Most dogs love running around off lead, but before you give your dog full park freedom it’s vital for his safety that you know he will come back when called, regardless of where he is and what’s going on around him. To teach good recall your dog needs to learn that coming back to you is always a good thing, something that will bring him plenty of praise and rewards.
Important things to remember:
- Set your dog up for success by first training in an area with no distraction, like your own garden. Don’t call your dog unless you know he will come – you don’t want to teach him it’s ok to ignore you.
- When teaching recall, choose a special word or sound (not his name) that will be the cue for him to come back to you, for example “Come boy” or blowing a whistle. Make sure to always use this cue and try sounding happy and enthusiastic when using it so it sounds exciting to your dog.
- Use high value treats when teaching recall. The treats should be good enough to get him away from other interesting things, like other dogs or the interesting smelling bush.
- Never get cross with him for taking a while to actually get back to you, if you do then he is less likely to come back when you call, in case he gets into trouble.
- Make recall a fun part of the walk, and not the end to your dog’s fun. If he knows that you calling him back is the end of the walk he’s not going to want to come when called. So, call him back often, reward him with a treat, clip the lead on, give another treat, then unclip him and let him go off to play again.
So How do I teach recall? It’s easy!
While in your garden take a few steps away from your dog, say “come boy!” (or whatever your chosen cue is) in your most enthusiastic and excited voice. He will wonder what this is all about and come over and you, and when he does give him the yummiest treat you have. Keep doing this throughout the day. Make it a game – hide behind a tree and say “come boy!” and when he comes to find you give him a treat.
Once your dog is coming reliably when you give the cue, take him out on a long lead to a place with not too many distractions. Every now and then when he’s not too distracted by a smell or a squirrel say “come boy!” and reward him with a yummy treat for turning and coming towards you. Remember when training you want to make sure he’s going to come when called so don’t push too fast.
Finally, you are going to take the plunge and let him off lead completely. Start doing this in a quiet area, and once he is coming to you each time you call him you can move to an area with more distraction. Remember to call him back regularly and reward him extensively for coming back to you, then let him go off and play again.