This is your dog’s most important skill. It’s valuable during emergencies when your dog is about to cross a busy road; when he’s about to disappear from the other side of the field in pursuit of a squirrel; or when he has been frightened by something (e.g. a loud noise), and is on the verge of running away. A good Recall will interrupt your dog’s thought or emotional response to something and have him coming straight back to you.
THE FIVE RULES OF RECALL:
1. Never call your dog for anything unpleasant such as nail clipping, bathing or having his leash clipped on to go home from the park. In short anything that might give him pause the next time you call him.
2. Never call your dog if you are not sure he will come. All recalls should be successful recalls. Work at your dog’s level. If he has a kindergarten recall, don’t give him a graduate assignment like being called away from a cat in a tree.
3. If you call your dog and he doesn’t come, you must make it happen. Run over to him and put a treat in front of his nose, backing up as you get his attention so he follows you.
4. Never repeat the cue. Resist the urge to call over and over and over. It only teaches your dog to tune out the cue. Call once and, if necessary, use rule 3. Make the recall happen.
5. Fabulous rewards get fabulous recalls. If you want your dog to stop whatever interesting doggy thing he is doing and come running to you, make it worth his while. Use extra yummy treats—no dry biscuits here!—or a well-thrown ball, if that is your dog’s fancy. Give a minimum of 5 treats for every single recall.
GIVE FABULOUS TREATS FOR COMING TO YOU
- Inside your house, call your dog to you. Always use a cheerful tone of voice, and make sure you are loud enough to be heard. Remember to actually give the cue (“Fido, here”); your dog’s name by itself is not a recall. The dog doesn’t have to come from a great distance away. Even three feet away from you that first time is good enough.
- When your dog comes to you, give him a minimum of five very yummy treats. Actually 30 treats would be better. Give the treats to him one after the other so that he doesn’t just swallow them in one go.
- Practice this just once a day for the next two weeks. Every day. Inside your house. No distractions.
- Use extra yummy treats: pecorino romano cheese, thick sliced ham, last night’s beef roast. Cut the treats small as always, and give them to your dog one at a time. This prolongs the excellence of the reward and thus reinforces the behavior even more strongly.
- Use a special word for the recall. Many people have burnt out the word “come” for their dogs through overuse.
START BUILDING DURATION AND DISTRACTIONS
- Gradually start to increase the distance that your dog has to come to you.
- Always give him a minimum of five very yummy treats. You will do this for the rest of his life.
- Now lure your dog with that first treat to sit directly in front of you, close enough that you could reach out and touch his collar (but don’t touch it yet). Also, do not verbally cue the sit; we want the sit to be a part of the recall cue.
- Once your dog is confidently sitting in front of you to receive his treats, start to reach out your other hand towards his collar. Gently take hold of his collar.
- Practice again, but this time, add clipping the leash on to your dog’s collar.
- Now introduce mild distractions such as toys lying around, people standing nearby, etc.
- If your dog flinches away from you when you reach out to take hold of his collar, then you have proceeded too fast too quickly. Back up a step, and work at desensitizing your dog to having his collar taken a hold of (speak to your instructor if you’re not sure on how to do this).
- Whenever you ask your dog to come to you for the next 10 – 15 years of his life, make sure that you have some yummy treats to give him. Occasionally remind him of the fabulous reward of 30 treats.
- It’s important to keep reminding your dog that the recall really means “cookies” for the rest of her life. This is your dog’s emergency recall, and the stronger and more ingrained the behavior is in her repertoire, the easier you will be able to save your dog’s life should you ever need to.
- Concentrate on Recall as a good thing.
Start indoors. Each dog/handler team are connected to each other using their usual 6 foot leash. Progress to the next stage or back up to a previous stage depending on the dog’s progress. Working with individual teams at a time:
- The handler asks the dog to wait or stay (handler’s choice), then walks to the end of the leash leaving their dog behind.
- The instructor will stand to the side of the handler/dog team forming a triangle, but outside of leash length so that the dog can’t reach the handler. The instructor holds a small canister containing food.
- The handler will call the dog to come to them.
- As the dog returns to the handler, the instructor will wave the canister in front of herself.
- Reward with the dog with a minimum of 5 treats for a successful recall.
- Repeat, the instructor drops the treat canister to the ground.
- Repeat, the instructor drops a toy (ball or squeaky toy) to the ground.
- Repeat, the instructor throws the toy into the dog’s path.
Go to a new location, preferably outdoors, and put the dog/handler teams onto an extra 10 foot long line. Repeat the above exercises.
Repeat on a 20-foot long line.