Mastering Recall: Expert Tips and Tricks for Perfecting Your Dog’s Training – Part 4

Training Tips for the perfect Recall

Teaching your dog the perfect Recall in any situation is one of the most difficult behaviour to teach. These Tips & Tricks should make it easier for you to come close to 99.99% perfection for this potential life saving behaviour modification.

Happy time with my sweet Shelter Dogs

Recall: Tips & Tricks

– Do not repeat yourself! If your dog is within earshot but doesn’t react to you calling its name and you are not sure if your dog has heard you or not, because of noise disturbances or strong wind, wait for an instant, then start calling its name and the recall clue and observe it. Any sign in body language that your dog might have heard you but chose not to come? 

Put the „come!“ charging exercise back on the training schedule for at least a week and ask yourself if your dog sees you as their leader? 

– Reward eye contact. When you notice your dog is looking at you or has self-selected to be close to you, verbally praise and give it a treat. You may use a lot of treats at first, but you are reinforcing an important lesson to your dog. Being near you and paying attention to you makes good things happen.

– Reward! When training Recalls, use high-value treats and toys for your dog. Always reward the recall, because you want to offer your dog high value bribes to engrain the Recall into its behaviour until coming back to you becomes second nature for your dog. 

– Practice your Recalls daily. Be creative and find always new ways and situations in which you train your dog to come running back to you. Your dog never knows when the command comes. This makes it very interesting. 

– When your dog has fun playing with another dog, recall your dog just to give it a treat, praise it, cuddle it, then let it go back playing with the other dog. With this your dog knows that being recalled doesn’t always mean the end of fun time. 

– Benny had learned Recall fairly quickly, but then also learned fast that if we are at a dog park and it was time to go home, it would mean something he doesn’t want. So he either didn’t listen to my command or he came running back, but refused that I touch his collar and speeded off again. I had to change tactics and the following exercise worked.

– While playing at the dog park, recall your dog frequently.

– Each time reward your dog generously. 

– Let your dog go back to play. 

– If your dog has finished playing, it will come anyhow back to you.

– If you can’t wait until your dog is tired out from playing or have to leave the dog park, of course you recall your dog. Once your dog is leashed, spend a few minutes clowning around or playing with your dog, so that it won’t make the association that coming when called means it has to leave the park.

– While training daily Recall, only slowly increase the difficulty and level of distraction. Moving too quickly is likely to confuse your dog and may lead to a lower success rate. You want to increase the difficulty only when your dog has achieved reliable recall at their current level. 

– If you require recall in an emergency, do not chase your dog. That is likely to make them continue the “chase” by moving away from you. Instead, try running away from your dog to encourage it to chase after you.

– If you have to do something that your dog doesn’t enjoy at all, like clipping nails, do not use your dog’s recall cue. Instead, you can either: go and collect your dog without saying come, or call it to come, reward, and wait a few minutes before starting the to do whatever needs to be done.

Sweet Burger, a puppy I trained a lot

What is a “Poisoned” Cue?

A poisoned cue is a word that your dog has associated with something bad happening right afterward. This could be anything from losing a favourite chew toy when you commanded to “drop it,” to getting bathed when they hear “bath time!” Anything that they find unpleasant, uncomfortable, or painful when used with a word or cue can become poisoned.

Another way to poison your recall clue is to repeat it over and over.  „Fluffy, „Come! Come! COME! Come! Please come!“. Doesn’t sound like a confident calm leader recalling its dog. The easiest way to poison a cue is to overuse it by repeating the word over and over without your dog responding. Just become aware of it and refrain from poisoning the clue.

– If your had made this mistake in the past and the Recall clue is poisoned, the best thing to do is to change your verbal cue to a new one. If you had previously used “come!” to recall your dog, you could shift to something like “here!” or “back!” 

Now start Recall training with the new verbal clue word from the beginning! Have fun!

More Tips & Tricks for the perfect Recall

– Always follow a recall with one of your dog’s favourite things—be it food, Frisbee or playing with another dog. 

– When you leave your house or enter the dog park, give your dog a few “high value” treats right away, so your dog knows that coming to you will be worth his while.

– Timing is essential. Times that may be very difficult for dogs to come are when completely focussed on something, maybe they are in the middle of greeting another dog, or gave in to their instinct and are in the midst of a prey drive chase after a squirrel or poor Kitty, the cat. 

– At these times, up your odds of success by timing your recall for the moment the dog can most easily disengage. For example, if the squirrel went up a tree and your dog is standing in front of it, not knowing how to get up, or if your dog is greeting another dog, wait for the moment when they are about to disengage naturally, then recall your dog!

– Never act or behave in anyway other way than your dog is the most wonderful being in the whole world when he comes to you, no matter how slow or bad the Recall was or whatever it did before which made it necessary to recall it.

– Don’t change your tone of voice when you recall your dog. You always want to sound calm and assertive, positive, not overly excited but happy, even if you actually feel frustrated or panicked when Fluffy was speeding towards the road.

– Don’t ever recall your dog to come and then punish it once they get to you. Your dog will instantly stop coming back to you if it associates the recall clue with being in trouble.

– „Come back Party!“ If your dog comes instantly back to you, praise and treat it enthusiastically. Celebrate with a mini party, because your dog has made the association, and you can start to increase distance and distraction!

– If your dog doesn’t come when you recalled it, that’s okay! But you need to somehow get it now to come to you, so you can reward the behaviour you asked for.

– Try not to repeat the word “come!“, instead try to clap your hands excitedly, make kissy noises, or shake a treat bag to encourage your dog to finish the cue.

– How to Create a Faster Recall: Of course you want your dog to sprint back to you instantly the moment you recalled it, not just saunter back at a leisurely pace. I always call this behaviour sabotage sniffing. You can encourage faster recalls a few different ways:

– Be exciting! The more exciting and fun you are to your dog, the faster it will return to you. If you are just standing still, it doesn’t entice your dog to come back with a sense of urgency. Clap your hands or jog backward a few steps to encourage your dog to move faster towards you while maintaining inner calm.

– Ask a friend to hold your dog back, when you give the Recall command. Your friend should release the dog, the moment it makes a move towards you and spur it on to encourage it to increase its speed.  

– Reward running. If you are using a clicker to strengthen your dogs Recall or use the affirmative „Yes!“ word, start to only use it only when your dog is coming back to you running and not walking. 

This training tactic should only be introduced after you have taken the time to properly train the behaviour, and your dog understands what “come!“ means.

– Reward your dog using different value of treats, from the boring baked cookies or a piece of their regular kibble to the highly prized oven chicken treats. 

  • Slow responses might only get praise or a low-value dog treat. But when your dog comes sprinting back like its life depends on it (and sometimes it does), then get out the highest value training reward you have on you. Something your dog only gets when it did an excellent job.

– Julie is a hunting dog and whatever training I apply, her natural instinct to go after a bird when it flies up, will always be there. But overtime I learned to feel before it will happen and manage to divert the urge to run before she takes off. I reward her with the best treat I have for remaining calm on my side. 

– Always praise when your dog returns to you, even if it’s been a while

– Play the puppy game „Hide-and-seek“. Its not just for the youngest, also old Benny still enjoys a short session. 

– Remain calm even if the Recall fails, get closer to your dog and call its name and command clue from a shorter distance, then still reward it for coming back.

– If your dog has aced the basics, adding verbal and visual cues into everyday activities will only strengthen its skills and speed up the training process!

– Be patient! Achieving the perfect Recall will take months and even years and reinforcing it is a lifelong training task. A reliable Recall is too important to let it slip because of laziness. Be consistent and never give up!

Never ever give up!

To read about the general concept behind the Perfect Recall, please visit Part 1 of this blogpost here.

Part 2 teaches you different methods of how to train a reliable Recall. Find it here.

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.

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.

Author: freakingcat
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