Rocket Recall; Teaching a Dog to Come: Part I
Having a dog come to you when called is one of the most important cues for any dog to know. This cue can save a dog’s life. Yet, many dogs have what we like to call “selective hearing”; they come when they want to. The reasons behind a dog refusing to come when called depends upon the competing motivators and the dog’s previous experiences. For instance, if you are at a dog park with your dog and you call for your dog, you have the competing motivators of the other dogs around him. Plus, if the only times you call your dog to come to you is when it’s time to leave, which is no fun for your dog, you have previous experiences that your dog perceives as negative. He’s going to continue to play with his buddies and ignore you. We have to reinforce coming HEAVILY at the start and always make sure we’re keeping it fun for the dog.
Here are some pointers to follow when first teaching a rock-solid recall:
- Do Not call your dog away from something that is fun for them. (e.g. playing with other dogs, eating a meal, chasing a toy etc…)
- Do Not call your dog to you to do something they don’t like or is non-fun; such as: nail trims, bath time or being crated.
- Instead go and get your dog, because you’ll probably have to anyway if they haven’t had proper recall training up until this point. We don’t want to poison the cue.
- Always have reinforcers on you when you’re working on recall training. Reinforcers are what the dog likes, not what you think the dog likes. Food is always a great choice because it’s a primary reinforcer for all animals.
- When practicing in open spaces, always have your dog on a long-line for safety.
- I do not advise using shock collars or other aversive training devices, since many dogs develop behavioral issues when such items are used on them.
Your dog should know his name well, which is the first step for recall training. Practice the Name Game with your dog to develop a strong association between their name and good things happening!
- Grab some treats or do this at meal time and use your dog’s kibble.
- Toss a treat to the floor, once your dog eats the food, say his name once, when he turns his head to look at you, say YES! and toss another treat to the floor.
- Continue this game until your dog is whipping his head around to look at you.
The next step is to only say the word Come when your dog is moving towards you. (Note: If you’ve been using the word Come in the past for your dog and he hasn’t responded, I suggest you start teaching the recall using a new cue word, such as: Here, Front, Pronto, Hurry etc…)
- Again you can toss a treat, only a little further away this time.
- Your dog will go out after the treat.
- This time as he finishes, say his name, when he gives you his attention, take few steps backwards whilst kissing to him or patting your leg, encouraging him to follow you, when he does, say Come.
- When he gets to you, say YES! and directly hand feed him a treat.
- Then repeat.
Check out the whole series: