Posted: Mar 12 2009
Whether you’re in the backyard or at an off-leash dog park, a reliable recall is one of the most important behaviors you can teach your dog.
Start with your dog on a six foot leash. Say your dog’s name, then your recall cue (”Come”, “Here” or whatever you’re comfortable with) and begin moving backwards. When your dog moves toward you, say “Yes!” and reward her with lots of treats. Repeat this for about 10 minutes and take a break.
You can begin adding some distractions to the exercise. With your dog on a long line, wait until she is distracted then call her name and move backwards. If your dog does not turn and move toward you gently remind her with the long line. Always reinforce the correct response.
If you have a partner you can play the recall game. With your dog on a long line, stand about 20 feet away from your partner. Take turns calling your dog and rewarding her when she comes. If she needs help, pick up the end of the long line to remind her.
Proofing the Recall
Professional dog trainers use the term “proofing” to describe ways in which we can test our dog’s commitment to a behavior. For instance, my dog may be able to come when called in the backyard, but if we are out at the dog park she has a hard time leaving her doggy friends and coming to me. As you work with your dog on particular behaviors you’ll begin to notice ways in which to proof her. The most common ways to proof are distance, distraction and duration.
Practice the recall in a variety of locations always with your dog on leash or on a long line. Incorporate distance into your training routine. It’s easy with a long line because you can call your dog from 5 feet away, 10 feet away and even 20 feet away. The more distance between you and your dog, the harder it will be for her to respond.
Utilize distractions in your training. I like to proof my dog’s recall by calling her off other dogs, squirrels, tennis balls and food on the floor. Remember to use your leash or long line. You can also enlist the help of a family member or friend to distract your dog and provide a means by which to proof her.
Tips for Refining the Recall
While you are in the process of teaching the recall, be sure not to dilute your cue system. This means that until your dog understands the recall, never call her unless you can back up your cue (i.e. with your long line or leash). Often times we bombard our dogs with verbal cues that they don’t really understand. You can become a more effective trainer by using management tools in your training sessions AND in your everyday life. For instance, always let your dog out in the backyard on a long line so that when you call her you know she’ll come!
Never call your dog for something unpleasant or scary. For example, when leaving the dog park call your dog, put her leash on and allow her to play with her favorite toy for several minutes before going home. Never punish your dog for not coming when called – use your management tools to ensure your dog is successful.
Play hide & seek with your dog. This is especially good for puppies because they are used to following Mama Dog. By playing hide & seek you encourage your dog to keep her eye on you instead of the other way around.
Train in a safe spot. Work in a fenced area like a park or even a tennis court. Always work with a leash or long line. And, most importantly: Practice! Practice! Practice!