As our weather warms up, you’ll likely be looking for more opportunities to take your dog out and about. I love unleashing my dogs, especially at the beach. It’s so beautiful, watching them rip around at full speed! And nothing makes me happier than seeing them bolt back to me when I call them.
How do you feel about your dog being off-leash? Does the very thought create panic in your heart? Can you call your dog back to you and know that, no matter the distraction, he will come every time?
In this month’s blog series, I’ll share some tips and tricks to safely train your dog to a reliable recall so you can relax and enjoy off-leash interactions more often. We’ll start with what NOT to do:
When telling your dog to “come,” don’t:
DON’T call your dog and punish him. This is a common mistake. People believe the dog “knows” why he is being punished – the shredded shoe or the consumed cake. But in reality, the dog is being punished for what he just did – coming to you when you called him. No wonder he doesn’t want to come, the next time!
DON’T call your dog just for yucky stuff. Calling your dog to the bathtub or to leave the dog park is another common mistake. If your dog only hears “come” when the fun stops, what a buzzkill! Instead, just go and get him. Or call him to you more than you need so you can release him again most of the time.
DON’T call your dog before he’s ready. This happens a lot. During training, you think your dog is ready for a real-life test. You call him when he’s chasing a squirrel, just to try it out. Every time you do that and your dog ignores you, you’re teaching your dog that coming to you is optional. Bad idea.
DON’T call your dog with one command, then try to use another in real life. I see this a lot in puppy classes, especially. Calling “Pup, pup, pup! C’mere, puppy!” is adorable and fun to do… but when Fido is heading toward traffic, you call, “GetOverHereRightNow!” Of course, sounds NOTHING like what you practiced, so Fido just keeps running. Instead, train what you will use and use what you trained!
DON’T chase your dog. This happens a lot, especially when young dogs grab-n-go. They pick up something that is valuable to the owner – a sock, a pair of glasses, the TV remote – and they get an excited response from the people! Yay! A chase game! Then they run all over the house with the people chasing. Great fun, until they are caught. But then, maybe next time, they’ll run a little faster. A gambler is born and a recall is ruined. Instead, teach your dog to fetch and return items to your hand!
DON’T use the word “come” in everyday chatter. Whatever your special recall word is, you can dilute the meaning to background noise by overuse. The term learned is irrelevant. When the dog hears a formerly meaningful word that is over-used and under-rewarded… well, it simply turns to mush. The dog may as well nap through it. You might consider teaching your dog a special recall word or sound that only is used by the adults—especially if you have little people in your home.
Now you know some of the most common mistakes people make that teach dogs to avoid coming when called. Here are a few things to do in preparation for recall training:
When telling your dog to “come,” do:
DO talk with family members about your plans and have everyone agree to avoid the above-mentioned errors!
DO choose a special word, whistle or sound you can reliably make that will ONLY be used for recall practice and use. Some options: come, here or front. Or use a whistle sound you can make reliably.
DO play with your dog to find out her favorite toys as these can be used during training.
DO try several varieties of food treats to find out your dog’s favorites. Some dogs prefer watermelon over jerky, if you can believe that. One dog I know likes kale better than cheese! So don’t pre-judge!
DO update your dog’s ID tag, put it on her collar, and check her microchip information before giving off-leash freedom!
In the next few weeks, we’ll cover some specific games you can play with your dog to teach a reliable recall. Meanwhile, if your dogs aren’t ready to come when called, please keep them leashed on the beach and elsewhere, for everyone’s safety! If you’d like personalized coaching for your family and pet, we are happy to help. To get started, shoot us an email at Behavior@whs4pets.org.
Latest posts by Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA (see all)
- Second Chances: How WHS and OSCI are Working Together - May 3, 2017
- Come to Me: 3 Easy Recall Games for Dogs - March 23, 2017
- Come to Me: Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching the “Come” Command - March 2, 2017