Teaching your dog to come when called can be quite a challenge not so much because he’s stubborn or willful, but because humans inadvertently make training mistakes. Before helping you to improve your dog’s recall, let me mention some of those common mistakes that lead you to believe he plays deaf when you call him:
– The food treats you’ve chosen aren’t tasty enough, or your dog isn’t hungry and you keep trying to reward him with food. In this case, even though your intentions to reward him are the best you’re actually punishing him for coming instead of rewarding him – let’s remember how we feel when someone insists on giving us food we don’t particularly enjoy, or when we’re not hungry.
– You always use the same rewards. This means your dog can predict what the reward is and might not want it at that particular time.
– Nothing happens to him if you call and he doesn’t come. This means he gets a reward if he comes, and carries on enjoying himself if he doesn’t. Either way, it works for him! Compliance results in one type of reward, and non-compliance results in another type of reward.
What can you do to improve your dog’s recall?
– Vary the rewards you use so he can’t guess what you’re going to give him next. For example, carry 2 or 3 types of treats with you and pick one at random as a reward. You can also carry a toy or stick and give your dog a double reward by delivering a treat and engaging in a short play session. Another way of varying rewards is to give him a jackpot. You can also use verbal praise and then let him get back to what he was doing before you called.
– After saying your dog’s name and the recall cue encourage him from start to finish by making kissy sounds, whistling, clapping your hands, or making other enticing sounds. This will keep him focused on you all the way and less likely to be side-tracked or detour to go do something else.
– Adjust the ‘strength’ of your reward to the type of distraction you’re calling your dog away from. For example, verbal praise may be a fine reward at home but a very poor one if you call your dog away from other dogs and then simply say “gooooood booooy!” The harder the situation or stronger the distraction, the stronger the reward needs to be.
– Train your dog with a long line, so if you call him and he doesn’t come you can reel him in. The long line should be discarded only when your dog comes the first time you call him, at least 9 out of 10 times.
– When he’s running loose and decides to do check-ins (in other words, coming to you without being called) reward him every time. This is a nice reminder that coming to you always results in something nice for him.
It is our honest hope this article adds value to your dog training efforts 🙂