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How to teach a Solid Recall


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First it helps if the dog really knows its name. It also helps to have realistic goals for the level your puppy/dog is at. For instance, a young puppy can't be expected to have a solid recall with a bunch of distractions around.


The recall is best taught using positive methods, so keep it positive!


Begin in a familiar place with few distractions, such as your living room when things are quiet. Get your treats or toys ready and call your dog by name, along with your recall command, such as, "Spotty, come here".


Make it exciting!! Talk in a happy voice, clap your hands, jump around, whatever you can to encourage him to come to you. When he does come be sure to THROW A PARTY! Praise the heck out of him and tell him what a good boy he is and love him all over and give him a bunch of treats or play with him. The dog should think, "Wow! This is great!"


Give your dog a minute or two, then call him again. Throw another party! Do this several times throughout the day for a while, until your dog is coming to you right away each and every time. You can tone it down little by little as he catches on. You don't want to have to jump around like a clown forever! In a short time you should be able to call him to you with a normal, upbeat verbal command, such as "Spotty, come here."


Once you're to a point where he will reliably come to you in the house with few distractions, increase the pressure slightly by calling him when he's slightly interested in something else. Do this over and over until he's reliably coming to you, and then add more distractions. Don't move up to the next level until he's coming to you 100% of the time.


You can be at one level in the house and another level in the yard, and yet another level when you are out and about with your dog. Start out at the lowest level in each new situation and when you do, be sure to really heap on the praise and rewards. For instance, practice out in the yard when the neighbor kids are not outside playing, or when there are no other dogs around, or whatever. Call him with much enthusiasm and reward him liberally. As he becomes more reliable in the yard you can add more distractions and decrease the amount of encouragement and rewards.


The goal is to eventually have your dog in a highly distracting situation and have him come to you immediately after you call him.




Here are some quick tips:


Never give the recall command in a negative way. You don't want your dog to ever think that coming to you is a bad thing. If your dog hates baths then don't call him to you when you want to give him a bath. If your dog runs off, don't yell at him to come to you. It doesn't work.


Only give the command once. Don't say, "come here, come here, come here" over and over. Otherwise your dog might think you have to say it three times before it's an actual command.


Give the same command each and every time. Pick out a command and then use that one only. Don't say, "Spotty, come. Spotty, come here. Spotty, I'm not kidding, get your butt over here NOW." Variations on a command only confuse the dog. Also be aware of your body language when giving the command.


Don't give the command unless you are able to quickly enforce it. Otherwise you risk teaching the dog that he has the option to blow you off. If he's not reliable yet then you can manage him with leashes or long leads, either by holding the end or letting him drag it. Call him to you, and if he doesn't come right away, encourage him (during the teaching phase) with the leash, or correct him (during the proofing phase) by reeling him in. If he's off leash and blows you off then manage it best you can, but realize that your dog is not ready to be off leash in that situation yet. If you have to encourage or correct your dog more than a couple times during either phase then you're probably moving too fast.


Take it slow. Don't try to do too much, too soon. If you find yourself "reminding" him more than a couple of times out of 100 then perhaps you're moving a bit too fast. Go back a level or two and work from there.


Don't overdo it. If you call your dog to you 100 times a day then he's likely to get tired of it and ignore you after a while. Keep it short and fun!


Run away, not towards your dog. Ever notice how people who run after their dogs never catch them? If you call your dog and he just looks at you, despite you acting all crazy and exciting, try running away from him and not towards him, while at the same time doing whatever the dog might find exciting.


Reward, don't bribe. Ever seen a dog who will obey as long as there is a treat or toy presented in front of his face, but will ignore their owner if there is no treat or toy? You don't want that. Hide them in your pocket or somewhere easily accessible and don't pull them out until the dog reaches you.


Reward quickly. Don't let too much time pass between his reaching you and you rewarding him. A second or less is all it should take. Otherwise you risk the dog wondering what the heck he came running to you for!


Play the recall game. This takes two or more people. Get your rewards out, take your dog outside, stand a reasonable distance apart from each other, and take turns calling the dog. You can increase the distance over time until you are quite a ways from each other.


You can also incorporate the recall in your other training sessions. If you put your dog in a sit-stay or down-stay then he will likely be more eager to come to you when you call.


You can teach a hand signal in addition to the verbal command if you want. The same rules apply; ie, do it the same way each and every time. This can come in handy on occasion.




In summary, keep it positive and fun, take it slow, and never give the dog the option of disobeying. If you are consistent and work with him over and over on a regular basis then it will become a habit for him to come right to you when you call. He'll just do it without even thinking, and that might just save his life someday.

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