If you've recently welcomed a new puppy or rescue dog into your home, one of the most important things you can do is to teach them recall. This refers to the ability to get your dog to come back to you when you call their name, and it's crucial for keeping them safe.
Let's Build a Foundation
Let’s talk about one of the foundational elements in training that is most often pet on a back burner or not worked on until it becomes an issue. If we are establishing a strong relationship and bond with our dog this should be one of the most important behavior commands worked on daily.
Our dog needs stability, routine, and above all a calm source guiding them, so they feel protected and provided for without worry. I rank this in with behavior training as I eventually want my dog to do a lot of “check ins” when they are out exploring. When they do this then I won’t have the need to recall them all the time.
Imagine you're walking your dog in the park and they suddenly catch sight of a squirrel, another dog, etc. Without proper recall training, they may take off running towards the squirrel, ignoring your calls to come back. This could lead to them getting lost, getting hit by a car, or getting into a dangerous situation. One of the most common complaints from pet owners is their dog darting out their front door and not returning when called. Recall is something that could save their life. Doesn’t that make it one of the most important things we should be teaching?
Recall: Obedience or Behavior Training
Recall training is not just about obedience training, it's also about building a strong bond with your dog. This makes it both. It is an obedience command when they don't understand potential danger. It is also something we want to make an automatic behavior so they know to check in with you often.
When you can trust your dog to come back to you when called, you can give them more freedom to explore and play off-leash. This can lead to a happier, more fulfilled life for your dog, as they'll have more opportunities to socialize and exercise.
How To Get Started
To train your dog on recall, start by practicing in a distraction-free environment, such as your home or backyard. There are multiple different methods to teach your dog to come when called. Here are just a few:
Call your dog's name in a happy, upbeat tone and reward them with praise and high value treats when they come to you. Don’t be afraid to go over the top when they start returning and of course huge praise when they finally reach you.
Reward them with “good come” anytime they are following you.
Play hide and seek with your dog. Obviously not hiding as to make it difficult for your dog to find you but excited to search for you. The whole time you will be calling them very excitedly with a huge praise and reward when the find you.
You can play the yo yo or recall relay game with your dog, This is great to do with another family member, especially kids. Have someone hold your dog while you stand a short distance away. Call your dog and reward them when they come to you, then the other person calls them. Each time there are huge rewards and lots of praise.
Use a long, lightweight leash, usually 25 -30 feet is a good place to start, to allow your dog to explore while still being connected to you, as your dog gets near the end of the leash you call your dog and give a gentle tug on the leash to encourage them to come to you. As they begin returning keep calling them and again lots of excitement and praise.
As your dog gets better at responding to their name, gradually increase the distractions, such as practicing in your front yard or with other people or dogs around.
It's important to be patient and consistent with recall training. Practice every day. You don’t want to wait until an emergency need arises and you are not prepared. Keep your tone happy and joyful. Don't raise your voice or repeat yourself over and over. Especially do not punish your dog if they don't come back right away, as this can undermine their trust in you.
You want your dog to want to be with you more than any other external form of excitement or distraction. Instead, use positive reinforcement, especially praise to reward good behavior and make the training a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog.
In summary, recall training is a crucial part of keeping your puppy or rescue dog safe as well as building a strong bond with them. Make it fun. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, you can teach your dog to come back to you when called, giving them more freedom to explore and play while keeping them out of harm's way.
Special thanks to Gwen Bailey, expert trainer for the following clip.