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Good advice to empower every dog owner to have a happy, rewarding relationship with their four-legged friend.

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Coming to a call (recall)

A reliable recall is an important skill to teach before being able to let your dog off lead in the park. By following the steps below, your dog should start to engage with you when they hear them being called.

Equipment needed:

  • Collar
  • Lead
  • Treats or toys if your dog prefers those
  • Bowl
  • Extra tasty treats
  • Whistle
  • A friend or family member

Remember – we want the dogs to be successful so if your dog is struggling, go back a step until the dog succeeds.

Step 1 – Start indoors

  • To start teaching your dog to recall outside, we need to first build up a good foundation in the home. This is a place familiar to your dog and you can control the distractions.
  • Start with your dog in the same room as you are.
  • Using a piece of your dog’s food, ask them to sit and wait whilst you move away a few paces (if your dog doesn’t know a sit & wait then you can ask a second person to have them on a lead and unclip the dog when you call them)
  • Prepare the bowl with a portion of your dog’s food (use tastier treats if needed)
  • Open your arms wide, call your dog’s name and ask them to “come”
  • Reward them with their food. Verbal praise can be a great partner to food but not all dogs enjoy physical praise and touch so find what works best for your dog. It may also be a toy.
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day for as long as it takes your dog to consistently engage with you when called. Then move on to step 2

Remember, work with what your dog finds the most rewarding. If using food, choose healthy low-fat treats where possible and balance it with their daily food allowance so your dog doesn’t gain weight

In the video, the trainer is leaning forward with open arms when calling her dog. Whilst this position can be engaging for dogs, some dogs may find it worrying so you may wish to stand straight or crouch down. All dogs are different so go with what your dog is happy with.

Step 2 – Try from another room

  • Have a pre-prepared bowl with food in ready
  • Wait until your dog is in another room, making sure they have free access to you
  • Call your dog’s name and ask them to “come”
  • When they are in sight, open your arms wide and if necessary, repeat their name and “come” then reward them when they get to you
  • Again, repeat 3-4 times a day for as long as it takes your dog to consistently engage with you when called
  • If your dog is struggling, go back a step and repeat

Step 3 (optional) – Introducing the whistle

(If you choose not to use it, skip to Step 5)

  • Have something extra tasty such as turkey or a small amount of cheese or carrot (the healthier and lower fat the better)
  • Blow the whistle and feed your dog 2-3 pieces of tasty food. Initially blow the whistle quietly and gradually increase the volume at a pace that suits your dog
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day for a week or as long as it takes your dog to recognise the sound of the whistle and become excited about the tasty food that follows

Step 4 – Repeat with whistle

  • Repeat step 2 but using the whistle and some extra tasty food instead of your voice and some low value food

Step 5 – Distract them

  • Have some food to hand
  • Ask a friend/family member to distract the dog, this can either be with toys or  food
  • Say your dog’s name followed by “come”
  • Reward your dog when they come to you but this time reward from your hand rather than from a bowl and reward them with 2-3 pieces of food given individually
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day for as long as it takes your dog to consistently engage with you when called.

Step 6 – Distract them from another room

  • Have some food to hand
  • Ask a friend/family member to distract the dog in another room
  • Say your dog’s name followed by “come”
  • Reward your dog when they come to you with 2-3 pieces of food given individually
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day for as long as it takes your dog to consistently engage with you when called.

Step 7 – Repeat with a whistle (optional)

(If you are not using a whistle, skip to Step 8)

  • Repeat steps 5 & 6 but this time using a whistle and some extra tasty food.

Once your dog responds to you calling them in the house, it’s time to take your recall outside. Start in your garden, followed by a secure field far away from the road.

Step 8 – Head outisde

Because we have changed our criteria i.e. place of training, we need to take our teaching back to step 1 again

  • Choose a quiet, safe area away from distractions such as other dogs and people
  • Have your dog off lead or on a loose long lead. Using a piece of your dog’s kibble, ask them to sit and wait whilst you move away a few paces (if your dog doesn’t know a sit & wait then you can ask a second person to have them on a lead and unclip the dog when you call them)
  • Open your arms wide, call your dog’s name and ask them to “come”
  • Reward them with their food. Feed 2-3 pieces individually
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day for as long as it takes your dog to consistently engage with you when called.
  • Once consistent, now try it on the move making sure there are no distractions around. Wait until your dog is looking at you, then call their name and ask them to “come”
  • Repeat the above steps but this time use the whistle and some extra tasty food

Remember, we want them to be successful so don’t call your dog if you think they won’t come. You want to make sure that you carry your voice but that your tone remains calm and friendly.

Step 9 – Introduce distractions

Find out what your dog finds distracting. This could be somebody playing football, other dogs, or water. You may need a friend with a ball or another dog to help

  • Start with the distraction in the distance. You want your dog to be able to see it but that it’s not too close to become too much of a temptation.
  • When your dog notices the distraction, call your dog with open arms and ask them to “come”
  • Reward, reward, reward

(If your dog runs over to the distraction then it means you are too close to it, so increase the distance)

  • Repeat the above steps but this time use the whistle and some extra tasty food

Remember, you need to be as exciting, if not more exciting than the distraction. This may mean using a higher tone of voice or increasing your body movement (running in the opposite direction whilst calling them with a high-pitched voice) and lots of praise when they come back to you.

Step 10 – Decrease distance with distractions

  • Gradually decrease the distance between you and your dog and the distraction
  • When your dog notices the distraction, call your dog with open arms and ask them to “come”
  • Reward, reward, reward

(If your dog runs over to the distraction then it means you are too close so increase the distance)

  • Repeat the above steps but this time use the whistle and some extra tasty food
  • Now you can start to add movement in by walking with your dog around the park. Start off at quiet times and over a period of weeks, gradually increase the amount of distractions and change the environment you practice in

Tips for success

Remember, don’t make it too difficult for your dog and let it always be fun and positive. Even if your dog doesn’t always come when asked, don’t be tempted to punish or shout at your dog as this can damage your dog’s trust. Reward, reward, reward when successful and if your dog isn’t successful then it means you need to make your teaching easier for them to get it right.

 Don’t be afraid of going back a step or two if your dog isn’t successful. Teaching takes time so be patient and the smaller the steps, the quicker your dog will progress.

Happy teaching!

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