6 – Distraction Defeater – Recall
Whether your dog is reactive or distracted, if they don’t have a reliable recall, it’s a problem. By distracted I mean those I-love-everyone-and-everything kind of dogs. I-love-them-so-much-I-find-them-irresistable-and-will-run-to-greet-them-ignoring-my-human kind of dogs. The issue of course is that not all dogs or people want to be approached by a friendly dog and can react negatively. None of us wants to be that person that ruins an anxious or fearful dog’s walk – train recall and keep your dog on a long line until the cue is reliable.
If you have a reactive dog, you may be thinking – my dog is never off lead anyway so I don’t need to worry about recall. I would still encourage you to train recall because it’s fun, it strengthens your relationship, plus, black-sky thinking; what if your dog slips their harness or the lead breaks? Knowing you can recall your dog means peace of mind and more enjoyable walks for everyone.
The technique we show you here is called ‘Recall Circuits.’ You can do it on lead and off lead and it’s good for small spaces so it’s perfect for starting at home. This is one recall exercise of many; we will show you another one in the Stress Free Dog Walks Challenge.
- Start with your dog next to you and say ‘Come!’ (or whatever recall cue you use). Put a treat down on the ground for your dog to eat.
- While they are eating, move a few feet away and when they finish eating shout ‘Come!’ again. When they reach you put another piece of food on the ground.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat!
- Once they begin to understand the game, when they come to you, say a marker word (e.g. ‘good’/’yes’) as soon as they reach you and then reward.
If your dog doesn’t see the food go down on the floor, slow down and show them that you have food in your hand, letting them see you put it down.
For dogs that gobble the treat before you’ve had chance to move away, scatter a few treats on the ground to buy yourself more time or go outside onto the grass. Don’t ask your dog to sit and wait to prevent this or it will become part of the chain.
Toy-motivated dogs – use food as above but when they reach you, have a game of tug. Then swap the toy for some scattered treats so that you can take the toy and move to your next position.
Make it more exciting!
Run a few metres away from your dog and then call them. They should sprint towards you! When they get close enough, throw a treat out and then run away from them to do the same again. Dogs who love to chase will find this game very rewarding.