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Come when called

Taking a dog to an off leash park or some other exciting place and expecting them to come away from dog play is like giving a teenager the keys to the car, filling the car with their friends and expecting them all to be home by 7 pm.

They won’t be.

They’ll return when they’ve had enough, not when you have.

A recall away from play is a University level recall for a dog who may only have kindergarten, primary or intermediate level skills.

Training your dog to recall is one of the most important things you can do. 

A young puppy will just follow you, but don’t assume this means he (or she) is trained. They're not trained. They're young and insecure and they follow you to feel safe. As they get older and bolder, things will change.

Please train ‘come when called’ really, really well, starting as soon as you get your pup!

First read the section “What is my name?”and teach that.

Once the dog knows and values their name it will be much easier to teach them to come when called (recall).

Be FUN and be welcoming! Calling your dog while standing like a robot and using a stern voice isn’t fun. Occasionally you may need to sound stern, but this shouldn’t be the way you teach the recall. You want the dog to WANT to come and be with you.

Have a bright, cheery recall cue. Crouching and opening your arms can help encourage a dog  to come.

A few short sessions a day where you call your dog, reward them for coming and release them to have fun again, keeps the practice going. Otherwise you end up with a dog that you ‘think’ knows how to come to you, but actually only knows how to come to you under certain really simple circumstances.

When your dog is close to you and likely to be happy to come – call their name. As soon as they look at you, praise and encourage them to come to you for a reward.

When you make the job harder – only change ONE thing at a time.

Recall over slightly longer distances OR in different places OR with a few more distractions. (Don’t call your dog over a longer distance as well as with more distractions – change ONE thing only.)

Ensure you keep an undertrained dog or pup on a long line so if they are too distracted you can go up and collect them.

If the pup is uncertain about coming to you – dropping on to your knees (closer to their level) and opening your arms while calling in a cheerful, light voice will often encourage them to come closer. Running away is also very effective. The sight of you disappearing can bring a puppy fast!

Chasing them or using a threatening voice and body language are likely to teach the dog to run away or to come in very slowly. If you use a stern voice to get your pup’s attention and they then begin to approach, change your scolding to encouragement. Your pup is now doing the right thing!

Tricking them by calling kindly and then punishing will also damage the recall. The pup will learn you can’t be trusted.

If you haven’t taught your pup to take notice of you and their name in distracting situations – they won’t come when called.

Not disobedient – UNDERTRAINED!

I use long lines and careful management to train recalls, so my pups just don’t get the opportunity to be wrong. I still reward recalls every time even with my older dogs. The harder the recall is for the dog, the bigger the reward e.g. coming away from a running cat earns a long, exciting tuggy game. 

My dogs so far have had a very good recall in most circumstances.  If I have ANY doubts about whether they will come if called, I don’t take the chance and keep them leashed. I strongly advise you to do that.



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