Teaching your dog a rock solid recall is important in successfully getting him to return to you when off-leash and could potentially save his life. Luckily, like any other cue you teach Fido, “Come!” can be taught in the context of a great fun game. Here are the steps to follow to set a good basic foundation for a strong recall.
Step #1: Spend a few days playing chase with Fido where he chases you and not the other way around. Encourage him by running away while whistling, clapping, and slapping your thighs if necessary to make the game more exciting for him. When he does chase you, give lots of verbal praise. When you stop running and he’s landed at your feet, throw a puppy party with lots of treats and play.
Step #2: Now that Fido has a great association with playing chase with you, recruit a friend to help. Have your friend hold Fido back while you excite him with your voice and body language. Run 10 to 15 feet away. Say, “Fido, Come!” at which point your friend should let your dog go. He should make a beeline for you. Mark (either with the clicker or the verbal marker, “Yes”) and reward when he lands at your feet.
If working alone, you can throw a treat away from you. Fido will go and eat it, giving you a few seconds to run in the opposite direction. Yell, “Fido, Come!” and encourage him to run to you. Whistle, clap, or make kissing noises if needed to entice him to complete the behavior.
Step #3: It’s time to fade out the chasing. Have a friend hold Fido 10 to 15 feet away from you. Say, “Fido, Come!” When your friend let’s go of him, encourage him to run to you. Mark and reward when he lands at your feet.
If working alone, toss a treat in the opposite direction. While he eats, sneak off into the distance and call him to you.
Step #4: Repeat the above exercises while increasing the distance between you and Fido. Try 30, 40, or 50 feet. Just remember to set Fido up to succeed.
Step #5: Time to try it outdoors! Secure Fido to a 30-foot training line for safety. Take him to the park or another open space where there are not a lot of distractions. Start with step #1 and work your way back up to step #4.
Mini Exercise: When out on regular walks, throw in some recall training. With Fido on a 6-foot leash, wait for him to look the other way. Say, “Fido, Come!” and then start running away while still holding onto the leash. Do not yank. The leash should remain slack the entire time. When you stop running and Fido lands at your feet, mark and reward.
Training Tip #1: Make sure that every time you say, “Fido, Come!” only good things happen to him when he gets to you. If once in awhile something negative happens when he comes to you when you call him, he may think twice about performing the behavior. It’s also really important to remember that what’s negative is defined by Fido, not by you.
Training Tip #2: It’s possible that you’ve used the cue, “Come!” in the past and Fido’s ignored it constantly or he’s made a negative association with it. In this case, it’s best to choose a new cue for Fido’s recall. Alternatives include, “Here!” or “Now!”
Training Tip #3: Whistling, clapping, kissing noises, and other high-pitched sounds are great for encouraging your dog to come in close. However, if all else fails, playing dead may help. Most dogs will come over to see what’s going on if you suddenly drop to the ground. As a result, they complete their recall.
© Give Paw Dog Training LLC 2017