Tip of the Day – Don’t Ruin Your Recall

Recall = Dog Trainer’s Term for “Coming When Called”

Use a long line to ensure success and safety when you first start practicing in big open spaces. This is a beautiful recall. "Good Girl!"

The Myth: IF your dog ignores you when you first call him to come, and continues to ignore you, or even worse – runs AWAY from you – THEN when you do finally re-unite with him, you must really scold him so he knows better for next time.  (Oh no!  See below.)

The Real Deal: If you punish your dog when you re-unite with him you’ll find it even harder to get him to come next time.  You’ll lose trust.  Late corrections are confusing relationship-ruiners.  Another way to describe this common mistake is: You’ll ruin your recall if you call your dog to come and he ends up in a situation he doesn’t like.

Here’s an example I see all the time: An owner calls her dog who is joyfully running free in the park and then when the dog arrives he is immediately leashed, followed by leaving.  Ending recalls with negative consequences will lead to lack of trust and goodbye recall.  Do it just a few times and  it won’t be long before you see one of three dreaded responses each time you call your dog:

  1. He pays attention but gives you “The Look.” The look is when your dog stays right where he is and stares directly at you with an inquisitive expression which can best be interpreted as “Come?  Now?  For what?  Is this the recall that SUCKS or the one that ends in chicken treats?  If the latter, show me the chicken, then we’ll talk.”
  2. He completely ignores you as if he doesn’t hear you at all (and he may not if he’s tuned into a heavy distraction).  Look for an ear twitch to know if he heard you at all.  You’d rather he didn’t – then at least you know he didn’t consciously ignore you.
  3. He runs in the OTHER direction. This is the worst of all – the ultimate statement in lack of trust and connection.

#1 above is where you can only get a recall if you “show me the money” first.  You  have to bribe your dog.  It’s not a situation where the dog is trained or reliable.  You’re trained!

#2 is when you’re completely irrelevant and you don’t have the dog’s focus.  No training could take place in this situation (even if you wanted to) because you are not in control of the primary motivator – which is the environment and its distractions.

#3 is what it is.  Your dog knows exactly what’s going on – he’s learned that the cue of you calling means to move further away.  Time to change the cue and start the recall training from the ground up.  The good news is that with a new cue, you can get this right!

The Wrap: Never end a recall with something your dog won’t like.  DO just the opposite, end most recalls with a generous, awesome reward upon your dog’s arrival – ESPECIALLY during early training of this behavior.  Sounds obvious right?  You’re saying you would never end a recall with a punishment.  Ha!  Are you sure?  Think about your immediate response next time your dog comes to you when called.  Was it something she liked?


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