Working the recall

So how is that recall coming along? Are you ready to take the next step?
By now you should have trained your dog’s recall in several rooms and attached a command to it. Your dog is now coming on command approximately 99% of the time. Congratulations, you’re ready to take your recall on the road!

You need a 15 to 20 foot drag line attached to your dog. If it has a loop on the end just cut that so your dog can’t get caught on anything.

You still want to practice in a somewhat safe and confined area. It’s ideal if you have a fenced yard or access to one. You’ll also need your cheeseburger or whatever yummy treat you’re using to entice your dog.

Start with a couple practice recalls letting your dog wander only a few feet away before you call him and then give a jackpot when he comes. This sets the stage for success for this session. You want your dog to succeed as often as possible so you can reward him. A reward (cheeseburger etc.) is often referred to as reinforcement. Reinforcing something makes it stronger so rewarding your dog coming to you, increases the likelihood your dog will repeat the behavior so he can get rewarded again, reinforcing the behavior so it gets stronger and increasing the likelihood your dog…… well, you get the idea.

After a couple practice recalls, start letting your dog wander further from you and wait longer between recalls. You want to continue jackpotting your dog for 20 -30 seconds when he comes, especially as you increase the distance you let him wander. When your dog gets really good at coming in this location, switch to new place to practice. Dogs do not generalize behavior so you’ll need to continue working in many new places until you teach him he is to come on command regardless of where he is. Keep jackpotting your dog as you work in new places and be sure to keep him safely on the drag line until you think he has got it.

You can start to incorporate this into your walks with your dog. Naturally you want to be sure your dog is safe so be careful where you take your dog. The woods are a great place except during hunting season of course so check your area. There are nice playing fields near where I live and I use those too.

As your dog gets better and better at coming to you on command you can graduate to removing the drag line but I recommend you go back to the fenced area and work for a bit before assuming your dog will come without the line attached to him.

If you have diligently worked at this, rewarding each step along the way you will have taught an effective and trustworthy recall. Well done!

Now before you think you are all done and you can put those treats away forever, let’s talk about maintaining that recall. Come on back in a few days and we’ll discuss how to keep that recall strong and dependable.
In the meantime, let me know how it’s going.