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Dog Training 101: Teaching Your Dog Recall


Teaching your dog recall (i.e. to come when called) is one of the most important lessons your pet can learn.  A rock solid recall can literally mean the difference between life and death, particularly if your dog escapes the house or breaks free of his collar.  Tips for teaching recall are described here.

Low Distraction
The first step is to start training your dog in a low-distraction area, such as a spare bedroom.  Do not attempt recall in the yard or at the park until your dog has mastered coming when called in the house.  Place a leash on your pet, ask your dog to sit, and then walk backwards (still holding the leash), while saying “come” and holding a treat.  When your dog reaches you, give your pet profuse praise.

Make Recall Fun
Once your dog has learned the meaning of “come,” take to the outdoors and turn recall into a fun game.  For instance, run away from your dog while saying the command.  Alternatively, gather family or friends and form a circle around your pet.  Have each person take turns using the recall command and giving your dog attention.  The more you can turn recall into a game, the faster your dog will learn.  If your dog loves to play fetch, sneak in a training session by saying “come” every time your dog brings back the ball or toy.

Only Good Associations
Your dog will not want to come to you if you primarily use the command to end his fun.  For instance, don’t use recall to bring your dog in from the yard or to leave the dog park.  Instead, develop an alternative command such as “inside” or “let’s go home.”

High Value Rewards/Praise
Unlike other commands, such as sit, treats should never be phased out from recall.  Every time your dog comes to you when called, treat your pet as though he has just won the Nobel Peace Prize for good doggy behavior.  If your dog is treated well each time he follows directions, he will be less likely to ignore you.

Never Stop Practicing
Even after your dog has mastered the art of coming when called, never stop practicing this necessary skill.  You can use every day situations for recall training, such as calling your dog to you when it’s time to go outside, eat meals, or play.  You never know when you might need your dog to return immediately, so keeping this skill sharp is important.

Some Breeds are Better than Others
Ultimately, you should understand that certain breeds will inherently have better recall skills than others.  Scent hounds, such as Beagles, tend to be so distracted by rabbits or other small animals that they ignore everything else.  Other breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and American Staffordshire Terriers, excel at focusing attention on their owners and are better at this skill.  It is important to work with your dog’s strengths and weaknesses when training any new command.

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Anna Weber

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