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Building a Reliable Recall

September 1, 2015

 
Coming when called requires a solid foundation of practice


Teaching a dog a powerful and reliable recall (come when called) is an invaluable and potentially life-saving skill. A dog who can turn on a dime and run towards you at top speed, regardless of whatever temptation they were enjoying, is a beautiful sight to behold. Training this requires commitment, practice, and enthusiasm. 

Where to begin
As with all new behaviors, start somewhere easy with minimal distractions such as your living room or garage. Get a stash of really delicious treats-- chicken, meatballs, hotdogs, whatever makes your dog go gaga! Say your dog's name to make sure you have their attention, then say your cue in a clear and cheerful tone- "COME!!", and run a few steps with your dog. If you're using a clicker, click when your dog is running their fastest. When you both stop, give your dog three treats in a row. Then try it again, "Fido! COME!!" and run away a few feet. Click while the dog is running and then deliver three treats, one after the other, when you've both stopped.

Keep it fun, make it reliable 
While your dog is still learning "come," only call them if you are 99% sure they are actually going to come to you and if you are able to pay them for it. Don't risk of making "come" meaningless by putting your dog in a situation that is simply too tempting for them before they're ready. 

Remember to avoid inadvertently punishing your dog for coming to  you. Calling your dog to you and then putting them in the house to leave for work, or giving them a bath, or putting on their leash and leaving the dog park teaches your dog that "come" can mean good or bad things. If you need to get your dog in one of these instances, go out and gather them up. You could also use a more casual cue like "Time to come in!" or "Where's the dog?" 

Build on the foundations
When your dog gets the hang of the game, try it out in different rooms, for longer distances, and then in different outside locations. (Be sure to follow the law and keep your dog leashed!) With this basic foundation in place, you can begin to gradually increase the criteria with different setups and fun games. If your dog is having a hard time at any stage, back up in the process and make it easier for them to succeed before trying again.

Always keep recalls fun, happy, and upbeat! There are lots of great ways to turn "come" into a game:

-Surprise Recalls
Put your dog on a long line (20-30 ft leash) or in a fenced-in safe area. Toss a few treats on the ground and casually walk a few feet away. When they aren't expecting it, say, "Fido! COME!" Just as before, run away from them to encourage them to come along and give them three treats in a row when you stop.

-Resisting Temptations
Ask a helper to hold some treats in their hand for your dog to sniff, but don't let them eat any. Walk a few feet away and call your dog, using inviting body language or exciting whistles to encourage them to turn away. When they do, run with them and give them three treats in a row when you stop. Gradually make this more difficult by having the helper let the dog nibble some of the treats or play with a toy before calling the dog away. 

-Ping Pong Recalls- video below

 

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