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By Koru K9 Dog Training + Rehabilitation

You’re at the dog park…it’s time to go home. “Fluffy, come!” Fluffy glances at you and then keeps running and acting a fool with her newly found dog friends. You try again, a little louder, like you mean business this time, “FLUFFY…come!” Fluffy totally ignores you, still having the time of her life…this dog park place ROCKS! Now you’re highly annoyed. Why is she ignoring you? Why isn’t she listening? You try one more time, you’re visibly irritated and you sound like you’re ready to do battle, “FLUFFY COME HERE RIGHT NOW!” Fluffy still blows you off. You march over to her, chase her around for a few minutes before you finally catch her a leash her up, and promptly drag her out of the dog park all the while telling Fluffy what a bad dog she is.

Sound familiar?

Teaching your dog to come, or recall, is another one of the top requests that we get as dog trainers. So, what’s going on with the above situation…why isn’t normally obedient Fluffy coming to her owner when called?

Let’s break it down in human terms. You’re at your most favoritest (yes that is a word) place in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. You are having the time of your life. You’ve found all these new things that are so much cooler than everything else that you’ve ever experienced before. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping…it’s just a magical experience. Out of nowhere, some woman is yelling at you…telling you it’s time to go. There’s this big black cloud surrounding her. You ignore her…no way are you going with Debbie Downer, why should you? It’s way more fun over here where the sun is shining! Well, Debbie Downer is relentless and each time she asks you to leave, she’s getting more and more mad. You think, “whatever, Debbie Downer…I’m staying and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it!” Debbie Downer has had enough and finally rips you out of your perfect world and drags you out of there.

See what I’m getting at here? There are multiple things going on with the scenario above with Fluffy:

  1. My stance on dog parks is long enough for another blog post (let’s just say I’m not a huge fan). Let me cut to the chase. If you are not the most interesting thing in the world to your dog and you do not have reliable recall, then your dog should not be running free in a dog park. PERIOD, end of story.
  2. In the example above, Fluffy’s owner kept repeating the command over and over and over. Every see Charlie Brown’s teacher? All she sounded like was “WHA WHA WHA WHA.” Yea, that’s what you sound like when you repeat commands over and over in a dog’s mind. By continually repeating a command without any consequence, the dog soon learns that he can pick and choose when he listens to the command. Fluffy is learning that he doesn’t have to come…or at leasts he doesn’t need to come until she is called for the gagillionth time (and yes, gagillion is a number). Fluffy has learned that ignoring the owner is SO much more fun than listening to him and has self rewarded herself by continuing to play. No beuno.
  3. Fluffy’s owner not only repeated the commands over and over, and increasingly got more annoyed. The inflection in the voice and body language let Fluffy know that the owner is a little P.O’ed. Just like you wouldn’t want to leave your favorite place with Debbie Downer, Fluffy isn’t going to want to go to an angry owner. Not to mention, by punishing Fluffy…the owner has taught Fluffy that if she does come, she’ll be punished. Talk about mixed signals.
  4. Fluffy’s owner did a little chase at the end to get Fluffy. Now, what do you think Fluffy’s favorite game is? KEEP AWAY! She’s stoked that the angry owner actually wanted to play with her, the owner sounded so angry a minute ago…

So what are you supposed to do if your dog won’t come when called?

First and foremost, recall work is going to take time. You need to start with zero distractions, slowly and gradually adding distractions as the dog is ready for it. When you are to the point where you don’t have to reinforce the command and you feel like your dog is ready for it, you can move to off leash recall.

As you see in the video above, I’m moving backward away from Louis. Start by quickly moving backward calling your puppy. In the beginning, outstretch your arms, clap…sound happy. Dogs are very responsive to a high pitched, happy tone of voice. When your puppy does come to you…JACKPOT! Treat, praise, reward! She did it…this is most awesome! If you watch Louis’ other videos, you’ll see we start to add sit and down-stays as a more advanced training.

You’ll also note in the video, we have a long line on Louis. Don’t be Charlie Brown’s teacher…you must be able to reinforce the commands that you give! Try recalling the dog, if he doesn’t come, you can use that long line to apply gentle pressure to get him to come to you. Key word: GENTLE. Please don’t drag Fluffy to you.

Teaching your dog to come is one of THE most important things you can teach her. It’s not only an essential part of obedience training, but it’s a huge safety issue. In times of emergency, you must be able to get your dog to come to you when called.

Recall takes practice and patience, like everything else in dog training. Just remember…you are the party…you have to be the best thing in the world to your dog. It’s all about timing, delivery, follow-through and practice. If you are having problems with teaching your dog to come when called, do not allow this behavior to go on! Contact us or a professional dog trainer in your area for help with recall.

For more videos on teaching your dog to come when called or to watch the cuteness that is Louis doing recall work…head over to our YouTube channel.