As a dog trainer and mum to 19 rescue pooches, I feel that one of the most important things to teach our best pals is to have a good, solid recall. Why? because an out-of-control dog is dangerous and they can get hurt, lost or worse if they run off. Also, a dog without a reliable recall has to spend his entire life on a lead which can be frustrating for both dog and owner. So I have written a simple step-by-step blog for all the pooch parents out there whose dogs would rather run off and play with the puppy over the other side of the field than come back when called!
- First things first, begin practicing at home before trying to train them outside. Dogs are easily distracted so attempting to teach him a new thing whilst in the middle of a field full of new and interesting smells is far too tempting and you’d just be setting your dog up for failure.
- When you’re at home, pop lots of tasty treats in a treat pouch and randomly call your dog by their name followed by “come” or “here” throughout the day. When your dog comes to you, reward with a treat. Only reward when your dog comes after you’ve asked him to, not any other time.
- Repeat this as many times during the day as you like all over the house but don’t go too over the top as you want your dog to be as responsive as possible and not get bored of the exercise! We are aiming to establish a conditioned emotional response so that whenever your dog hears his name he instantly thinks “tasty treat” or “my favourite ball”. A bit like that feel good feeling humans get when we hear an ice cream van, because the sound is immediately associated with fond childhood memories and ice cream!
- Once your dog is running to you every time you call him inside the house (this may take a few days), move the training into the back garden. Repeat the above in the garden but you may need to increase the awesomeness of your treats because of the distracting outdoor smells.
- When your dog is responding well in the garden and the house, practice calling him out on walks while he’s attached to a long line (not a flexi-lead). You don’t want him loose at first in case he ignores you as this wouldn’t be safe and it also teaches him that it’s okay to run off, which erases all your hard work.
- You may need to increase the reward value outside on walks but ensure you offer something he only gets on walks when he responds to you, not any other time! This makes the reward much more valuable to your dog so he will want to work for it. (Think you being asked to do the exact same job for £50 vs £500 - which would you work the hardest for?)
- If your dog isn’t motivated by food even after increasing the tastiness to tiny slithers of chicken/cheese/sausage etc, try a toy instead. Some dogs will do anything for food but others would much rather work for their favourite toy. Again, only let him have the toy on walks with you and not at home.
- Once your dog is reliable on the long line you can then drop the lead but keep it attached to your dog so that it’s dragging along the ground, this is in case you need to step on it if he decides to ignore you.
- Finally, once you’ve both worked on a reliable recall your dog can have much more freedom and you can pick and choose when to reward him with a high value treat/toy or when to just give him a bit of fuss. This will keep him on his toes, wondering when the next reward is coming.
- Encourage your dog to follow you and keep up by suddenly stopping and turning on your heel now and again to keep his focus on you and not the Labrador 50 metres away!
- Play games such as hide and seek with your dog and the rest of the family to keep walks fun and interesting. If your dog is bored then he will look elsewhere for fun which is where a lot of recall problems stem from!
Tip: I like to train my dogs to recall to my voice and a whistle. Teaching both is useful as your voice alone can sometimes get lost if it’s a windy day or if you’re walking with other people who are all talking. Frequently speaking to your pooch throughout the walk is great but it means he may switch off to your voice after a while whereas a whistle is a very distinct sound, which will grab your pups attention much quicker.
Feel free to send us a message if you have any questions and keep your eyes peeled for my next step-by-step training blog!