I’ve had dogs with the best of recalls. And dogs with the worst of recalls.
But even my roaming adventure dogs would have done better if I hadn’t done all kinds of stupid things to ruin their recall.
How to Ruin Your Dog’s Recall
Go ahead. Try these things. And see if it doesn’t totally ruin your dog’s recall.
Call her when you want to clip her nails, give her a bath, or comb knots out of her fur. Yeah, every dog loves to come bounding over for grooming fun.
Only use cheap, dried biscuits as a treat when you call your dog. A dog’s thinking process: Hmmm, chase a squirrel? Or get a dried up biscuit covered in pocket lint?
Do the same thing every time your dog returns when you call her. Even yummy treats get boring fast. Honey is always surprised when she comes to me. She never knows if she’ll get a treat, a game of tug, or a stick to play with.
Stand still while you’re waiting for your dog to answer your recall. You might have to do this in an obedience competition. But nothing stops you from running away from your dog at home. And a fleeing human is irresistible to a dog who loves a game of chase.
Calling your dog away from play time. Don’t use your recall cue to call your dog from a fun game. You go to him.
Wait until you have an emergency to practice your recall. Yeah, by the time your dog is slipping out the gate to chase the neighbor’s cat, it’s too late to work on your recall cue.
Call your dog more than once. How many dogs have you seen whose recall cue is “Buster, come. C’mon, Buster. Get over here. Come. Buster. Buster. Come.”
Using your dog’s name as their recall cue. If your dog knows his name (and it’s amazing how many dogs don’t), hearing it should make him pay attention to you. The recall cue is a different word, like “come.”
Having too many recall cues. To a human, “come,” “come ‘ere,” “get over here,” and “don’t make me come over there to get you” mean basically the same thing. To a dog, it’s just crazy talk.
Only practicing your dog’s recall in the house when there are no other distractions. Expecting to call your dog away from a busy street when he’s only come to you in the house is like expecting a kid still using training wheels to compete in the Tour de France.
“Rewarding” your dog for coming to you by doing something she hates. For Honey, it’s patting her on top of the head. She just hates it. It must be the doggy equivalent of squeezing the cheeks. But how many of us do just that when our dogs come to us?
Failing to understand that a strong recall is the best thing you can teach your dog and it’s worth working on every day. I’ve had my share of recall fails with Honey. Luckily my recall fails taught me to do more training instead of teaching me how dangerous cars are to dogs who don’t return when they’re called.
A Strong Recall Saves Lives
In one of my worst recall fails, Honey ran out into the street to greet someone she loved. Luckily, no cars were coming.
But as I watched her running away from me as I called her, I vowed to teach Honey a perfect recall.
I have successfully called Honey back to me after she set out to chase a squirrel. And when another dog beckons to her in the park.
Convincing her not to run after someone she loves is a much bigger temptation. So I set her up for success by making sure she’s leashed when that’s a potential. But I also continue to work on her recall in more distracting environments facing bigger temptations.
And hopefully my only recall fail will be when Honey returns to me so quickly she knocks me on my butt.
Your Turn: Have all your dogs been equally good at coming when called? How have you strengthened their recall?