Does your dog come when called – or leave you shouting their name over and over in front of everyone at the dog park?
Recall is the most important skill to teach any dog. It’s handy if your dog ever escapes your yard, or if you ever want to enjoy an off-leash hike in a wooded area. Start teaching recall early, and practice every single day.
Never scold your dog if they come when called… even if it takes forever.
You’re calling after your dog, and they ignore you as they roll in a fresh pile of horse manure… only to come racing back with that big doggy smile and stinky streaks all over their fur.
We all feel annoyed when our dogs don’t come immediately, but it’s imperative that you control any anger, annoyance, or irritation you feel towards your dog, and do not let your emotions affect your reaction.
When people scold their dogs upon their return, they set them up for failure.
Your dog will only return to you if you have trained them to realize that going to you is better than being away from you. If you yell at, scold, or otherwise scare or intimidate your dog, they’ll be much more likely to run off next time they’re out of reach.
Use a consistent cue – or a whistle.
The best way to call your dog by voice is to always use the same cue (a word like, come!) called out in a happy, singsong voice.
However, it’s tough to keep your voice consistent in every situation.
Your dog can hear a whistle for many yards, and will never be able to tell if you’re angry, scared or anxious through the high-pitched tone.
Use high-value treats to teach and maintain a strong recall.
Every time you whistle or call your dog, have a treat ready to give them when they come back to you.
Learn what your dog really loves, and try to have that on hand as often as possible.
Dry, crunchy biscuits are cheaper, but they are not very rewarding to most dogs. If your dog knows that you’ll offer them a boring biscuit upon their return, they won’t feel compelled to come when you call them away from a dead rabbit.
Meat, cheese and peanut butter are all high value rewards that will get your dog’s attention.
Freeze-dried liver can be found in bulk in many pet stores, and many dogs find it irresistible.
Reward your dog with a high-value treat whenever they come to you. You need to do this consistently for your dog’s entire life to build a strong recall. When you don’t have access to treats, and need to call your dog, there’s a bigger chance they’ll obey if you typically offer tasty rewards.
Make every call a party.
Avoid calling your dog just before giving them a bath or clipping their nails. This will build a negative association that can take days to reverse.
Always praise your dog for coming to you. Call your dog before a car ride, play session or mealtime. Many dogs respond even better to lots of praising and pets than to a high-value treat.
Mix it up by running away from your dog just as they approach you. Encourage your dog to chase you, but never play games that involve you chasing your dog.
If you can convince your dog that going to you is the best thing in the world, no distraction will be able to keep them from coming when called – with lightning speed!
Use a long line or a leash.
Some people mistakenly think that, when dog owners allow their dogs to roam off-leash, they must be amazingly skilled at training their dog. However, the person who has their dog off-leash outside of the dog park is more likely to be irresponsible than not. They will typically have trouble gaining control of their dog should it chase after a squirrel, bother other people or dogs, or worse – dash into the street.
No matter how well-trained your dog is, you need to follow leash laws and understand that no dog is perfect.
Your dog can be just as happy if you take them out on a leash or on a long line. A long line is a leash that can be 30 to 50 feet long – plenty of room for your dog to explore, with enough control to keep them safe.
When will it be worth it?
It can take months for your dog to develop a habit of coming to you when called, even with distractions. Hang in there, and keep working on it. With lots of high-value rewards and praise, you can prove to your dog that you are more interesting than their environment, and it’s always worthwhile to come back to you.