Spring is here, and off-leash walks are coming up fast! Now is the time to work with your dog on a reliable recall.
Remember that it takes time, consistency and patience to have a dog that will come back reliably, but it can happen! You'll need some fantastic treats (cheese, hotdogs, boiled chicken), a favorite toy, a 20-foot leash or rope and a consistent command (come, here, front) and hand signal for the recall.
Begin practicing indoors without any distractions. Reward your dog when he comes to you with a yummy treat that he never otherwise gets. Most dogs do very well in this stage. Keep the session short and sweet and leave your dog desperate for you to call him again. After a couple of days of this, you are ready to venture outside.
Start your dog in a place with limited distractions on a long line. Let your dog explore the area and let the leash go with him. When he is about at the end of the leash but it is still slack, call your dog (remember to make yourself interesting and to sound excited). Hopefully, your dog will turn around and start heading in your direction. If he doesn't, call him again, staying happy and excited, and if he still doesn't come, use the leash to gently start bringing him back.
Once he takes a couple of steps in your direction, get really happy. Reward him with wonderful goodies as soon as he reaches you. Then release him (still leashed) to go back and play. Repeat this exercise a few times before going home or inside.
As your dog gets better, practice in areas with more distractions. Repeat many times before finally unleashing your dog.
Some things to remember when teaching your dog to come:
- If every time you call your dog he ends up leashed and leaving the park or playtime, he won't want to come back at all. Instead, call your dog to come to you, reward him, and then immediately release him back to play several times before you leave. Never call your dog to come for something negative, like trimming his nails.
- Make yourself interesting. Turn and clap your hands while running, bend down and face away, or use a squeaker toy to get your dog's attention.
- Turning and looking at you is your dog's first step toward starting back. Verbally reward your dog when he starts your way, and encourage him to keep going.
If you are struggling with recalling your dog or need further assistance, contact your local trainer.
Helen is a certified dog trainer and the owner of No Monkey Business Dog Training in Concord.