Sunday, February 23, 2014

My dog ignores me when I call. The importance of recall.

The Importance of Recall Training

One of the most common things that folks ask me about involves teaching a dog to consistently come when called. Dog trainers (just to sound cool) call this recall.

A polite dog should be very consistent at coming to you when you call. However, like everything else in dog training, this requires consistency in training. The dog must get a consistent message from you. The absolute most important thing to remember is that responding to your come command must not be seen, by the dog, as optional. I am in no way suggesting that you punish the dog for not responding. However, if the dog does not respond, you must be prepared to physically walk over to the dog and get his attention.

Recall is important for the safety of the dog. It is also important because a lot of other things that you will likely want to accomplish in training rely, to a large extent, upon good recall.

I know this sounds like it does not need to be pointed out.... but... I am going to point it out anyway (this is my blog I suppose I can do that :) ) : The dog must respond to his/her name before recall has any chance at all of working. Before you begin your recall training the dog must understand his/her name! 

Does this guy look complex to you? All Dr. Phil McBeagle
really wants here is attention from his foster daddy.
Affection is a great motivator for Dr. Phil. Treats are
not bad either :).
I have mentioned many times before, on this blog, that dogs are not complex. They really are not complex.  You must keep that in mind. They do not understand the English language. Therefore, repeating their names or commands can really be confusing to these little guys. For instance, when I want Copper to come to me, I call his name one time i.e. " Copper" then I give the command (or cue)" Come". Those are the only two words I use.  If I need to get his attention again, I make kissing sounds or whistle or maybe even snap my fingers. I never repeat the command (or cue) or his name. The reasoning for this is very simple. If I repeat his name, Copper may begin to think his name is "Copper....Copper.... Copper" or that the cue (or command) to which he needs to respond is " Come...Come...Come". 

By the way, I also tell folks that it is really important to use a verbal and visual cue. For instance, Copper knows the hand signal for "Come" and if he can see me, I should not have to use the verbal cue. This is part of training for a polite dog. For instance, if I am in a conversation with another person and want Copper to come over, I should not have to stop my conversation to call him, simply using the visual cues should work too.

Foster Boy Tiny and Foster Boy Biscuit playing on the porch.
This is an example of something that is fun for the dogs
and a potential distraction when you call them.
It is really beyond the scope of this post to teach you step-by-step how to accomplish good recall. However, I want to encourage you that it can be done! Sometimes it is frustrating but you can be successful.
A large part of success however, involves setting realistic expectations. You will very likely never get 100% recall from any dog. This is especially true with the scent hound breeds. If a dog is on the trail of some interesting scent, it is difficult. However, you can get really good recall. The times when the dog does not respond should be rare. 

You must also remember that this is a process. You have to first get your dog to come consistently with no distractions before you introduce distractions. There are techniques that allow adding distractions slowly. For instance, the dog should consistently come to you when you are in the same room in the house before you start trying it when the dog can not see you ( i.e. you are in another room). And until the dog comes consistently from another room with a few distractions, you should not expect him to come when he is outside with all the interesting smells and cool fun things to do!
Treats can be a powerful motivator
You also must have some type of motivation to entice the dog to do something that he really does not want to do, like come to you when he would rather play with a pack mate or chase a squirrel. I often use treats in the beginning.  To address my trainer friends who do not like this technique, I will point out that I do not have to use the treats forever. If the dog begins to associate fun things (like getting a tasty treat) with doing what I want him to do, he will be more likely to do it even if he does not get a treat every time. Eventually it will become routine for him. There are different techniques for training. I have found that I have success with this positive motivation method. So, I use it!

If you need help teaching your dog recall, Copper and I will be happy to help! Good recall is essential for a polite dog. I always tell you that " Polite Dogs = Happy People". So, call me and let me help you get happy today!

Till next time,


William Moore Canine Training

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