"Come!" Teaching Recall to Your Dog The Right Way
Learning to come when called is a crucial command for your dog's safety and for your own peace of mind. Despite being one of the most basic commands, teaching recall to your dog isn't always so simple. Teaching your dog to "come" also means teaching them to turn away from whatever is stimulating them - which could be something fun or delicious! - and choose running to you instead.
Here are some essential tips for teaching recall the right way:
Start Indoors: Begin your recall training in a quiet, indoor environment with minimal distractions. Make sure your dog knows the basic commands like "sit" and "stay" before moving on to recall.
Use High-Value Rewards and Positive Reinforcement
When teaching recall to your dog, it is so important to use small, high-value treats or your dog's favourite toy as a reward - something your dog is really excited about. When they come, always use positive reinforcement, even if it took a while. Do not scold your dog if they take their time or get distracted. You want them to associate coming to you with positive experiences only.
Choose a Unique Command: Use a distinct and consistent recall command, such as "come" or "here." Avoid using this word in other contexts so your dog associates it exclusively with coming to you.
Leash, Long Line, and Short Distances
Begin with your dog on a leash or long line (a 15-30 foot leash). This provides control and safety during early training. Hold the leash loosely and allow your dog some freedom to move, then start with short distances between you and your dog.
Practice Frequently and Increase Distance Gradually
Practice recall often, but in short sessions. Frequent, consistent training is more effective when teaching recall to your dog than infrequent, lengthy sessions. As your dog becomes more reliable with short distances, gradually increase the distance, but keep the general practise the same.
Add Distractions Slowly: After mastering recalls in a quiet environment, start practicing with gradually increasing distractions. This might involve other people, dogs, or toys. Use a long line in these situations to maintain control.
Be Consistent and Be Safe
Consistency is key. Use the same recall command every time, and make sure all family members use the same command and techniques when your dog spends time with them. Don't chase your dog when their safety might be at risk, such as around traffic. Instead, try running away so they follow you. Most importantly, always maintain control in potentially dangerous situations.
Off-Leash Training: Gradually work toward off-leash recall in a secure, fenced area. Make sure you're confident in your dog's ability to come to you consistently before attempting off-leash recalls in open areas.
Avoid Overusing the Command and Be Patient
Avoid using the recall command unnecessarily or repeatedly. For example, "Come! Come! Please come! I said come!" will lead to a 'poisoned cue', which occurs when a cue loses it's meaning and thus becomes less effective. Teaching recall to your dog will take time, but patience is key. Trust in the process and don't let your own impatience be the downfall of your dog's training.
Recall Games: Make training fun by turning it into a game. Run away from your dog, call them, and reward when they catch up with you!