As dog owner, you are just too familiar with this situation where a reliable recall is necessary: Fluffy and you are chilling out in the garden, when suddenly Kitty, the hated neighbours cat and Fluffy’s arch enemy, emerges from the bushes. In an instant Fluffy turns into a wild predator and chases poor little Kitty, driven by instinct and focussed on one thing only: to finally bite the cat’s tail and teach her who is the boss in the yard.
You are on your feet, a second after Fluffy took off chasing after Kitty, running after your dog, who, like driven by the devil himself, sprints towards the road. Out of the corner of your eye you spot the Amazon delivery truck, speeding along the road…
A nightmare scenario, which could lead to a horrible accident and even death and would make you, as dog owner, who didn’t leash its dog nor has it under control in all circumstances, also legally responsible for all the injuries and damages caused by Fluffy trying to teach the cat a lesson.
There are many situations in your daily life with your canine friend, in which you need to have total control over your dog and be able to call it, to instantly stop whatever it is doing and rush back to you. This is what is called „reliable Recall“ and means that other than when you call your dog, you can be 99% sure that your dog will return to your side immediately.
This skill can not only be a lifesaver, but will help you to prevent any unwanted situations your dog might get into. When your dog has learned the perfect recall, Fluffy will not any longer be in a bloody fight with „Mean Spike“ on the doggy playground, as the moment you spot Spike entering the place, you call back Fluffy, put him on the leash to prevent any violence to happen.
Without your dog having learned and perfected a reliable recall, it’s not a clever idea to let your dog run off-leash outside of a fenced yard or a dog park, if it can’t resist chasing after a squirrel or bird. But which dog can resist it, it’s a natural instinct usually overriding any taught skills.
Teaching your dog to stop while it is in a state of utter excitement, like Fluffy running after the cat, and thinking that he is finally close enough to bite its tail, is one of the most difficult things you could train your dog to do, but one of the most crucial skills it has to learn.
Unlike basic obedience commands like „Sit!,“ „Down!,“ „Stay!“ or whatever it is you have already trained your dog through positive enforcements and piles of treats, training the perfect recall is nothing, which comes even close to any conditioned skills you have already taught your dog. Conditioning your dog by using a word command like „Come!“ or blow a dog whistle, to make your dog stop whatever it is doing and return to you, overriding it’s predatory instincts, will not work through simply rewarding your dog with tasty treats.
I simply call it „a case of bribery“, because that’s what it is. Rewarding your dog for executing a behaviour, using its favourite treat or praise, or even maybe a quick tuck-of-war, or whatever you choose to positively enforce your dog’s conditioned skill, will only work up to a certain point.
After a lot of work and hours spent teaching Fluffy to leave poor Kitty alone and „Come!“ back to you, Fluffy might start to „think“:
„If I return back now, I will get that super tasty chicken snack and that excited human, who is so worried about me, trying to finally get even with that damn cat, will be super happy and excited, but nah…teaching Kitty who is the boss around here, is far more pleasurable for me than the treat, which I will get anyhow before bedtime“
… and with this Fluffy has stopped listening to his human, who he clearly doesn’t respect as its alpha, its leader and will only obey when he feels like. Coming back 8 out of 10 times is not a perfect recall and not enough to prevent getting Kitty and Fluffy killed.
In order to understand why a dog suddenly might start bargaining with you and thus the bribery training approach which worked so well in the past might break down, we have to look at the bigger picture of dog training.
The Perfect Dog Training Approach – Two Worlds
There are two seemingly opposite sides or camps in the world of dog training, which always seem to disagree with each other.
There are doglovers, who insist that only positive enforcement, which I call „bribery“ will teach all necessary skills to their dogs and there other doglovers, who argue that only by building up a strong relationship with your dog, based on mutual trust and respect will guarantee you that a perfect recall, 100% of the time.
I tend to give both sides right, as I see that both approaches have their limitations:
It’s obvious that you can only raise the value of your treats or rewards to a certain limit, and more important, who always has some super-best-yummy-chicken treat in their pocket, when their dog suddenly rushes off and you need to recall it immediately. A few times with no treat to offer and Fluffy will not come back to you any longer.
But even you have formed a strong bond with your dog, based entirely on understanding, love, trust and respect and there is nothing more that your dog wants than to obey your commands, and do what you want it to do, you still need to teach your dog what it is that you want. This has to be communicated to your dog through clear commands and signals and repeated over and over and over. Of course you set up your dog for successful experiences only and every time you reward its desired behaviour through positive enforcement, which is given, of course, through high value treats, praise and rewards.
The ? I.D.E.A. ? Integral Dog Evolution Approach
allows you to integrate both seemingly so different approaches of dog training into one powerful and loving relationship method, which I have worked on/with for several years.
The behaviour modification side of my method will build up or restructure your relationship with your dog, so your dog respects you as it’s undisputed, beloved and trusted leader, willing to do anything for you out of joy and love.
The obedience training methods on the other end of the teaching spectrum will introduce to you a variety of different ways and methods and a training-workout-plan, individually designed and based on the personality and character of your dog, which allow you to teach your dog almost anything.
Teaching a dog the perfect recall requires both sides of the medal to come together in an integral way.
Let’s have a look together at the
The Perfect Recall: The Leadership Approach
It is worth recalling that training a reliable Recall with your dog is almost entirely a relationship-based behaviour modification. This means that your dog’s willingness to come back to you when called, depends entirely on how much it trusts you, that returning to you will be worth for it.That’s how a dog mind works. It is natural and normal for dogs to consider the consequences of any option presented in front of them and choose whichever option it enjoys most or is the least aversive. Dogs actually constantly ask themselves „What’s in it for me?“ and then choose what they regard as best for them.
With the ? I.D.E.A. ? Integral Dog Evolution Approach Leadership training is not just one method to teach a skill to your dog, it is a whole set of constantly enforced clues and exercises, interwoven into your daily lifestyle. All this in order to recalibrate your relationship with your dog, so that your best furry friend will trust you and your calm-assertive leadership with it’s life; and respects you to such an extent, that the most enjoyable thing to do in your dog’s life is to obey you.
Building up or recalibrating a leadership based relationship is entirely free from fear, forced domination, punishment or other means to instil fear in your dog. Not only your dog, but also the other side of the leash learns how to establish all those qualities in you, which will every dog in the world allow to recognise you as the alpha or leader. If the bond between you and your dog gets stronger and always deeper and more meaningful, your dog will be glad to finally hand over control of its life and the security of your little house pack to you as it’s calm and trusted leader and thus establish a balanced state of mind without any fear.
But if the relationship between you and your dog leaves your dog in charge and it is ambivalent about its relationship with you, you can bet that the response to your recall command will very likely be not very enthusiastic or the dog will just ignore your clues. If you are have already trained Recall with your dog, but having trouble with it, I ask you to think about your established relationship and training methods you have used with your dog.
The more you display the characteristics of a true alpha in your dog’s eyes, and the more you’ve proven to it countless times, that it can rely on you for its safety and the wellbeing of the whole pack, the more motivated your dog will be to come to you whenever you call him, and thats almost 100% of the time.
Think about hearing a recall clue from a dog’s perspective. It’s either:
The Dog: Fluffy stops while chasing the cat: „My leader, I hear you calling my name.“
The Dog: „Yes leader! Nothing better than you wanting me to come to you! On my wayyyyyy!“
Fluffy continues to run after the cat: „Yeah, what do you want now?“
„No way, human. I hear in your voice that you are angry with me, just because I chase Kitty.“
Human: (upset and worried about Fluffy) „Come! Come! Fluffy…COME!“
The Dog: „Hear you loud and clear, but nah, why would I go back to you and risk getting punished again. Better off running after the cat“
Human: (shouting angrily) „Fluuuuuffffy!! Come back right now!!!“
The Dog: „No f***ing way!“
It should be a no-brainer: If you’ve been physically abusive or verbally harsh to your dog, making it fear you, it is naturally going to think twice before coming running back to you. If you are not in the habit or simply don’t know how to reinforcing your dog for the behaviours you’ve trained it for, it may choose to ignore your cues, avoid you, or just take time after hearing your cue to engage in what I call “sabotage sniffing” – winning time coming back to you, in order to try to get further clues if you will punish it or not.
And now let us look together on the other side of the training spectrum.
The Perfect Recall: A Case of Bribery!
There is absolutely nothing wrong in a positive only approach to reward your dog for learning or reaffirming a conditioned behaviour, if your dog respects and trusts you as their leader.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of their dog, be it a cute little Pomeranian or Bulldog Spike the Terrible, many dog parents don’t have it, what it takes, for a dog to respect it as their alpha and thus all their treat and reward based training quickly reach its limits.
I don’t have to repeat that reliable recall has to be perfect every time you call your dog back, because recall can be a life safer for your dog and others and it’s legally binding for you as dog owner to have your dog under control all the time, with or without leash.
If you try to train a 100% reliable recall through positive enforcement only, you have to constantly negotiate with your dog the bribe, which in most cases is a tasty snack. You go into a battle with your dog to make sure your bribery has a higher value than the thing your dog is ignoring you for in the first place. If Fluffy plays with another dog and you want him to come him back to you, your bribe offer has to be of a higher value than the implied value for the dog, choosing to ignore you and continue to play with Spike.
This is the exact point, where the bribery approach breaks down, because you have a limit of what tasty snacks you can offer to your dog. After a while as Fluffy knows the treats you got in your pocket, and he still might insist that, even you had bought him his all-time favourite treats, they are not enough this time to stop him from pursuing Kitty, the cat.
You can’t upgrade the stake infinitely. At some point your dog says: „Nah, I don’t want that super-top snack from you human now, I rather continue to chase after the ball.“ That’s when the response to the recall stops for the dog and you can declare this training approach a failure. Recall is just too important to let your dog get away with it to come back, whenever it feels like it.
And, of course, don’t forget, you don’t always have a tasty super treat in your pocket, while you are out somewhere with your dog and suddenly a situation emerges, which demands for an instant emergency recall. This moment is not the right time for negotiations!
But if you are for your dog their trusted alpha leader, then the dog obeys you instantly, not out of fear or for the prospect of a nice tasty reward and praise, but your dog, out of love, trusts and respects you for your leadership and therefore comes running back to you because of its eagerness to work with and please you. That’s how Mother Nature conditioned animals living in the wild, who adhere to a pack mentality to follow its leader and uphold a proven model of survival.
Only if you have what it needs in a dog eye to be their perfect leader, then and only then it is right to reward your dog with a tasty treat, praise and shower it with enthusiastic love to reinforce the taught behaviour so that it doesn’t count as a case of bribery. If you have a perfectly clear hierarchical structured relationship with your dog and you reward it for acting as you wanted it to behave, you reinforce this exact bond of understanding, trust and ultimate respect, forming an always deeper and deeper loving relationship with your best canine friend.
Trust and respect are earned by constantly building up and strengthening a clear leadership model with your dog and cannot just simply be bribed. Your dogs is looking for a calm-assertive leader, which will guide and keep it safe from whatever dangers are out there, forever! This is what your dog expects from you, and this is what it deserves; and what you want to become or be for your dog.
Teaching dogs a new behaviour, of course is done through lots of repetitions to engrave this learned behaviour, so that it becomes second nature to your dog. Setting your canine partner up for success every time and rewarding it with treats and praise, is the perfect way to teach a dog almost anything. But once your dog has learned the new skill and it becomes part of its natural behaviour, it’s important change tasty treats gradually into praise and keep juicy chicken treats reserved for new things you want to teach your dog.
In all my years growing up with dogs, rescuing, caring and training them, I always refused to have a relationship with dogs which is based entirely on bribery. I have worked with hundreds of very different dogs and found out, that by creating or restructuring the relationship with a dog, so that the dog happily accepts its human leader, many issues my clients had contacted me for to help solving them, have simply fallen away by themselves. Dogs are not robots, they are sentient beings with incredible senses, consciousness and personality. Allowing them to bring out their full potential as balanced character is the highest gift we can give to them and to ourselves. I call it the „Yoga of the Dog“, as the dogs I am working with, give me every day a new chance to better myself and evolve integrally into becoming an even stronger and leader for my dog pack and myself.
Trying to train your puppy the Perfect Recall? It’s not an easy task but an important one and it’s possible. Find in Part 3 of the “How to Recall my dog perfectly” Training, all you need and want to know how to teach your little friend to come back to you. Lots of games and fun can be found here.
In Part 4 you will find a lot of Tips & Tricks to increase not only training success but also the speed in which your dog can learn the Perfect Recall. Find Part 4 here.
And least but not least Part 5 will teach you the perfect Recall based on visual clues only and also the use of a dog whistle in Recalling your dog back to you every time.