Are you more fun than dirt? Think of all the competing distractions for your dog’s attention: food, people, other dogs, squirrels, all the good smells in the dirt. Can you compete with that for your dog’s attention especially with they are off-leash and they don’t have to listen to you when they don’t want to?
In the photo above, Mr. N is ignoring the other people and dogs and the Chuckit to come running back to me when I called him. He loves running after dogs who are chasing a Chuckit ball. We achieved this by:
1. Never using a recall for anything unpleasant. Nail trimming, baths, etc. Mr. N finds leaving the park really hard so instead of telling him to come, I will tell him to wait and catch up with him and put his leash on and treat.
2. Always, always rewarding check-ins. If your dog decides to pop in and check in with you, reward! You want them to think that coming to you is a good thing. Especially of their own volition
3. Practice makes perfect. We practice recall regularly at all levels (low to high distractions). Mr. N’s favorite might be when I call him randomly across the house and share tidbits from cooking in exchange for him zooming over.
4. Punishment is not the answer for not listening. If Mr. N doesn’t listen, the fun ends but I do not yell, scold or use any form of physical punishment.
5. Don’t call them if you think you won’t come. Unless you’re at least 90 percent sure they will come back, don’t call your dog. You’ll only weaken the cue. Mr. N’s recall is good around just about everything else… but horses are a little iffy. If I see horses, I’ll put him back on leash as a precaution.
6. Your dog should think they hit the lottery for coming back. Lots of high value treats or whatever else they find intensely rewarding. Mr. N prefers “human food” in the form of meat and cheese.
7. Work your way up from small distractions to big. Practice indoors first and then once they’re reliable there, practice outdoors with a long line and add more distractions as they progress.
8. It’s helpful working with another dog who has a reliable recall especially if the other dog is young and impressionable. I started teaching a friend’s puppy how to come on cue by having Mr. N do it with him.
9. Switch to a different cue if yours is tainted. If your dog is blowing you off the majority of the time with your current cue, start fresh with a new one and train from the beginning. I haven’t actually switched cues but a friend has and Mr. N comes to her dog’s new cue as well as his normal one. If I had to switch, I think I’d pick “zombies!”
10. Just say the cue once. Don’t repeat yourself over and over. If I think the environment is particularly distracting, I’ll say it while running in the opposite direction and making high-pitched noises and Mr. N will usually come chase me.
What have you found effective in teaching a reliable recall?
Welcome to First Monday’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below. Our theme for this month is recall but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin Monday, April 4th and continues for a week. The theme for April is training for safety and emergencies for National Pet First Aid Awareness Month.