When it comes to our puppy or life skills classes I’d say the number one thing people have high on their training agenda is recall. Recall is a complex behaviour and it comes part in parcel with the relationship you have with your dog. Its common sense really, the more value your dog has for you, the more likely they are going to come back when called!
- So what is your perfect recall?
- What does it look like?
- How does it feel?
- What are your expectations or criteria for it?
- Does your recall need work?
- Are you stuck for ideas?
Here are my top 5 tips:
- Choose a special recall word. Has your dog learnt to ignore their name or current recall word? If that’s the case then it may be best to start from scratch with a new word. To the dog, all the word needs to mean is something amazing is about to happen. Build value for the word by playing the name game.
- Practice at home first. Set yourself up for success by practising your recall in your house and then out in the garden before taking your training out and about. When your dog is ready to be tested gradually build in distractions, when you are starting out don’t throw them in at the deep end by taking them to the park at the busiest time when there are lots of other dogs around. Building in distractions gradually is essential to the success of your recall training.
- Use a training line. The first rule with recall is to only say your word once. What do you do if your dog ignores you we hear you ask? Well, you go and get them. We appreciate that approaching your dog may instigate a game of chase me so using a training line puts paid to such shenanigans! By attaching the line to a harness and leaving it to trail means that if your dog ignores your recall, you can go and get them and if need be, you can step on the line to stop them from running off. This keeps your criteria black and white. As an extra tip, we recommend tying knots in the line so it doesn’t slip through your feet.
- Teach your dog to love having their collar grabbed. Most of the time the end bit of your recall is that you take the collar to attach the lead. Does your dog love having their collar grabbed or do they shy away? The collar grab game is simple. Grab collar, feed a treat, remove hand…and repeat. By doing this game you are building value for the collar being grabbed. If played enough it becomes a really fun game and you may find that your dog starts offering you their neck as they are so eager to have their collar grabbed!
- Don’t be obvious. If you only recall your dog when the walk is ending, your dog will soon learn this pattern! Throughout your walk practice your recall (don’t forget to reward your dog) many times and randomly attach the lead and then let your dog go again so your dog never knows when the fun is over.
Recall training should be fun and remember all recall needs to mean to your dog is; ‘I’ve heard that special word, something amazing is about to happen I had better get back to find out what’. And on that note, make sure something amazing does happen! Reward, celebrate and have a party with your dog when they have recalled. As we say to our life skills students, let go of your inhibitions and show your dog how pleased you are that they have come back. At the end of the day, cheering, whooping, clapping, congratulating and rewarding your dog when it comes back is far less embarrassing than having a dog that is running a mock in the park!
If you need our help, we have specific workshops which focus on recall and relationships. Click here to find out more.
About the Author: Lauren Langman is responsible for the design and development of all Devon Dogs classes, events and workshops. She competes in Agility at Grade 7, the highest rank of competition in the British agility arena. She regularly competes and wins at top agility events in the UK including Crufts and Olympia, and has represented the UK at World Agility Championship level on many occasions.