Don’t be like Fenton’s owner!
If you have never heard of Fenton, simply type it into YouTube and see for yourself the joy of a dog who couldn’t recall away from the distraction in the environment.
So how do you get your dog to come back when you call them? Well, it isn’t that much of a secret really; you just have to pay them!
The biggest mistakes owners make are: Give several cues one after the other, none of which have really been taught to the dog with the exception of ‘what’s this?’ which every dog seems to understand!
They get frustrated, embarrassed that the dog has not come back quickly enough so become annoyed and angry with the dog.
They have never actually taught the dog a recall cue but expect the dog to understand what is expected of them!
They only ever recall the dog to put the lead on to go home from the park.
Any of those sound familiar? Have you found yourself doing the ‘Bye, I am going, see you later….. ‘? Lots of people fall into this trap, but one of the most important things with building a solid recall cue is consistency, it doesn’t matter what the cue is but once you have decided on it everyone in the house needs to learn it and stick to it!
The other important aspects you need to be aware of with recall is it must be fun! Another critical thing is you have to pay the dog. If you were asked to go to work with no pay, how motivated would you be to really dig deep and go the extra mile?
If you think your dog should do whatever you say just because you have told them to, I will ask did your children always do as you told them? Our dogs don’t speak our language and we often expect them to understand verbal cues when we haven’t actually taught them what they mean.
Verbal cues mean nothing to dogs, it is just a sound, if you have not taught them what that sounds means, how are they to know? Did you know that it takes on average a minimum of 300 successful repetitions for a dog to have a cue in their brain bank? When you teach these cues and are consistent, the dog can then understand what is expected of them and deliver.
So how do you teach it? We pay, ‘Daisy Come’ translated to a response to get back to me as quickly as possible for fun, treats and a great big party! My dog comes back to me as her history of learning is that the cue ‘Daisy Come’ is a positive one. She has always been rewarded for doing it, either with a treat, a game or love and praise.
Recall is one of the main things people go to a dog trainer for as their dog once let off lead will disappear off to have some fun.
This happens mostly because we set our dog up to fail. We haven’t ‘proofed’ the recall cue. This means the dog doesn’t really know it yet, we have let the dog get too far away from us and they are now busy with the environment, we have recalled them with an angry voice. Let’s face it we are not much fun to be around when we are like that! That dog over there is full of fun and joy, and we are cross, shouting and flustered, why on earth would a dog come back to you when you are screaming at them?
We want our dogs to learn things in a positive way, sometimes things might go a little wrong, but WE need to take responsibility for that and not blame the dog.
Firstly, we pick the environment we are going to let the dog off, we don’t want a lot of distraction for them to get excited about so a nice quiet spot. We have a long line attached to the harness (NEVER attach a long line to a collar, a dog’s neck is as sensitive as ours and you COULD break your dog’s neck) so he can’t get this wrong, he will not be able to practice going over to that dog on the other side of the field. When he gets distracted, we can hold the long line and use our recall cue with an excited voice, not angry. Now we can get his attention back on us and we are going to be party central when he makes the best decision of his life and turns to come back to you!
Training our dog is fun, if you are not having a good time because your dog has vanished off and not listened to you, then the dog is not having fun with you. You can change that, being positive, reinforcing good behaviour and actually interacting and being fun for your dog will build a stronger bond and they are more likely to listen to you and come back.
As dog owners we are legally responsible for our dogs and we must have control of our dog at all times in a public space. Building a strong recall is one of the most important things you can train your dog. Don’t be like Fenton’s owner, be your puppies champion, their hero, their play mate! Have fun with your dogs and enjoy being able to give them freedom knowing you can recall them back to you safely! The rule of thumb should always be you do not allow your off-lead dog to approach on lead dogs!
If you have a question for Yvonne, email [email protected]