If I had a pound for every time I heard that! We’ve all said it though haven’t we? ‘My dog is brilliant at coming back when I call, unless (a) he’s playing with his friends (b) there’s a squirrel (c) there’s a human with treats on the other side of the park.
The list goes on and nine times out of ten, it’s ok. The dog will come back when they have finished playing, lost the squirrel or realised that the human didn’t have treats after all. But what happens on that tenth time? The dog is running towards a road, headfirst towards a dog walking on their lead or straight for a small child playing with a football? This is why recall matters.
To start working on a reliable recall, or to give them a fun refresher, begin in a place where there aren’t many distractions. Out in your garden or the most spacious room in your house, for example. This will allow your dog to concentrate and focus on you. This is where you need to be full of fun and energy. Think about how you usually call your dog… we’ve all heard this… ‘Fluffy, come’ – ‘Fluffy, come on’ – ‘Fluffy, seriously, come here’ – ‘FLUFFY’ – ‘FLUFFY, GET HERE NOW’. The voice starts to become, loud, harsh and a little intimidating. I know that I certainly have no desire to get anywhere near that human and I’m pretty sure the dog feels the same!
In your distraction-less (it’s a word, honestly) environment, call your dog. When they get to you, give them lots of fuss, a treat and then say ‘go on’ to release them back to entertain themselves. When your dog is coming back every time, increase the distance between you both before you call them. Make sure that when your dog comes back to you, it’s worth it with a treat, playing with a toy, lots of fuss… whatever your dog loves.
This is the start of developing a reliable recall and there are two ways you can make this easier for yourself.
1. When you start practicing in a safe environment, if your dog doesn’t come back, do not chase them. Dogs love a game of chase so you’ll be teaching them that this is what happens when they hear ‘Fluffy, come’.
2. If it takes a little while for your dog to return, do not tell them off when they finally get to you! This will teach them that coming back to you is no fun at all, and next time, they might carry on with whatever they were doing.
This is an example of how to start training a reliable recall but if you’ve worked with me, you’ll know I never use the dog’s name for recall. You can find out why & download our guide to training a fabulous recall here.