The most common complaint dog owners have is that their dog won’t come to them when called. I had the same problem with Geo when I got him. We practice every day, sometimes once, sometimes many, many times. I look for opportunities and there are the necessary times I have to call Geo to come to me. I’ve successfully called him off chasing deer twice. Still, there is rarely a perfect recall. If you have looked at my Facebook page I have posted many videos of us having fun practicing recalls.
Fun is the keyword. Just as you don’t want to hang around a grump—neither does your dog. Make yourself more fun and interesting than what is in your dog’s environment during practice. That would mean practice in an area low in distractions for your dog—inside your house or a quiet area of the yard. Keep your voice friendly. This is where using a whistle for the recall is handy because the whistle tone is always the same. Stand up in a relaxed pose-dogs find a forward leaning pose threatening. Use rewards your dog likes. If someone called my name and I thought they might have a $5 bill to give to me, I’d run to them. Food is the easiest reward because it’s quickly delivered. I use pinkie fingernail sized pieces of hot dog, cheese, or chicken. These are high value to most dogs. You’ve set the scene, now practice is very short sessions of 3-5 minutes.
Start by getting your dog on a leash to keep him close. Say your dog’s name and reward him when he comes to you. Watch for times when your dog is looking away from you and call him. You can step backwards to encourage him to come towards you quickly. When your dog gets to you—reward, reward, reward. Be generous with tiny rewards, dogs understand quantity. Do this as many times a day as you can for a couple weeks so your dog gets in the habit of listening for you to call him.
Never call your dog to you when you are going to do something your dog finds unpleasant-nail clipping, going to the Vet, getting a bath, etc. I would never call Geo to me to put him in the car. He does not enjoy car rides, yet! When he can tell I’m getting ready to leave, he runs to his bed as if to say, “I’ll hold down the fort.” If he needs to go with me, I go to him, calmly leash him up without saying anything and put him in the car.
As with all training sessions, only do recall practice when you are positive your dog will come to you. Set the scene for success: no distraction, your dog’s a couple feet away, he’s on a leash or long line. Remember to keep training sessions short—less than 5 minutes, but have them frequently—several times a day. Reward heavily every time he comes to you. I play Hide and Seek with my dogs, I go into another room and call my dog. When he comes running, we have a party of pets, treats, or a trip into the yard to play fetch.
Recall classes with be offered this summer. They will be 3 weeks long, meeting once a week. Call Rock Nest Training & Pet Care for more information at 541-895-3162. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/rocknestpetcare