Photography by Karen McMillan
Although recalling your dog might seem to be the simplest thing in the world, in practice getting your dog to come back can be harder than it seems to be. So, what exactly is a reliable recall? When you call your dog once and it immediately starts running straight back toward you and stops within touching distance, your and your dog's life become easier. Reliable recall can also literally save your or your dogs life.
Why Dogs Don't Come Back ?
Dogs usually fail to return when called for a few reasons. They don’t know what the cue means, they prefer to do something else, they are scared to death of the consequences when they return, or it's simply their instinct that takes over. Genetically determined characteristic can reduce some of the senses even in very smart dog breeds. Very often desire to hunt or herd de-tunes or switches off the sense of hearing.
Dog Recall Tips
Yes, teaching consistent and reliable recall can be a pain and often requires help of very knowledgeable trainer. But I believe all dogs can be trained to come back with the right approach. Here are a few of my tips that will help you in training your dog recall.
You'd probably not run particularly quickly towards someone that is scowling at you. Even if your dog does come back when you are angry, it won’t be willingly - which is the real key to dog recall. So use a bright, clear voice and look like you've just won the lottery. Recall should be a happy and exciting activity.
Slowly build up the level of distractions that are around when training a dog to come back. If you start teaching someone to drive, you don't head straight out to the biggest roundabout in the city on their first lesson. In the same way you should build up the level of difficulty for your dog whenever it is learning something new – including recall.
Try to create real desire to get back to you quickly. If your dog would do anything for a toy or that food that it loves, then use it. But don’t throw it away too quickly. Remember that it is coming back to YOU what gets Max the reward.
Dogs don’t always ‘lock on’ to us by sight when we’re a far away unless we move. It will vary between the breeds, but if you move about or wave around to let your dog see you, you may well increase your chances of them making the connection that you are calling them to come back.
Once your doggy has discovered that coming back to you is great, try running backwards a few steps so that it has to work a little harder to get to the fun (treat/toy). You’ll get a little more speed to your recall that way.
In the beginning you need to make sure that you keep control of the dog at all times. Despite all your best efforts, sometimes the distractions are inevitably more exciting than the best happiest designed session.
In my opinion a whistle is one of the most important tools for training recall. The reason is simple. Whistles travel much further than the human voice, especially on windy days. Also, unlike the human voice they do not show emotion or panic. The earlier you start the better, but it can be introduced at any age.