This is a repost from last summer. Many people have asked for a blog on a canine recall and because I've already written about it several times I am simply reposting this one.
RECALL: to call back; summon to return.
This is probably one of the biggest issues that we have with dogs. The whole idea around calling your dog to come to you often instills panic, doubt and negative thoughts in general. Do you call your dog and just know that he or she will not come? Teaching your dog to come to you reliably takes a bucket load of work and it should start on day one. Practice, practice, practice. The whole process is a priming for the big event.
I have to say that Elsa is very good at her recall. She hasn't always been, when she was just a young puppy she never came when called under fun environmental stimulus which is entirely normal albeit undesirable. You need to do a great deal of training for the recall, that is if you actually want your dog to come. Some dogs never get any training around the come behavior. Their owner simply belts it out every now and again and expects them to come running across the field and into their arms. Hmmmm.
Extreme positive association must be placed on the word 'come' or whatever word you plan on using. It makes no difference as to what word you use, but use that one word all the time. NEVER, EVER put any negative association onto the word. If you even once call your dog with the word 'come' and then scold it, put them in a crate, leave the park or dog park, leave to go to work then you are placing a negative on your word. Even one negative association can slow things down or bring them to a complete halt.
If you do make a mistake and as we discussed yesterday; as humans we do make mistakes, then fix it. If you call out "come" and then realize that you are indeed leaving for work, don't. Treat your dog for coming, go out into the yard and throw the ball around or play for a bit. Once you have erased your error with time; go get your dog, bring them in and now you can go to work. Rectify the mistake.
Seize the moments. Yesterday when I was out with Elsa she spotted a pine cone. This was after her chuck it time when we wander around doing training. She didn't know what it was and put her head down and went to discover. Her interest was high so I took this moment to practice. I called her "Elsa come," she stopped on a dime only feet away from the cone and ran to me, sitting right in front like the amazing girl that she is. She got a few treats, praise and then was immediately released to go see what that thing on the ground was. Had I not allowed her to go and see the pine cone afterwards then the whole thing would have been negative. What she learned is that it was not negative, she got the food and got to see what that strange thing was. This is an essential part of it all, knowing when to not call and when to call and release.
I have taught her to come to the word "leash" as well. She is always rewarded and then hooked up. I do not want to tarnish her "come" so I have implemented an additional word. It may very well become tarnished and not elicit a lightening speed response but that's okay. It is one of those "it is what it is" things.
So if you have not trained your dog to 'come,' get out there and get working on it. Dogs don't simply come on their own unless you have created a "coming is a great thing," idea.