One of the top requests from our clients must be a dog who comes when called. We have so many requests that we teach a class on the beach that spends 3 weeks going over this one skill. As a dog trainer, how do I get a dog who comes back to me every time?
Dogs are not robots
The most important thing we have to talk about is the importance of your dog being a sentient being that has the ability to make choices and think about their life. Your dog’s recall is not something that can be practiced in class and then assumed that they will listen for the rest of their life. I must remind clients that they need to be responsible for their dog’s actions and make sure that they are setting their dog up for success!
What is your Reinforcement
When you call your dog, what does your dog get out of it? A kibble or a pat on the head does not match the reinforcement your dog gets from sniffing stinky things in the park, or visiting with that other dog. If your reinforcement does not match your environment, your dog doesn’t have a reason to come back to you when you call them. Preserve your recalls by making sure you are rewarding your dog with something that is actually worth it for them.
Relationships as Reinforcement
Nothing is as telling about your relationship with your dog as asking them to come when called. Discussing this with clients can be a little emotionally charged. All of my clients love their dogs, and want a relationship with them. Some dogs are going to make you work harder for that relationship than others. Nothing like a dog who refuses to come when called to make you examine your interactions. What do you do when your dog does come back to you? Drag them inside or put them in their kennel? What does your day to day look like with your dog? Are you playing with them the way that they like to play or is the play one sided? Examine each of your interactions with your dog for a few days. Find out what your dog likes and doesn’t and see how it affects your dogs listening skills.
Recall words are important
My dogs are taught two “recall words.” “Here” means pay attention to me and wander back in this direction or towards me. “Come come” means get your tail in front of me right this second. I do not use “come come” for everyday stuff. “Come come” is only for practice, and emergencies. Because I am so careful with this particular phrase, it holds lots of value. “Come come” always gets heavily rewarded, and is only practiced when I know my dog can be successful. Be protective of your recall word so that it holds a high value when you need it the most!
If you would like more information about teaching your dog to come when called more consistently, sign up for our Recalls on the Beach class beginning the last week of April.