When you ask your dog to come to you do they listen? More often than not the answer to this question is no. This is a problem though. Having a good recall helps you to be able to do more with your dog. Much more importantly though, it keeps your dog safe. Often people make the mistake of using a recall word such as 'come' or 'here' without truly teaching their dog the exact expectation of the word. To form a reliable recall takes starting with baby steps and making it as fun as possible without allowing your dog to mess up.
So how is it Done?
- Always start on the leash. If your dog is easily distracted and/or younger than 2 years old it is best to start inside in the least stimulating environment possible. (Living rooms work great)
- First teach your dog how to 'sit' and 'wait' for a 'release' word. When teaching 'wait' it is important to always expect your dog to return to you after being released from the spot. Only give the reward when they are sitting and looking up at you.
- If your dog is not running to you do not reward. Try again in a less stimulating environment, if this still doesn't help try raising the value of your treat. Liver and chicken work great! If you use something that they love but don't usually get they will be so excited to get the treat they'll bee line to you. Some dogs are not as treat motivated and would much prefer a toy or even just attention. Cater to your dog and give them what they love the best.
- Once your dog has a really solid 'wait' and is consistently excited to run to you for their reward you can start pairing your recall word. Ask for a 'sit', 'wait' and 'release' once your dog is running at you say your recall word 'come', 'return', 'here' are all good ones but anything will work. Sometimes using an obscure word like 'pancakes' is better because it is much harder to accidentally say it when you are trying to get your dogs attention.
- Once you've done this 100 times try just asking for your recall word on the leash, if your dog doesn't come immediately start reeling them in so that they must end at you in a sit and give a high value reward. Try again until your dog offers a good recall. If your dog comes straight to you and sits give them a jackpot (multiple high value treats in a row, you can even break up one treat into 5, your dog won't know the difference) Showing them that you have a treat or even a toy will make them more inclined to run to you. Practice and reinforce this behavior often to keep the recall reliable.
Don't use a ruined word. If you have been asking your dog to 'come' before they learned how to actually respond to their recall then you aren't going to want to use that word because to your dog that word already means they are going to ignore you.
Reel in your dog if they're not coming. If they get a chance to self reward (this can be as simple as sniffing a really good smell or stopping to look at a stranger) for not coming to you then they are much more likely to do it again! The best way to deal with this issue is to never let it happen.
Try hard not to use your recall word for something negative and if you do, make sure to use it for great fun things much more often. If you always ask your dog to recall before they go inside from play or because they are chewing on a shoe etc. then they are going to question whether you are worth recalling to. Recall should be a fun command that your pup is excited to perform.
Do not recall your dog off the leash unless you are beyond certain that they will come to you. Starting off leash recall with an E-Collar
If your dog is not food motivated and doesn't really care about coming to you for a treat try using their favorite toy
In an absolute emergency if you need your dog to recall and they are not listening the best last resort is to drop to the floor completely flat and make a weird noise. A dog's usual reaction to this is to go check you out because they're worried or curious about you. Grab them quickly and leash them!