1. “Come!” is the most important thing you will teach your dog and if it is trained using positive reinforcement and play, the recall game never gets old, so practice often and make it fun.
2. Keep your dog on a leash or safety long line until he has been trained through a recall program. This will keep him from gaining valuable life rewards (such as sniffing or playing with other dogs) as a “self-reward” for not coming back to you.
3. Start by building a great foundation for your real life recall by practicing at home with minimal distractions and plenty of fun or yummy rewards. Create controlled distractions with other family members to proof your recall and then head out into the Dog Park and keep on practicing in real life situations.
4. Surround your recall with positives. Keep every exercise up-beat and fun. Play games and only offer great things like food rewards or toys. Become something of value to your dog so they want to come back to you.
5. Use the verbal cue, “Come!” sparingly. If it is overused it will most definitely lose its magic. We want our dogs to respond to one request so only use your recall cue when you know your dog is willing/able to return to you.
6. DO NOT CHASE YOUR DOG if they don’t respond. Instead, run in the opposite direction and make a game out of it to get your dog to chase you. And remember tip #2: do not let her off leash if she does not yet have strong recall behavior.
7. Never use your recall cue to call your dog to you for something negative, such as a reprimand, isolation, to get their nails clipped (if that is negative) or anything else your dog finds to be negative. Always keep it positive and fun to be around you.
8. Have your dog check in with you many times while at the park or during play. That way, “come!” is not associated with leaving the park because you only call your dog when it is time to go. Pack up a snack pack of kibble or yummy treats to deliver each time your dog comes to you.
9. Practice grabbing your dog’s collar when he comes to you and then give him a treat. This will extinguish that annoying and frustrating game of catch-me-if-you-can and also it will make sure they are comfortable with hands around their head in case they need to be grabbed in an emergency situation.
10. Always remember the Golden Rule of the Recall: You never, ever reprimand your dog after you ask them to come! This rule applies to every recall and means that even if your dog has decided to take 3 hours to finally come back to you, you must exercise every ounce of self control you have inside you to give praise before you leash up and go home for the night. And really, if it takes 3 hours for your dog to come back to you it is time to take steps back and re-start your recall training anyway.
by Niki Perry, CPDT-KA, KPACTP, CEMT, Release the Hounds Board Member
Niki’s website: The Beloved Beast