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Tips for Successful Puppy Recalling

Why do we train ‘RECALL’? To obtain your puppy back in any circumstance, for safety reasons and to be a responsible owner. A loose pup can be a loose cannon!

Equipment List Flat collar Fitted harness (if preferred to a flat collar) High value treats (chopped up chicken/hot dogs/cheese) the smellier the better

Toys (squeaky are best)

To begin your training you must start in a distraction free environment (your home or garden is perfect for this). First of all you must select your recall ‘cue’ (such as ‘come’, ‘here’, ‘this way’). Have your puppy on a lead/long line and allow them to wander off a small distance away from you. Start by making noises (these can be kissy sounding noises) to catch your pup’s attention, you can even get down to their level. If your puppy does not look or respond, you will need to make yourself more exciting!

When your pup is on their way back to you, say your cue for recall. Praise your pup as soon as they get to you with toy/treat/praise. No matter how long it takes them, always reward their return and NEVER punish. Would you be keen to come back to someone if you had been scolded? I wouldn’t!

Repeat the exercise slowly and increase the distance. When it appears you have success with this, try another person or family member holding the lead. You may need to decrease the distance when beginning with a new person.

Puppies will simply not come every time they are called. If the puppy ignores you, make yourself super interesting. Make them want to join your party!

When puppies do not come to you, it is not because they are naughty or disobedient. They become immersed in the environment. The sights, smells and sounds of the world around them. Being outside is your pup's version of reading the newspaper or watching TV. We’ve all been engrossed in TV and not heard someone talking to us. So when they do come, praise them, regardless of the time it takes them. To punish or ignore them only serves to discourage a repeat recall to you.

This must be practised at home. The garden is ideal to train your puppy:

Little to no distractions Your dog can’t escape

Short 5 minute daily training sessions

Repeat until you have aced the cue!

Once you have mastered this with your puppy, you are then ready to move to an environment with a few distractions. A secure field or quiet park is ideal for this, somewhere with no other dogs or livestock nearby. This is upping the ante for your pup in comparison to your home or garden. Your pup should still be kept on a long line at this point.

Move around with your puppy and he should naturally focus on the environment, wait for him to turn his attention to you and reward this. ALWAYS REWARD WITH HIGH VALUE TREATS AND PRAISE EVERY SINGLE TIME YOUR PUPPY COMES BACK TO YOU! It is normal to prove harder to get the puppy’s attention here, so you may have to up the ante of silly noises/behaviour from you. Avoid calling your puppy’s name to gain their attention, stick to saying your cue as the pup is en-route back to you. This reaffirms the cue means return, as he is physically moving towards you. Some people shout ‘come’ before their dog has decided to return and this can lead to your puppy thinking that ‘come’ means stop and stare at Mum or run away from Dad. As humans if something doesn’t happen for us, our innate behaviour pushes us to try harder. The elevator didn’t come quick enough for you? Well then push the button a few more times, perhaps push it harder!? (we’ve all done that) Fido! Come Fido! Fido come now!!!!........ meanwhile Fido is off chasing rabbits. When you feel your puppy is coping in this environment and your recall cue is met with success, you can drop the lead or remove it altogether.

Do not set the puppy up to fail, practise, practise, practise, before you take the next step to a place where there are distractions such as people/dogs/livestock/wildlife. When you want to try an area with normal life going on that you have no control over, pop your puppy back on the long line. You may have success with your recall in the garden and in a secure, quiet place but you are a beginner in this new place you have selected. We always set the puppy up for success.

Allow the puppy to assess their environment, there is no set time scale where you should interrupt this behaviour, unless it is unsafe for them to do so. If you have not been able to get your dog's attention, shift your feet, even the slightest turn of their head indicates that the pup is with you, aware of your movement behind them. At this stage it is hoped you would not need to use noises to attract the pup's attention.

Keep enough distance that your pup does not get too aroused. If your puppy does become too interested/aroused, increase the distance from these distractions. (Taking a step back) The aim is to get the pup to ‘check in’ with you out of choice. When they see something new or interesting (rabbits/dogs etc) their natural behaviour becomes looking at you and these objects. Boom! The puppy is checking in regularly.

Whenever it doesn’t work out in dog training, it is simply information that the training is not strong enough in that particular environment, that you have asked a little too much from the dog at that time. It is not a fail and it is never the dog’s fault. Take a step back and begin again. In this instance it would be giving the puppy more space/distance from the distractions.

When your puppy looks at you, you are rewarding with PRAISE/NOISES/TREATS/TOYS. You can use one or two of these (all would be overkill and confusing for the pup). This takes work, practise and dedication. Each individual puppy learns at their own pace and you can only get out of your dog what you put in. Be consistent and set your puppy up for success. If it doesn’t work out, take a step back and begin again. All training should be fun for the owner and pup. If it doesn’t feel fun, or you are not in the right mood, then leave it for another day.

© The Dog Learning Centre 2018 L Haydon/C Russell

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