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5 Ways To Improve Your Dog's Recall

5 Ways To Improve Your Dog's Recall

Imagine that you are walking with your dog when suddenly their tail goes up, their nose goes down, and their body language suddenly looks very alert. You realize they have caught the scent of a nearby skunk and are about to make their move. They spring into action, making a b-line for the smelly creature. You call out, “Fido, Come!” and you know what Fido does? They stop, mid-spring, turn your way, and come running back to you! Sounds amazing right? Well to many of you, that also sounds like an impossible pipe dream of a scenario. We are here to help make that pipedream a reality! Here are five things you can do to improve your dog’s recall!

Back to Basics.

So often the fastest way to make progress is to slow down. Go back to treating your dog like they have never practiced before. If your dog tends to ignore their recall even half of the time, then it might be time to choose a new recall word. Sometimes it’s easier to build something new than it is to try to repair something that is broken. Choose a new word, follow these next tips, and build something really strong from the ground up.

Off leash dog training

Quick Wins.

What is going to get your dog back to you when they see that skunk isn’t what’s in your pocket that day but rather the history of learning and the foundation of success that the two of you build together over time. Building a strong and reliable foundation early on will set you and your dog up for lasting success. Only say your recall word when you are sure that your dog will come back. Get their attention first by saying their name, then when they are keyed in on you, say your recall word excitedly. Even if they are already on their way to you if they aren’t distracted at all, or if they are standing right at your side. Use those situations to build positive associations with their cue. Being successful feels good. Help them succeed early and often.

Consider your reward.

Recall is one of those things that we can “poison” relatively quickly. We are often calling them away from doing the thing they want to do. That means we want to make sure their reward is worth their time. Consider how valuable your reward is to your dog. Steak, cheese, and chicken are all much more valuable than kibble, crunchy treats, or veggies. Tasty food isn’t the only way to make rewards more valuable. Cheer your dog on! Run around with them! Grab a toy and play! Toss your treats so they get to run after them or sniff through the grass to find them. Be creative, have fun, and pay well. Avoid “poisoning” your cue by using it to call your dog in from the yard, over to you so you can brush their teeth or trim their nails. We want your recall to end in fun whenever possible!

How to teach your dog to come

Run Away.

Sometimes running in the other direction is the best thing to do. Just as a noble knight faced with a murderous rabbit with sharp pointy teeth would only get themselves into more trouble running toward their problem, so does us running towards a dog ignoring us or playing keep away. Now this isn’t always the best plan, if your dog is headed toward something dangerous stop them as fast as you can! In many scenarios, it can be your best solution. Very often when we call our dogs, they come part way and then wait to see if you are going to try to grab them. If you try and reach out what may happen is a game of chase ensues! We get frustrated as our dogs have an absolute blast. 

Something similar can happen when our dogs are curious about a smell. We call them and we can tell they have heard us because they have either looked up before resuming their sniff or, their ears are flicking towards us. The last thing we want to do is go towards them as that will often just push them farther away. Instead, in both these scenarios, run in the other direction, and make a big deal about something to entice them to come check out what you are doing. Our dogs are curious creatures and they will have fun running around and playing with you.

Teach alternate recall cues.

Keeping your recall fun and interactive will keep your dog on their toes, and enjoying themselves. Behaviors like ‘Touch’, teaching them to run through your legs, U-turns where you run away with them, jumping over your leg, finding heel, or teaching middle are all awesome ways to keep your dog having fun and looking forward to running back to you when they hear their name! When you have multiple options you have a lower risk of your dog deciding to ignore your call. 

If all this sounds like a good plan for your dog but you’re concerned you are going to need a little more accountability to do the work- we’ve got you covered! We’re offering a free, three-part training series for distracted dogs. Whether your dog is distracted by dogs, people, or other animals, The Distracted Dog Reset will help you regain your dog’s attention! Click here to enroll for free today. 

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