Picture this: you call your dog just one time, and they come blazing towards you like a rocket.
No hesitation, no sniffing, no calling out their name over and over. Just a dog who listens.
Training your dog to come when called quickly and reliably is useful if you want to be able to trust your dog off-lead when you go on hikes, to the beach, and on other unfenced properties.
It’s also important that your dog listens to you if they ever escape your yard or dash out of your door. Reliable recall can be the difference between getting your dog safely back into your arms, and the heartbreak of your dog getting lost or stolen.
What You Need To Teach Your Dog To Come When Called
Before you begin, make sure you have these supplies:
A long line is like a lead, just longer. They typically come in 15, 30, and 50 foot lengths. A 30-foot-long line gives your dog enough freedom to run around as though they’re loose so you can safely practice recall. Always use a long line in a wide, open space, far from roads, other animals, and people.
High value treats are the key to getting your dog to choose to come to you over chasing a squirrel or greeting another dog. Cheese, hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats are popular choices, though they can be very unhealthy. If your dog responds well to fattening treats, you can use small pieces and mix them into a bag of kibble or healthier treats. That way, the tempting aromas will seep into the less-exciting tidbits. Not all treats have to be fattening, though – there are plenty of healthy, high value treats that will get your dog’s attention without risking their health.
A clicker is optional. Some dogs seem to learn faster when trained with a clicker. A clicker is a clear, concise way to communicate with your dog when they’ve done something right. You can use verbal praise alongside or in lieu of a clicker.
A whistle can help you recall your dog from a distance.
How To Teach Recall
Start at close range in a familiar, low-distraction area, like your living room. Try calling your dog from just a few feet away.
Gradually increase the distance. When your dog gets good at coming to you in the living room, try calling them from the kitchen, or from a bedroom. Practice every day. Coming to you should always be followed by a good thing, whether it’s a treat, a meal, or playtime.
Common Mistakes When Training Your Dog To Come When Called
Poisoning the cue happens when you inadvertently teach your dog to associate your recall cue with anything other than praise and rewards. For example, your dog might take longer than expected to respond to you. Scolding your dog, or even failing to praise them when they finally do show up can make them even less likely to recall promptly in the future.
Calling your dog when they’re distracted sets them up for failure. Only call your dog if you’re certain that they will come to you, especially when you’re just starting to work on recall. Over time, you’ll build up a strong reinforcement history. Your dog will become accustomed to hearing their name and coming immediately, rather than get into a habit of failing to recall.
What To Do When Your Dog Fails To Respond
Even if you try to set your dog up for success, at times you’re going to call them and they’re going to ignore you.
Try getting a bit closer to them and calling them just one more time. Conversely, it can also help to start to walk in the opposite direction. If your competition is a moving target, like a rabbit that your dog is about to chase, it can help to encourage your dog to chase you instead. After all, chasing you means a guaranteed treat, while their prey will most likely get away from them.
Avoid using the long line to reel your dog in. You do not want to rely on using pressure to communicate with your dog, and being pulled can actually be aversive. Causing tension can build stress and make it less likely for your dog to want to come to you in the future.
If all else fails, go get your dog. Even if you’re frustrated, resist the urge to scold your dog. If your dog is not reliably trained, only let them loose in safe, fenced-in areas. Always follow leash laws and keep your dog from other greeting other dogs and people until you get their permission. Even if your dog is friendly, the other dog or person may not be.
Learn More With Healthy Houndz
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