Teaching your dog a reliable recall can be a life saver, literally! If your dog runs off towards on coming traffic or towards a reactive dog and you don't have a reliable recall this could seriously harm your dog. Or worse! There is nothing better than watching your dog run around off lead in the park, playing with other dogs and just enjoying all the smells on their own. But if your dog can't come back when you call them then they will never be able to experience the luxury of being off lead, and that would be a great shame for both of you. Let's look at three vital steps to teaching a reliable recall.
1. Build a positive association to the recall cue.
If you are currently using the word "come" but your dog doesn't come back at least 90% of the time to this word then I would highly recommend picking a new word. Once you have picked your new recall word start to teach your dog that when they hear it they will receive a high value food reward from you. High value food can be small bits of cooked chicken, ham, cheese, beef, or my favourites JR Beef Pate. Practice this around the house to start with. Then start taking your high value rewards out with you on your walks.
2. Management is key to success.
Until you have built up a strong, reliable recall with your dog you will want to keep your dog on a long line when you are out in the park. A long line prevents your dog from wondering off and you can gently rain them in if they do not respond to your recall cue. By giving your dog too much freedom too soon your dog can then easily make the wrong choice, which is ignore your recall and chase that rabbit instead!
3. Building in consistency and making it visual.
I like to teach my dog that when I say the word "here" they need to come back to me and touch my hand with their nose. By teaching a hand touch for recall it helps your dog have a nice visual of where you want them to come to, i.e. stand to the left hand side of me, close to my leg. This also makes it easier for our dogs to be consistent. When we call our dog we often (unintentionally) reward them for different things when they come running over. For example sometimes "come" means run over and then sit facing me or "come" can mean run over and stand 10 inches away from me etc. If we keep reinforcing our dogs for different behaviours when they come over it can make it hard for them to be consistent. The advantage of teaching a hand touch means it is always consistent; the dog always comes back to do the same behaviour. Below is a YouTube video I made to show you how to teach a hand touch.
Come and join one of our Recall Workshops. The workshops are held once a month and are based in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire.