How to get your dog to come when called
Hello Pet Parents & Dog Lovers,
Can I share one of my most embarrassing moments with you?
It wasn’t that long ago I let my ego get ahead of my dog training principles. Yes, I got cocky and thought I could handle my dog off leash in the city. Lucky for me and Maple, my mistake didn’t cost her her life! If you want to avoid the stress of risking your dog’s life in the city, and help forge a better bond with your dog, then I encourage you to keep on reading…
DREW’S ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR TEACHING YOUR DOG HOW TO COME WHEN CALLED
Most dog owners struggle with getting their dog to come when called. Follow these tips below to get the results you deserve.
1. DO NOT LET YOUR DOG OFF THE LEASH TOO SOON
Most of the troubles with teaching recall is when pet parents take their dog off leash before the dog is ready to go off leash.Often owners will make mistakes when they think they are alone on a walk with their dog and they let them off leash. Once they unhook the dog and let the dog run around, the next thing they know there is a huge distraction (other dogs, a bike, squirrel, etc.), and they don’t have control of their dog at all. This is a scary and often embarrassing moment for folks.
I’ve heard horror stories of people letting their dogs off the leash too soon and the dog simply runs away. Luckily the dog gets back home safe or is turned in by someone. When these events happen, hindsight is always 20/20. If you think about it, this is like playing Russian roulette with your dog’s life.
GUILTY AS CHARGED….
I have to admit, even I have made embarrassing choices with Maple. I will never forget the first (and last) time I made this mistake by letting her off the leash for a walk around my neighborhood. I had done it many times with great success previously. I figured Maple is a needy dog who never wants to be left behind and listens really reliably to all of my commands. That said, I had NEVER had success with her previously off leash around squirrels.
About a year ago I had a close call where Maple bolted to chase a squirrel across the street while walking off leash in my neighborhood with me. It took just that one time when she chased the squirrel and could have been killed by a car on the street that I smartened up. I was so embarrassed! How could I have ignored my own rules? I was playing fast and loose with her life and I felt so awful afterwards. Ever since that moment, we NEVER walk off leash in the city together.
TRAINING TIP: DO THIS INSTEAD ….
USE A LEASH to help you!
Common sense, right?
It takes discipline, but it is so worth it!
From that frightful moment over a year ago, I learned my lesson. Watch this video to see what I do with Maple instead… and IT IS STRESS FREE!
See how that experience was a training moment for us? By using a leash, I can confidently work my dog when her prey drive is activated around distractions.
This example in the video is exactly what I teach my clients to do when learning how to train their dogs to come when called around distractions in the city.
2. ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE TO YOUR DOG WHEN THEY DO COME
Recall needs to be 100% positive, 100% of the time. Always be in the habit of having something to give your dog when she comes after you call her. This could be a high value food reward, or favorite toy. On the rare case that a dog will strictly work for affection, you can definitely use that. My experience has shown me that most dog owners over use affection and it dilutes the value of it. Think of it this way, if your dog can get affection for doing nothing, then why would they come to you when they want to chase a squirrel? When she does come back, make it a HUGE event with her favourite reward, lots of praise and touch.
3. NEVER CALL YOUR DOG UNLESS YOU ARE SURE YOUR DOG WILL COME
TIRED OF PLAYING CHASE WITH YOUR DOG?
If you are not sure your dog will come when you call them, go get them. The bonus is that it doesn’t hurt the integrity of your command. So when in doubt, go get your dog. The worst thing you can get in the habit of, is calling your dog when you are unsure he will respond. This quickly turns into a game of keep away or chase.
4. NEVER GET MAD IF YOUR DOG BLOWS YOU OFF
If your dog is doing something wrong, go get your dog instead of trying to call them back in frustration. You always want your recall to be set up for success. Instead of repeating your command over and over to have your dog not listen, simply say nothing and go get your dog. Your energy is your number one communication tool, so make sure you stay calm and confident when you go to get your dog.
5. DON’T PUNISH
If you do call your dog to come to you when he is doing something wrong, never punish him when he does get back to you. Your dog will not be able to put two and two together that he was getting punished from something that took place away from you. In your dog’s mind, you called him, he came to you and he made the right choice and then was punished. He will begin to think coming to you is a negative thing that he gets punished for rather than understanding it was the act before you recalled him you were upset about.
6. DON’T MAKE THIS COMMON MISTAKE….FINISH ON THE RIGHT FOOT!
At the end of your training session, make sure you don’t associate your last recall with confinement. For example, do not call your dog then put him in his crate immediately after. Or if you are training a puppy, do not have the last recall be when you put her back in her pen. Some people make the error of calling their dog at the park, then putting the leash on and leaving. When in doubt, simply just go get your puppy, give them a reward, then end the training with confinement or leaving the ‘fun’ zone.
OFF LEASH RELIABILITY… WILL THIS EVER HAPPEN?
Yes, of course!
My question for you is…. are you ready to work for it?
The reality is, this is a long game. To put things into perspective, even the most experienced trainers will often keep their dogs on leash until they are 2 or 3 years old to ensure their recall is solidified. Recall takes effort, consistency, and lots of practice.To be successful, you must follow through and be willing to make mistakes. Don’t give up. Persistence pays off.
Practical tips when training recall:
- Always add difficulty slowly, over time. Don’t rush this process.
- Build on your leash success by adding a long leash and practice from 15-20 feet away
- To allow your dog to get distracted away from you, try recall with the leash dragging inside a fenced yard or tennis court. If you need the leash, you can step on it and use it as a helper to get your dog’s attention and refocus back on you.
- Once your dog is achieving success, take them to a nearby park with the long leash on and try your recall command around distractions.
- If you really want to test your dog, go to an off leash dog park once they have really impressed you on leash. Unclip the leash in the fenced park, and test your dog. Always do this before your dog gets over excited. Then once excited, try again. You will see a huge difference in the response times. The more you practice this, the better it will be.
- If your dog can’t perform under distractions, stop doing it. Your dog is simply not ready and that is okay. Keep practicing and go back to what they can do and celebrate!
HAVE YOU MADE MISTAKES?
Whaaaat? You’re not perfect??!!!
If you’ve made mistakes with your dog doing recall, don’t worry, it’s normal.
Just start over. RESET. Get back to basics.
By following a few simple rules as outlined above,
your dog will be listening to you in no time!
Remember there is no shortcuts in dog training.
Conditioning new skills takes time.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
So get out there and make some progress today.
You and your dog will be so happy you did!