The Importance of Recall – CGC Challenge Day 2

We are a day behind on training and posting, because yesterday we witnessed one of every dog owners worst nightmares: a dog being hit by a car. We don’t know if he’s ok, we don’t know the neighbor and I’m afraid to ask. The car was not going fast, so we can only hope. It ranks up there with the most horrible moments of my life, and it wasn’t even a dog I knew.

It really drove the point home that teaching a solid recall is one of the most important things we can work on with our dogs. Sinclair needs to work on recall for his CGC test, so I was going to be blogging about the topic anyway. Our neighbor’s dog got out because he rushed out the door when it was opened. He saw me walking Josie, and probably wanted to say hi. She called his name, but he didn’t even twitch an ear. This is not a judgment on her as a dog owner – for how many of us can say with absolute certainty that we would never be in the same situation? That our dog would absolutely turn back around and come to us, even loose in the presence of a new dog and person to greet?

I hope this tragic accident will lead you to work with myself and Sinclair as we strive for an excellent recall.

It rained today when I wanted to make a training video, so we’ll save the video for tomorrow. Instead, I’ll leave you with some pointers, and I’d love if anyone with an excellent recall can share what’s worked for you!

  • Always reward with the absolute best motivator. Recall is so essential, there’s no reason to wean off treats. I reward recall with chicken, hot dog, leftovers, or something the dog really wants in that moment. Does your dog want to play ball? Have him come to you first. Does your pup really want to play with a friend? Call her, then release her to go play. You want your dog to stop in their tracks when they hear the recall word, wondering what the prize is this time.
  • Never ever ever use your recall word for something the dog dislikes. This includes, obviously, scolding and punishing, but also things you might not consider such as nail trims, baths, being called inside from play. Anything that your dog wants to avoid will work against your recall training and will cause them to think twice before coming. If you need to get your dog for something they don’t like, either just go get them, or call them to you and do something fun in between – play a game, have a belly rub session, do a little fun training – so they don’t associate coming to you with negative consequences.
  • If you have trouble getting your dog to come all the way to you, consider your body language. Are your shoulders square with your dog? Are you leaning over and making eye contact? These are doggy-signals for “stay away”! Sure dogs can learn to come to those signals, but why make it hard for them? If they are hesitant to come into your bubble when you are giving them these mixed messages, turn your body sideways or even totally away from your dog and jog away a few steps. When your dog runs to follow, reward heavily.

Stay tuned tomorrow for video on how to teach a recall, starring Sinclair, and how to add reliability around distractions, starring Kyra.

(I will be sure to update you if I find out the status of our poor neighbor’s dog. Please keep them in your thoughts.)

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