall command to your dog – try and practice as many as possible. All of these exercise should be done initially on a leash (short then long – you can buy a long lead at any tack shop) before attempting them off leash.
- With your dog at your side, Say your dog’s name and your recall command (ie” Fido here”) then quickly run forward to the end of the leash. As soon as he or she starts towards you, click and when he or she catches up to you give them a reward. Repeat 10 times.
- With your dog in front of you, say your dog’s name and your recall command then back away from your dog 6-12 ft. Click as soon as they start towards you and give a treat when they reach you.
- Have another person hold the dog’s leash. Walk a short distance away and call the dog. When the helper releases the dog, run a short distance to encourage the dog to chase you. Again, click when the dog starts towards you and give a treat when they get to you.
Remember that training your dog will require patience, repetition and consistency but it is well worth the effort. Having a dog that will reliably come when called – priceless!