Having good recall is important as you are expected to have ‘effective control’ when out in public, this means getting your dog to return to you when called. Good recall can protect your dog from injury and trouble.
The best aspect to establishing good recall is that it strengthens the bond between you and your dog.
No matter how long he/she takes to get back to you, do not chastise your dog when he returns to you. Getting angry and yelling will put your dog off from returning to you and what he/she perceives as negative consequences.
If the only time you call your dog back is when it’s time to go home, your dog will equate the call as the end of the fun. Practice recall as a game with treats and excitement during the off-lead fun.
Some tips to start:
- Teach your dog how to behave at home by using positive reward-based training
- Teach your dog the Name/Recall Game at home and out and about at the park, beach, friends’ house, bush walks – everywhere!
- Play games and engage with your dog – be more FUN!
- Show your dog how you are more exciting than the birds, smells, other people etc. Be the focus of your dog’s world.
- Teach your dog to stay focused on you until they have been released to ‘go play’.
- When your dog comes back to you voluntarily, tell them how brilliant they are, reward them with a game, a treat – whatever it is you know they like.
If you feel uncomfortable letting your dog off lead use a long lead to keep control until such time as you feel safe letting them run free. You can get a 30ft lead from a horse produce store or make one up with soft rope and a secure clip if you cannot find one at a pet store.
You will be teaching your dog the meaning of their name – it means look at my human or move/run towards my human.
Always use a friendly tone of voice and a relaxed encouraging body posture (non-threatening).
Start in a non-distracting environment (inside or in the backyard).
Begin the exercise by using your dog’s name only when they are looking at you. If they are not looking at you, try using an inviting sound or ‘pet name’ to get their attention:
Whistley sound Kissy sound Pup, Pup, Puppy
As soon as they look at you say their name (or use a clicker if you are clicker training), then drop a delicious treat on the ground where they can see it.
When they eat it and look at you to see if there is another one, immediately say their name or click-and-say-name and drop another treat on the ground where they can see it.
Repeat this exercise for several repetitions until they are really getting excited. Always finish a training exercise at the height of fun – your dog will be excited next time you begin a training session,
If your dog quickly finds the treat and comes back to you to look for more, start rolling the food treat a short way away from you.
To add further complexity to the exercise, start to move away from your dog right after you have dropped or rolled the treat. They will then need to run towards you to hear their name and have you roll another treat.
Soon you will be able to make this an active game with your dog running away to pick up the treat and then running back to you to keep playing the game.
Each time the dog is running towards you say their name.
This sets a pattern where the dog runs to you whilst they hear their name. Your dog puts two and two together and learns that their name means ‘run towards my human’ – and it is fun!
You can even do this exercise whilst sitting down relaxing
Start with mild distractions and add harder and harder ones as your dog improves their ability to focus on where the food has gone and promptly return to you.