Here are my Top Tips for recall!
1. Build value for your recall word
I recommend choosing a word for recall, rather than using your dog’s name. We tend to say our dog’s name a lot and quite often out of context of recall. Once you have chosen your word, play the name game. In a low distracting environment, so a quiet room in your house is good for starters, ask your dog to sit in front of you. Whilst they are looking at you say your recall word and give them a treat. Repeat this a few times. What you are doing is making a pairing between the word and something your dog likes (food!). Once you’ve played this game a few times with your dog looking at you, wait to catch them looking away and then say your recall word. When they re-orientate back to you, reward. Take this game to more advanced levels gradually and practise in lots of different places, being careful to up the distraction level slowly.
2. Know what makes your dog tick
If you had to write down a list of things your dog finds distracting could you find 10 different things? That is your task! Write 10 things your dog finds distracting and rate them from 1 to 10 in terms of distraction level. 1 being something your dog is very slightly distracted by, 10 being something your dog certainly wouldn’t recall away from. Having this information will help you plan your recall training sessions and it will also enable you to ensure you aren’t putting your dog in a level 10 distraction environment when he isn’t ready.
3. Up the distractions SLOWLY
Like with the recall name game, when practising recall, the best place to start is in the house, practise in all the rooms in your house. Then take your training out into the garden and so on. Lots of training can be done in the home and we strongly recommend that this is the place that all training starts.
4. Have a picture in your head as to what you want your recall to look like
When you picture your dog recalling back to you, what does it look like? For me, my perfect recall is; I call, my dog turns around instantly and runs as fast as they can back to me. To help you achieve what you want, have an image of how you want your recall to look and write it down. Setting this criteria will make things clearer.
5. What are your dog’s favourite rewards?
For each of my dogs, I know what they find rewarding and I have a list from low value to high value. Knowing what rewards you can use and what level of value they are to your dog will help you to have an arsenal of reinforcement for your recall training. List what your dog finds rewarding and really think outside of the box.
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.