Five Quick Tips…….to get your dog to happily come running back to you whenever you call.
1. Take the time
To generate reliable recall, it’s important to take the time to build a 100% positive experience with your chosen recall cue (command) with high value rewards (such as chicken or hot dog). If your dog’s recall isn’t rewarded often and well enough then your dog will be more likely to continue to do their own thing, i.e. playing with other dogs or sniffing something of great interest which is terribly reinforcing in itself, and ignore your call. The reward doesn't always have to be food; it can be anything from a piece of chicken or cheese to a quick game of tug, throwing a ball or a good back scratch. Find out what your dog finds rewarding and use it!
2. Consider context
Do you only call your dog away from something that they are enjoying, i.e. when he or she is sniffing something extraordinarily important or when they are about to greet a new potential playmate? Do you only call your dog to you when it’s time to leave the park and go home? If the answer to the above is yes then this means that your dog starts to associate negative things are about to happen after you’ve called them and they will be less likely to return to you in any rush.
Instead, pay more into your dog’s recall bank account so that every time you call them it’s always met with a reward. Call your dog to you when he or she isn’t far away or occupied with something else, reward and then send her or him away to ‘go play/ sniff’. Practice recall often during your walks, a few quick sessions of calling back and forth, generating plenty of excitement and good memories.
3. Watch your body language and your voice
We all have those moments when our dog has found someone’s left over sandwich bits or when we are running late to leave the park and our furry friend has something better to do than joining us on our way home. Your voice probably starts to sound panicked, perhaps a little angry and maybe you’ve shouted ‘no’ first. Are you standing square up to your dog, elbows sticking out and hands locked onto your waist with an expression of utter disappointment on your face?
Those are all signs for your dog to stay away from you, after all would you return to someone who gives you all sorts of threatening signs? So try and regain a positive stance, keep calm, put a happy face on with a gentle voice, crouch down even and see what happens.
4. Don’t poison the cue and don’t overuse it
Your sweet friend should come running back to you on the first call….and yes, you are allowed a second attempt but that’s it! If you keep shouting for your dog to come back to you and they ignore you, then they will continue to ignore you and the hard work that you put into recall training will be lost. The only thing you are doing is teaching your dog that it’s ok to come back the tenth time you’ve called and it all just turns into white noise. And don’t overuse your recall cue during a walk, if you want your dog to simply follow you, rather than coming all the way to you, use a different cue such as ‘this way’.
5. Work at it
If you keep finding yourself in any of the above outlined ‘tricky’ situations over and over again, get back to the drawing board and work on your dog’s recall response. Clip a training line onto your dog’s harness to manage and get working.
As always, there’s so much more to add so this is simply a quick fire blog to help you on your way. If you want to delve into this any further, I’m always here to help you become the best dog parent possible.