My dog Honey isn’t perfect. But she has a very reliable recall.
Most of the time.
But there are three “must knows” for helping Honey to have a perfect recall. And I bet they’re the same three thing you must know to keep your dog’s recall strong.
Three Rules For A Perfect Recall
Did you ever notice how much easier everything is when you can break it down to three rules?
After years of failures, I’ve discovered the three things I must know to keep Honey coming to me every time I call her.
I must know:
- What my dog loves more than anything else
- What is most likely to cause her to fail
- When to stop relying on her recall and start relying on her leash
Here’s how knowing those three things helps Honey have an excellent recall.
What Honey Loves
One of the downsides of positive reinforcement for training is the overemphasis on food treats.
It’s not the science of behaviorism that tells us to use food treats. Rather it’s an easy tool for us dumb humans.
I do it too.
But to have a bomb proof recall, you need to know, I mean really know, what your dog loves above all else.
Honey enjoys a nice soft treat. She adores a ball or squeaky toy.
But she loves a dog loving human. Especially if they have a soft treat and a squeaky toy.
If I take Honey into a park to play off leash, I need to have a toy and a treat. But more importantly, I need to put my full focus on having fun with her.
If I take a moment to scoop some poop or turn my attention to something else, Honey will start looking for another dog lover who has his own treat and toys.
Which brings me to my second must know.
What Causes Honey To Fail
For Honey, the answer to the first question is also the answer to the second question. Because Honey loves people more than anything else, that’s what will cause her to forget her recall.
My biggest training failures happen when I underestimate the effect a friendly human with a treat or toy will have on my dog.
And if the friendly human is across a busy street, I could have more than a training problem to deal with.
Which is why I also need to know one more thing to help Honey have a perfect recall.
When To Rely On A Leash Instead Of Recall
I’ve known dogs who are so perfectly in tune with their humans that they’d never leave their side.
As much as I’d love to have that with Honey, I’m too lazy a trainer to reinforce it enough. And Honey is too sociable a dog to be able to count on it.
Which is why I need to know when it’s unreasonable to expect Honey to return to me when I call her off-leash.
For some dogs, especially those who follow their noses everywhere, it’s anywhere but a white-walled room with no windows or doors.
For Honey, it’s when I see a new person and their dog entering the park we’re already playing in.
As soon as I spot another dog lover, I snap Honey’s leash back on. If I don’t, I know I’ll regret it.
Besides, why do I want to set Honey up for failure?
Insisting your dog have a perfect recall in front of their biggest temptation is like asking someone to stick to a 1500 calorie a day diet while living over a bakery.
What You Must Know To Help Your Dog’s Recall
Every dog is different. So what I’ve discovered about Honey is probably not true for your dog.
And while not every dog will learn to return to you in any situation, any dog will return to you if you know what they love, their biggest temptation, and when to stop relying on recall and start relying on the leash.
Your turn: What keeps your dog from having a perfect recall? Or are you one of those super teams that never fails?
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