Recall, aka coming when called

I posted about taking the opportunity to do some recall work with Roxy the other day (here if you missed it). I mentioned that her recall isn’t great.

In fact I find recall one of the most challenging to teach. It’s utopia, the thing we want to get right so we can let our dogs off leash to run in designated areas, and be able to confidently call them back. But it’s the most challenging because it’s so easy to get wrong and have failure reinforced.

We all know the theory, right? Be more interesting than dirt… Run backwards… Be exciting… Reserve your best motivator for recall only (smelly cheese anyone?)… Pick a word and only say it once so it means something… Never scald your dog when approaching you… Make sure you don’t call them back only when leaving, or they learn coming back to you restricts freedom… Be “engaged”…

It’s also high pressure. You’re usually in public, your dog is having a great time, maybe being a jerk. You’re running late for something. The tension is palpable. Embarrassment, or worse, ensues.

Time to take the pressure off. Let’s get back to basics.

  • Don’t get hung up on a cue word. In my post about Roxy I used her name. I have been teaching Roxy using “come”, and agree it’s important to not repeat the queue, for the same reason we don’t for “sit”. But it is OK to use what is going to be most successful for you and your dog in that moment.
  • Use a good reinforcer. Again, what will work for your dog in that moment. I actually used a brush the other day! Find the right currency for your dog in different scenarios, and pay it. Pay it every time with something. Don’t be predictable.
  • Practice and proof the behaviour. Make it fun (all training should be fun). Take baby steps. Practice. Practice when it doesn’t matter. Be an opportunist.

Remember, dogs are conscious beings. They have moods and make decisions based on instinct. You need to be conscious of when you’re asking and where your training is up to. Don’t go to fast – ask yourself if you’re expecting too much too soon.

Call me, I can help. I can help you find the right currencies. We can do recall games, and restrained recalls, and all the other foundation work. You just have to do the homework, and seize the opportunities to set you and your dog up for success.

Photo: Beagle Rescue NSW

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