Not all dogs automatically come back to their owner when called, and that can be a problem for many reasons – especially when it comes to safety. Recall training is very important, albeit challenging – so here are 13 steps that you can take in order to achieve the best possible results.
Even if reliability is never guaranteed, you will surely be able to drastically improve your dog’s recall if you implement these steps to the letter!
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1. Use a single command exclusive to recall.
Consistency is the name of the game, and if you want your dog to come back when you call it your call should always be one and the same. This includes associating the call with something positive. If they are conditioned that there will be a yummy treat, a playful hug, or a lovely scratch behind the ear when they hear that specific call they will be more inclined to turn around and come back.
2. In recall training, always take baby steps.
This command isn’t learned overnight – and it may take some time before your dog gets the entire process. Always start with short distances while your dog is a leash, and slowly increase the distance when you see small improvements. Gradually add in distractions in small increments so your dog will also meet challenges in small but manageable doses.
3. Establish consistency with the chosen recall command.
Apart from associating it with something positive, always implement the same thing each and every time. This means giving out a good reward when they are called and they come back. The trick is always to get your dog to conclude that coming back to you will be a more rewarding act compare to racing around the yard and poking in the bushes.
4. Amp up the rewards to further concretize the behavior.
You don’t always have to give treats as a reward – in fact, you might want to mix it up so your dog will always get excited about what to expect. Motivating dogs in follow your recall command can be through a new toy, a short rough and tumble game, a favorite frisbee or some bacon chew strips.
The harder the scenario to follow a recall command (more distractions, a bigger space), the more rewarding the prize should be because your dog struggled harder to follow you.
5. Give the reward even before your pooch reaches you.
Doing so will assure the dog that he is doing the right thing and will be eager to continue staying focused to get to the prize. A clicker is a good way to show positive reinforcement, especially if your dog has to deal with long distances and distractions.
If you don’t have a clicker, even a verbal praise will do – just be sure not to overuse the verbal praise because if go overboard with it, it can lose its rewarding meaning.
6. Mix up your interesting and fun rewards.
Always strive to have a plethora of rewards for your dog so there is always something new for him to look out for. If the reward is the same each and every time (never mind if it is your dog’s favorite snack treat), trust that it will certainly lose excitement over time.
The novelty will wear off, so it’s important to keep the stakes high and exciting. Mix up an assortment of treats, games and toys; make your dog very excited to come back to you by wondering what nice thing he’s going to get!
7. Make a reward out of the release.
One way to keep things fun is to make a reward out of the release. This also means having a release command, like “Ok, go!”. This trick will be effective if there is a lot of distraction around. Give your dog it’s treat, and then give the cue that he can return back to what he was doing. This way, they will come to associate the release with a positive consequence.
8. Start recall command training early.
You can do recall training even while your pooch is just a puppy. As a young pup, they will learn by example as they follow the other pups in the litter around. A puppy can already be taught to come here, especially if you are able to establish positive reinforcement early on. While recall training can be done at any age, there is no denying that the earlier you start the better the foundation will be.
9. Avoid setting up your dog to fail.
Giving your dog choices is good, but not if there are too many of them. If your dog is still struggling to come back to you from a distance of five feet, don’t even make an attempt to practice recall training at the park.
Success is established when the challenges are manageable, so raising the bar when your dog isn’t ripe for it will only yield the opposite: failure. If your dog fails to listen, simply go and retrieve him. Avoid yelling or doing something stressful as you remove your dog from its distraction.
10. Avoid repeating yourself.
As a rule, only use the recall command once – at most, twice. Do not repeat the command, because it may emphasize to your dog that it is okay to ignore you. An association between not listening to you as you yammer on and whatever it is that they are doing might be made, thus ensuring selective hearing. This makes recall a lot less reliable.
If this is the case, just stop the training for the meantime because your dog might be too distracted, is feeling bored, or is not really ready for this particular training level.
11. Involve your family and friends.
Enforcing positive behaviors is easier when other people are on board. You are better able to establish consistency when more people are using the same method. Everyone should have a few minutes each day to practice their recall training so the dog will also be trained to listen to each member who executes the command.
12. If your dog fails to follow through, don’t punish him.
Even if your dog becomes naughty, strive to be relaxed and calm. This is to avoid establishing negative consequences. Just pick up your dog and do something else. A dog that receives negative consequences is less primed to follow commands and pay attention and can even develop behavioral issues.
13. If your dog loses interest, stop the training exercise.
Even if your dog is a very interested and enthusiastic learner, give it a break every fifteen minutes so it does not get distracted or bored. Training should always end on a high note, which will make your dog feel good and look forward to another opportunity to show you that it can and will follow your command.
As no two dogs are the same, it is important to find a balance where you can follow these commands and see how you can tailor fit it to your dog’s own personality. If you are able to accomplish this, you will surely have more proud moments with your dog as he makes more improvements in recall training!
Here’s the next step:
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