Recalls (come, here)
It’s canine nature to run from something chasing him, or to run after something that runs away. So when trying to get your puppy to come to you, if you run after him, then he will likely run away from you. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you call the puppy, then he will follow you and recall. As he learns, you can add another command, such as “come” or “here.”
Many people use the word “come” but we prefer “here.” “Come” is a commonly used recall word, so if you are in an area with other dogs, someone else can inadvertently recall your dog, especially since you will have put all this work into teaching her a stellar recall. Also, “come” is a soft-sounding word and harder to say with emphasis, while “here” has the hard “h” and long “e” that you can enunciate more strongly (try it!). So, for Knox we would say “Knox, here!”
We ALWAYS use the dog’s name for a recall. In an emergency, that’s the first thing that’s natural to say, and we want the dogs turning on a dime the minute we call out danger.
Recalls are a major safety issue. If your dog is running into traffic or other high-danger situation, you NEED for your dog to listen and come back to you. Sometimes, there will be a strong stimulus involved, such as a squirrel or ball they are chasing. So recalls need to be practiced in all situations, especially ones where your dog may have a strong interest in not listening to you.
The recall game
We recommend your family play the recall game several times a week, daily if possible. It’s fun, and it works. It can be played with as few as two people, or as many as you want.
To play, give everyone some of your dog’s favorite training treats—the high-value treats he will do just about anything for, like some deli meat, dehydrated lunch meat, cheese, or cut up hot dogs.
Start small. Arrange everyone in somewhat of a circle, but start with being just 6-8 feet apart. As your dog gets good at the game, you can increase the distance. After a while, it’s fun to see just how big your game circle can get!
Bring your dog out and have them call the dog’s name first with your recall cue after. That person should immediately give the dog a treat when the dog gets to them and sits.
The next person should call the dog in the same manner, continuing with everyone in the circle.
Start small, then add distance.
Once your dog is solid with the game and can recall at some distance, add some distractions. Start small, you want your dog to succeed. For example, have two family members toss a ball while another is recalling. When you dog recalls under distraction, give him extra treats and praise, that was hard for him!
The dogs LOVE this game and become experts at recall in a short amount of time.
Puppies have a stronger instinct to follow and recall to an “adult” figure until they are 16 weeks of age, when they become more independent, so begin this training game when you get home and play as much as possible while the puppy is young. Once he gets older, you will only need to reinforce this occasionally.
If you think your dog has it and you want to change the game a bit, try playing while sitting. Dogs are contextual learners, so changing up the picture sometimes will help them generalize their knowledge.
Sometimes when the dog recalls during the game, grab his collar. Some dogs get shy around collar grabs, so use the recall game as an opportunity to piggyback collar-grabbing comfort. Recall, give a treat, grab the collar, give a treat.
Do this and all other recall training in a safe and enclosed area, just in case.