Teaching your puppy to come, or RECALL as it is more often known as, when called could potentially be the absolute most important life saving skill you could teach.
Often times we find our puppies have one track minds. I even see it all too often with my dog, when she sees another dog across the street. I watch her take notice, become full alert, and take off in a full sprint to go meet the other dog and make friends.
I love that my puppy is social and loves making friends, and we don’t want to have to leash her up in order to go to the bathroom, therefore teaching her to come on command is top priority for us. So, let’s take a look at how we were able to accomplish this and some tips for being effective.
RECALL IS NOT GOING TO WORK FOR PUNISHMENT!!!!
When teaching the recall, you need to be very careful how you go about doing this. When you’re trying to get your dog to come so they can get in trouble, or get thrown in the bath, or their nails clipped, etc., can certainly add a negative connotation to the desired action.
This makes it incredibly important to remember that this is a method meant to REPLACE PUNISHMENT, not to bring Puppy to you to receive punishment. The minute you start recalling your puppy to punish them, they won’t want to come to you when you call.
So, before beginning training, you must first analyze your relationship with your dog and decide if you trust them enough and if they trust you enough. There needs to be a deep MUTUAL TRUST between you and your dog.
You must TRUST your dog well enough to use recall as a distraction from punishment rather than to bring them to a punishment. I’m not going to use my cue to call my dog and then toss her in the tub. She’ll never come again. But what I will do is if she jumps up on someone, rather than yelling at her and telling her to get down, I will use my recall and get her to come to me. It gets her paws back on the ground where they belong, I don’t have to look like an asshole, and my pupper doesn’t feel like she’s in trouble.
Your dog must also TRUST you that you aren’t going to give them heck if they come to you EVEN IF THEY DID SOMETHING WRONG!
With that being said, let’s start looking into how we are going to train our dogs to be able to come when called.
What Are Your Dog’s Favorite Incentives?
In order to teach your dog a proper recall, you must use a premium incentive. The average training treat will not suffice for this command, although you are still going to use those treats in tandem with other options. A great example would be a walk, or a game of tug, or a special chew stick.
Now that you should already have a pretty good idea of what your canine companion really enjoys doing. You will want to use that to get your pupper to come to you. Let me give you an example:
- My dog, Bailey, absolutely loves going for walks, and chewing on cow hooves. When I am teaching her the recall, I will go to the door with a hoof in my hand. I will use my chosen cue word, which is “Omaha” (a little tribute to Payton Manning), and jiggle her leash. She comes running down the hall towards me and stops and sits right at my feet for me to put her harness on. I give her tons of praise, and a hoof, and a click from my clicker. Instead she doesn’t want the hoof but would rather go for a walk, therefore I take her for a little walk around the block.
That’s basically how you do it.
Extend Your Learning Time
Because the training of this command involves high value incentives, it’s not a cue you can practice over and over with repetition and consistency, therefore it is going to take a VERY long time to learn. You must be patient, as some dogs will take YEARS to learn this.
It is important this be done properly, as it can be lifesaving for a dog. I don’t need to have my dog on her leash in the front yard because if I say “Omaha”, she comes running right to me and sits at my feet. If I feel she is about to run across the street at another dog, and she does that full alert thing I mentioned earlier, I just recall her and praise her for coming to me and tell her what a good girl she is; no car accidents to worry about now!
Recall Should Always Be Associated with Fun
As I mentioned several times already, recall is not meant to get your dog to come to you to get in doodoo. Therefore, it should always be associated to something fun. Bailey, my pup, doesn’t just waltz over casually when I recall her. She bounds full tilt like a bat-out-of-hell (gotta love Meatloaf) because whatever I am calling her for is probably AWESOME.
Teaching recall is a wonder resource of comfort for us knowing that she WILL come when we use her cue. Having said that, it will need to be maintained for life. You both will never be done learning with this cue, yet I can not stress enough the importance of its use.
Let The Good Times Roll
Teaching a recall cue to your dog does not necessarily mean you can take your dog out to a crowded public park and expect you won’t have to use a leash, or anything like that. What it does mean is in the event that something goes wrong and you have the need to recall your puppy, you have that in your back pocket.
Keep in mind, this is meant to be a BACKUP PLAN in the event of an emergency. If you start abusing this cue, you will lose that trust with your pupperoni pizza.
Thanks for reading. We’d love to hear about your experiences, or any tips or tricks you may wish to share in the comment section below.