Recall Training: Will your dog come back when called?
How many of us have a solid recall where the dog will come back to us whatever the distraction? This article aims to demystify the dog recall, what it is and why it fails, but more importantly how you can get your dog to always come back with recall training
I often hear owners say their dog will come back to them sometimes when called. They assume they have a recall. Sadly the truth is in a moderate to heavy distraction environment very few dogs will achieve this. What do I mean by a distraction environment? When you take your dog to the park where there are other dogs off the lead or lots of people activity then this is a distraction environment. How busy it is will determine how distracting this place is. When people claim they have a recall it is usually based on the dog coming back to them from the garden or the dog is bored and you are the next best option!
Dogs need to be busy, it is normal. They need to explore new locations and the thousands of new smells left behind by other animals. To your dog these smells are the CV of the animal which left them and it is how the dog builds up a picture of whats around it. To a puppy all these smells are amazing and off course all those people mean attention and treats might be on offer!!
Recalling your dog: what do we mean by this?
What are we actually asking for when we refer to a recall? In simple terms we want the dog to stop what it is doing and return to us when called back. How difficult can that be? Sadly its a lot more complex than that and can be made even more challenging depending on the breed. What we are actually asking the dog to do is ignore its genetic makeup to explore its environment which it will find very self rewarding. To return to a owner who appears to be shouting and perhaps angry. To then be put on the lead and taken home. Is there no wonder parks are full of dog owners who’s dogs ignore them and wonder why, given they provide love, toys and feed the dog. It is perhaps the most common complaint that owners have about their dogs. It is also one of the reasons some dog owners fall foul of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
Recall techniques: How we get the dog to come back
The best time to start recall training is when you first get your puppy home. The older dog will have had many opportunities to have ignored you when called and this has been self rewarding. The dog has learnt that each time it ignores you there is a reward, it can carry on having fun. Reversing this can be challenging, but with the right approach, being consistent and persistent then it can be turned around. One of the key tools we will use is the whistle as it has many advantages over the human voice when it comes to training the dog to return to you.
In all aspects of dog training there is no easy fix as sometimes portrayed on the TV. One of the key drivers we need to establish is that you become central to your dog/puppy’s life. You are fun to be with, kind and have very special toys or treats. I believe that if your best friend is to learn one skill it is a solid recall in a moderate distraction environment. It might one day save your dog from have a very bad experience with another dog and stop you facing questions by the police and your dog taken away.