By Eric Gillaspy
The words or cue that you use to tell your dog to get to you as quickly as possible should be the favorite words your dog ever hears. Rewarding your pup with yummy treats and lots of praise is the best way to make sure their recall is perfect when you really, really need it.
When you begin training make sure there are no distractions around to help ensure a reliable recall. Your own home would be a great place to start. Begin when your dog is only a few feet away. Say your cue or command (I use “come here”). The second your pup looks at you, start to praise. Make sure to be REALLY excited and reward her with food, toys, pets, scratches or whatever you are using as your motivator. Your dog getting to you should be a BIG party.
If you have a lot of people in the house, have everyone start the day with 10 yummy treats in their pocket or treat pouch. Make a goal of 10 random recalls throughout the day. Another really easy way to reinforce a solid recall is to play hide and seek. Have one or two people hide in the house with some yummy treats or a favorite toy. Take turns calling your pup to you. When the pup finds you, reward and have a “come here” party.
Once your pup has mastered the recall inside the house, start to generalize the behavior to outside. Make sure to practice this in a safe area. A great place to start is the backyard. Have your pup on a long leash. If you don’t have one, a long piece of rope with a carabineer attached works just fine. I like to use a 30 foot long lunge line. You can buy them at most pet stores or livestock stores. The key here is to never let your pup fail to get to you. Go to your area and let your pup just drag the leash around for a few minutes. When you see your pup start to get a little bored with the area, say your “come here” cue. The second your pup looks at you, start to praise and walk backwards. Use the word “good” to encourage your pup to get to you quickly. When she gets to you, have a “come here” party and then let her go enjoy her free time. Let her sniff and walk around for a few more moments and then call her again. Try to work on extending the distance in your safe area before moving to a more distracting area.
I like to shoot for five recalls in a session. Keep it fun and exciting. Try not to leave the “fun” area after a successful “come here.” You don’t want your pup to think that the fun ends when they come to you.
Now it’s time to use your pup’s new rock solid recall. Take your dog to a new area or on a hike. Let your pup drag the long leash behind them as you walk. I like to have my pup wearing a harness in case the leash catches on anything. Randomly call your pup to you. If she turns to look at you, use the word “good” to motivate her to continue coming to you. Once she gets to you, have a “come here” party with treats, praise, and some petting.
If your pup doesn’t turn to come to you, step on the leash to stop her from going anywhere else. Calmly walk down the leash until you are right by your pup. Pick up the leash and lead her back to roughly the same spot you called her from and still have a “come here” party. Then let her have her freedom for a minute while still dragging the leash. Never leave the area after a successful recall, always let them have some fun time after they get to you.
Make sure to keep things positive for your pup. “Come here” should be your pups favorite two words to hear. Try not to call your dog to you for anything they may perceive as being negative. So try not to use your recall for your pup if they have done something you don’t like. Don’t call your pup if you are going to put them in a crate or if the fun times are over. Only call your pup to you if something great is going to happen!