dog recall

Five Ways to teach your dog that coming to you is the best thing ever!

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If you want your dog to come when you call, you need to get into his head that arriving with you is the best thing ever! 

Instead of asking your dog to leave an exciting something to come to boring you, change his mindset so that he sees your call as an opportunity to spin on a sixpence and race straight to you like a missile.

20-week-old Rocco races to his owner at high speed!

And here are some NEVERS and some ALWAYS’s to keep you on the straight and narrow

9 Rules for a Perfect Recall

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1. NEVER, EVER, reprimand your dog when he comes to you. If he runs to you and you tell him off, how likely is it that he’ll come next time you call? It doesn’t matter what he did when he was “out there” - coming back to you has to be the best thing he ever did. Be sure he knows that his prompt return always makes you very, very happy!

2. NEVER go on a walk without a stash of really good treats in your pocket. ”Really good” does not include his kibble, cat biscuits, or pocket fluff. Rather - cheese, sausage, hot dog, beefburger … If you did a good turn for someone and they gave you a dry biscuit as a reward, how likely would you be to put your hand up next time they’re looking for a favour? A whole chocolate cake? Now that’s a different matter!

3. NEVER call your dog, and - when he doesn’t respond - say “Ah well, I’ll call him a bit later.” This has been noted, documented, and logged by your dog, and filed under the heading “I only need to come when I’m called sometimes.” This is the absolute last thing we want him to learn! He needs to know that when he hears his name, he comes back - every time.

4. ALWAYS vary your rewards. Sometimes he gets a lump of beefburger when he arrives with you; sometimes he gets 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 tiny bits of cheese posted into his mouth one after the other; sometimes you hurl his toy behind you as he approaches, then race him to the toy; sometimes as he runs towards you you take off at high speed away from him - game on! - dogs all love to chase! What else could you do to excite your particular dog?

Puppy Cai loves this recall game with his young owner

Puppy Cai loves this recall game with his young owner

5. NEVER call him unless you have a 90% chance of him coming. Choose your moment, call him and refer to no.3 above. He doesn’t come? Then if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. Go up to him and call him from one yard away. Success! Big lump of sausage!

How soon should I start training my puppy to recall?

Immediately!

Straight away!

As soon as you get your new puppy or new dog, they should be learning that responding to their name is the best thing ever. Read this post to give you a start

Dogs love running fast. Make sure that running fast towards you is always more rewarding than running fast in the opposite direction.

It takes time and steady application to develop a super recall. But think how proud you’ll be when you can call your dog’s name (once!) and he stops dead, spins round, and hurtles back to you! And think how relieved you’ll be if he had been racing towards a road, or a sabre-toothed tiger (or whatever hazards you have in your neck of the woods).


Want a bit more help with your recall? You’ll love this new course that's now open for enrolment!

Check out my new online Dog Training Course teaching new dog owners to achieve lasting results through six weeks of dog-friendly coaching,

and have a thumping good recall in a matter of weeks!

 

Our family’s always had dogs, why is this one so difficult?

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“Archie just goes mad,” said Anne.

“He’s so full of energy he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s always stealing things, getting on the chairs, he knows just how to wind me up  …

And then, when we go out, he’s not at all friendly with other dogs. Some children were rushing past on their scooters the other day - I thought he was going to grab them!

We’ve always had dogs - but I’ve never had one like this before! 

What’s wrong with him?”


This is a shame. Anne was very pleasant, well-meaning, and obviously devoted to the naughty Archie. When I visited her I saw the life that Archie lived and found the root of the problem fairly quickly.

Anne was indeed experienced with dogs. For forty years there had always been a family dog. 

Now she had the dog … but no family!

Her previous dogs had been brought up in the rough and tumble of family life. From morning till night (and sometimes during the night) there had always been activity. The electric energy children bring to a home was ever-present.

There would be visiting children, bikes to chase after, tears and jam to be licked off cheeks, shrieking, dropped food to be cleaned up, toys, gadgets, running and racing, tree houses to climb up into, a sick child to cuddle up with …

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Housekeeping in a busy family was basic maintenance, not perfection.

And then there were the school runs, walks to the shops, family holidays on the beach.

Archie’s predecessors had had a very different upbringing!

And Archie had missed out on all of this.

 

What Archie had missed


• He hadn’t learned to cope with children (Anne never walked to the shops these days and there were as yet no visiting grandchildren.)

• He did not encounter many dogs in the rural area Anne had retired to 

• The house was painfully quiet - and spotless. Anne was very, very houseproud. 

• He’d never been to puppy class (“The other dogs had never needed it,” said Anne, “so I didn’t bother.”)

• He didn’t know how to use up his energy in the day 

• He had plenty of long country walks which made him stronger, but his mind was never tired

• This was all exacerbated by the fact that Archie was a high-energy dog, bred to work till he dropped


So while Anne thought she was rearing her young dog the same way as her previous family dogs, in fact she was missing a huge chunk of his essential upbringing!

"I'm bored! If something doesn't happen soon, I'll have to make it happen!"

"I'm bored! If something doesn't happen soon, I'll have to make it happen!"

In this case we started a program of belated socialisation and habituation, Archie came to class and was very quick to learn the games and tricks I teach there, and Anne learnt that mental stimulation is infinitely more tiring than physical exercise!

You cannot “socialise” an older dog. This is something that can only happen in the dog’s brain up to the age of 15-16 weeks. What you can do is get him out and about, having new experiences, and enjoying them! If he’s not enjoying - for instance another dog walking towards him - then about turn and withdraw to a safe distance where he can observe the dog passing while you pop treats into his mouth. The distance will vary, but could be at least 50 yards. 

Anne didn’t need to take Archie on ever longer walks, building his stamina so that his energy was boosted - just spend a few minutes here and there during the day when she could play some of the games and tricks he’d learnt in class, and mind games to satisfy his busy brain. Here's a great book to get you started.

As a working dog, Archie quickly took to the games which involved his amazing powers of scent. Hide and Seek, in the house and the garden, became very popular! We even taught Archie some useful tricks: fetching Anne’s indoor shoes when they arrived back from a walk was very popular all round. It gave Archie a job to do straight away, and Anne was able to dry his feet when he brought her shoes, before he’d started running all over the house. 

Family Dog but no family?

Children go so well with puppies!

Children go so well with puppies!

So if you're like Anne - you want to get another family dog but don’t have the family at home any more, here are a few things to consider:

• Early socialisation to everything in our world is vital. This includes towns, shops, countryside, schools, fairs, horses, bikes, trains, dogs, children, etc. “Early” means from the day after your puppy arrives, at 8 weeks.

• A first-rate force-free Puppy Class will give you lots of tools and experience

• Mental stimulation is more tiring and satisfying than physical exercise alone. This was a big surprise to Anne!

• Playing with your dog is much more fun than telling him off

• Care less about the spotlessness of your home - you have a dog!

• Choose a breed that was not designed to run over moor and mountain for eight hours a day

• Worry less about what your dog is doing, and more about what you are doing


Most of all, enjoy your puppy!

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Trust your dog, don’t control him!

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Lizzie had recently retired from a responsible position. 

She lived in a spotless and perfectly-kept home in the countryside with a husband who was always out at work. She wanted a dog for companionship and pleasant country walks.

Her children were long grown so it was a good while since she’d had a young thing to look after. 

So the advent of her puppy Bracken brought up all kinds of fears and anxieties in Lizzie - she was terrified something dreadful would happen to him, but she also struggled with the disruption a puppy brought to a neat, clean, adults-only, house.

At Puppy Class, Bracken was distracted and lively - typical of his busy and active breed - not, perhaps, the best choice for a first-time dog-owner of later years. 

Lizzie got very anxious and embarrassed by his behaviour at class. 

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She felt ashamed that she couldn’t “control” this puppy, and felt he was showing her up. 

She was perplexed that her image of the perfect dog trotting at her heels across hill and dale was not matched by the reality of a puppy who seemed to be always straining to get as far away from her as possible!

So I wasn’t surprised when Lizzie got in touch with me a couple of months after her Puppy Course finished to give me a long list of problems she was having with Bracken, and to ask for help.

Enter the prison!

When I arrived at her home I found something more akin to a prison! I was ushered through an airlock of two doors at the front door (a good practice in itself) to see an excited puppy leaping up at a baby gate. Bracken was not learning how to greet people stuck behind a gate!

She had four metal playpens barricading various rooms and corridors. She had baby gates in most of the doorways - this in addition to a couple of crates. And outside she had had fencing built round the patio to prevent Bracken’s access to the garden.

The house itself was spotless, with no sign of Bracken’s toys which had all been put away. 

Her focus was entirely on containing and controlling her eager youngster.

Her list of problems included:

  • Bracken was not yet reliably housetrained

  • He’d grab anything he could find in the house and initiate a chase game

  • Outside he’d get hold of stones and slugs, which Lizzie frantically tried to get off him

  • This was leading to a Resource Guarding problem

  • He’d steal any food so everything was locked away

  • He’d race off to any dog he saw on walks, play too roughly, and refuse to come back

 

The Program

This is what made Lizzie happy!

This is what made Lizzie happy!

  • I revised with Lizzie the games she’d learnt in Puppy Class - which had all been forgotten in the new clampdown era

  • I taught her new games - particularly for focus and recall - to show her that Bracken could keep his feet on the floor and engage intelligently with her

  • We played fast games so Bracken could learn to respond even while highly excited

  • Housetraining - we went back to new puppy basics

  • She revised her matwork with Bracken so he could reliably go to his mat when asked - and stay there till released

  • She learned to swap, not to snatch or chase. This stopped the stealing and the resource guarding, and dealt with the potentially dangerous slug ingestion

  • Lizzie learned to stop caring about stolen items so that grabbing stones was no longer the prompt for a chase game for Bracken, so it just died out on its own

  • She improved Bracken’s diet, going for a grain-free option

  • She learned how to handle a long line with soft hands so she could give Bracken comparative freedom without getting too anxious herself

  • She got a Freedom Harness for control without coercion

  • These both improved her Loose Lead Walking dramatically

  • We worked on a system for greeting dogs and people with self-control

  • She polished up her Tug play from class so that it incorporated masses of impulse control along with masses of high energy fun

  • She did some work using Dr. Overall’s Relaxation Protocol to teach Bracken to self-soothe and settle

  • And she started to use impulse control at every opportunity - every time she opened the fridge, every time she opened a door, picked up a toy or Bracken’s lead

Here's a taste of the course that Bracken got - specially-selected video lessons will get you fast results!

Click for details of our new online course!

 

The result

Over the course of a month - with much reassurance that Yes, Lizzie was an excellent owner for Bracken, and Yes, she could look after him well and give him what he needed, and Yes, he would become her perfect companion over time - all the playpens, fences, and gates disappeared. 

She became able to walk him on a loose lead instead of the vice-like grip on a tight lead she had before, and she was able to let him loose on walks without panicking that he’d escape (or even want to escape). 

She had entirely stopped chasing Bracken for stolen items, with the result that he no longer bothered to steal them - he’d much rather have the offered game instead.

Housetraining? “Oh yes, he’s fine now!”

The Conclusion

Bracken was a grand little pup who was being wound up on a daily basis with constant nagging, recriminations, and control.

He was simply exhibiting puppy and early adolescent behaviours which provoked a huge over-reaction in Lizzie, owing to her anxiety that she was somehow failing the dog.

Once Lizzie learnt how to relax and release - and to stop worrying herself into a panic - everything started to run smoothly.

By relinquishing control and instead giving Bracken choices, she elicited really good responsive behaviour from him. 

It was a delight for me to see that both Lizzie and Bracken felt free to trust and enjoy each other. The journey could now begin!

 

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How precious is your dog’s name?

Call your dog - go on, call him now. Did he look up with pleasurable anticipation? Did he come to you? If not, try again - and listen to yourself. Would you come if you were him?

Dogs are simple creatures. They do what works. And they learn fast.

How many times did you have to put your hand on your cooker’s hotplate before you decided it wasn’t a good idea? Just the once, I’d guess!

So if you call your dog and when he arrives you lean over him and say, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU HORRIBLE DOG I’VE TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE,” how likely is it that he’s going to come next time?

9 Rules for a Perfect Recall

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I know a boy with learning difficulties called Jonathan. When his mother was happy with him, she’d call “Johnny!”. When there was trouble looming, it would be “JonaTHAN!” Result: this uncomplicated child would only style himself ‘Johnny’. He’d say “I hate ‘Jonathan’”. Out of the mouths of babes and little dogs ...

 

So while we need the patience of a saint not to over-react sometimes in the stress of daily living, there is one thing we can change so that we aren’t blitzing our dog’s recall.

And it’s this:

 

Your dog’s name is precious

 

To his ears it should be the best sound in the world - especially coming from your mouth.

  1. Only use your dog’s name when you can pair it with good things. That means, “Fido!” — “here’s a treat for you”, or “Fido!” — “what a lovely doggiewoggie you are”, or “Fido!” — “let’s put your lead on for a walk”, or “Fido!” -- “here’s your dinner”, or “Fido!” — “grab this toy!” … you get the picture.

  2. When you’re frustrated or short-tempered, you find your new shoes have acquired decorative toothmarks, you need to interrupt barking in a hurry - you DON’T use his name. What do you use instead? Absolutely anything you like. From “Dog!” to “Sausages!”, from “Woowoohoo!” to “&**$^**£*!!”. Whatever you call, don’t call his name.

If, upon sober and honest reflection, you realise that you have been colouring your dog’s perception of his name - and I know how easily this can happen, especially when you’re running a busy family - fear not: you can change it all.

 

 

As I said above, dogs are simple creatures. They do what works. And they learn fast.

Simply ensure that you follow 1) and 2) above. Focus on it religiously for three days and see where you are.

I’d like to hear your results! 

By the way, often all you need to do to prevent your dog doing something you don’t like is to distract him by calling his lovely name. No need to stress yourself out by remonstrating with him. There’s no place for Victorian morality in working with your pet! Get the result you want and move on.

 

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For lots more tips like this to make life with your dog more fun,
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Your dog’s name is the most precious sound in the world