The art of recalling your dog
ecall? Recall? - To call back; summon to return. Quite simply "come." Does your dog come when called? If your dog is like many dogs they do not; but they do come when you belt out "COOKIE, CAR or maybe WALK." I can't tell you how many dogs I've seen running in the opposite direction when their guardian calls them; that or they stand staring at them with not a glimmer of hope that they are going to come. Everyone wants their dog to come; not all dogs want to come. Some do, others do sometimes or if they are in the mood and a good majority of them never come. Why is this? Well; first let's look at why they come to you when you yell "COOKIE." It is quite simple.
You are in a panic; you've tried everything and your dog is not coming, so you pull out the one word that is guaranteed to get your dog running and you blast "cookie; who wants a cookie?" Even though your dog is running full blast; she jams on her brakes and high tails it back to you. What just happened? Why did all else fail but that one word brings her home every time? It is all in the association; this word alone "cookie" means that they are indeed going to get a cookie, at least most of the time correct? Dogs are opportunists; they do what works for them naturally. Training can intervene in that process and can completely turn a behavior around if done correctly.
Having created the association between "cookie" and receiving food you have actually taught your dog to come; but only for the word "cookie." I have had so many people baulk at the idea of rewarding a dog for coming; "they should come because I said so." Well yes; they should but that takes a great deal of training. First you need to implement the reward system for coming; then you proof the behavior, then you add consequences for not coming. It is a very long process to set a "come" into stone. But the beginning is all done by rewarding; I mean what is better than having your dog come to you right?
Think for a moment; when you call your dog, you are actually asking them to stop doing what they are doing and do what you want them to do. They may be involved in some very exciting play; an extravagant digging session or even some much needed grooming. Why then should they stop and listen to you? Just because? You may receive the "huh? no I'm busy," look. Or more than often you are completely ignored. Let's face it; when our dog comes to us it is the best thing in the world; so make it seem like it is. Gone are the days (or at least they should be gone) of yanking our dogs to us on the end of a long leash; and expecting them to come the next time. I remember clearly dragging my dogs in while they pulled away; this is the way it was done years ago. The dog quickly learned that "come" had nothing to do with a happy association.
The most important thing about teaching a dog to come is that it must be positive. If you slip in a couple of negative results for coming you are dooming yourself and your dog to a life of running the opposite direction. Negatives need to be viewed from the dog's perspective, not yours. You need to choose a word that will be your call word; the word that replaces "cookie." Use it sparingly and only for positive things. i.e. Don't call your dog to you and then put them in their crate; then go to work. Don't use your good word to end a play session at the park. Never call your dog to punish them; that's a sure fire way to see Fido's butt when you call them.
Along with the consistent training; you must create a joyous relation to coming to you. It must be associated to either really great food or a really wonderful activity. There may come a day when you need your dog to come to you very quickly; and having that few moments of hesitation can be detrimental. So think before you belt out "COME;" is it a positive, don't use your word willy nilly. Come is the most over used and under trained word there is; that, stay and heel. (more on those in later blogs)
Coming to you should be a great event; because it is, not because you say it is.