Happy almost Halloween, everyone! I am thrilled to be a part of an amazing and clever giveaway for the third time that helps participants learn new tricks to work on with their dogs in order to win some treats, in the form of toys, dog treats, gift cards, and more! There are a lot of participating bloggers, which means, the more blogs you visit, the higher your chances of winning prizes. There are also flash giveaways that are happening on Facebook and Instagram if you’d like other chances to win prizes.
While some of the blogs you visit will be sharing tidbits on how to teach actual “tricks,” like jumping through a hoop, for example, I interpreted the task of “claiming” a trick that’s more serious. This is the third year that I’ve worked on training practical, and necessary behaviors to ensure you and your pet are safe during Halloween and year round.
Our first year, we taught “Leave It,” which is a way to ensure your dog doesn’t swoop in to eat or touch something that may be dangerous, like chocolate, or someone’s medicine.
Last year, we gave a few steps to ensure your dog doesn’t FREAK OUT when the doorbell rings, which isn’t safe for your dog or potential visitors, especially if those visitors are tiny humans looking for some goodies on October 31st.
This year, we’re teaching one of the most basic and, in my opinion, essential tools, which is for your dog to come on command. This is sometimes referred to as teaching “recall,” if you feel inclined to research further beyond the scope of this blog post.
Why is teaching recall important? There are a few reasons why you want to feel comfortable in knowing that your dog will come when called. The first is that even the most responsible dog owners may have a situation where your dog gets loose. You could lose your grip on a leash just as a squirrel makes its way into your dog’s line of sight. You could crack your door open to get a package without realizing your dog was right behind you. There could be a hole in a fence, with something delicious smelling on the other side that your dog really wants to investigate. The why doesn’t matter as much as the what happens next. If you’ve taught your dog to come on command, it should return to you quickly, hopefully reducing the risk of harm to the animal and stress to the human.
Other reasons you probably want to have recall established as a reliable behavior, include working on your dog for activities like agility, scent training, off-leash walks or hikes, etc. If you’re ever hoping to have your dog certified with their K9 Good Citizen award, which is the first step in making your dog a therapy dog, reliable recall will be a part of the test. No pressure.
So, if I see in the comments below, “I don’t teach my dog tricks,” I’ll know you didn’t read my post because if you had, you’d realize that this really isn’t a trick, it’s a super important tool. It’s not an option, in my opinion.
Key Points to Teaching Recall
First, make sure you are in a safe space that is fully enclosed if you are working with your dog off its leash. I normally recommend using a long lead, even if you’re in a fenced-in area, just to reduce the risk of any issues happening that you didn’t know about, like that random hole in the fence I had mentioned earlier.
Second, get REALLY AMAZING STINKY HIGH VALUE TREATS! You know, that Salmon Jerky my friend Jodi wrote about on Kol’s Notes, make some of that, or find some stinky cheese, or some beef lung...whatever gets your dog’s nose working and their stomach churning. You want their attention on you and the goodies you have in your hand.
Third, be super positive and super patient. This is a skill that should be worked on a little each day and, honestly, for the rest of your dog’s time on this planet. I reinforce this skill with Bean and Yoda all the time. In fact, every time they come even if it’s a short walk from the living room to the kitchen, I make sure to give a ton of praise, some happy butt scritches, and sometimes treats. It depends on if I’m able to get them soon enough for them to associate the act of coming when called to the reward of a treat. If not, I skip it so they aren’t being reinforced for something you didn’t think you were reinforcing.
How to teach recall
Choose your word, stick to it, tell your family and friends, and make sure the association with that word is positive. Obviously, “come,” is what many people think of, but if you’ve used that term before but didn’t train with it reliably, it may already be tainted, meaning your dog doesn’t associate it with the action, or a positive reinforcement. No worries, your dog doesn’t speak English! It can literally be ANYTHING you want it to be. Want your neighbors to think you’re crazy? Make it something like “farts,” “timber,” or “freebird!”
We went a bit more basic, and use “here.” Yoda came from a background where we didn’t know what he had been trained but assumed “come” was tainted, so we went with something that everyone in the family would understand, but was also something he likely hadn’t used before in his prior life.
Have your dog associate the word with a positive. Say the word, give a treat. Do that enough to know that your dog has connected the word with treats. Inside, you can say the word, take a step backward so the dog has to come forward to take the treat, which is starting the association between the word and coming to you.
Head outside (remember those stinky treats and your long lead). Walk with your dog next to you. After some time walking, happily and excitedly yell your word, and run ahead. Your dog will think “oooh, we’re playing a game,” and will try to catch up with you. Once they do, praise (use your clicker if that’s a part of your training tools) and treat in quick succession.
Progressively add to the lead, so your dog is further away from you before beginning the chase and you stating the cue. This will help to reinforce that a come on command can happen at any distance.
If your dog is sitting and you are able to expand the distance between the two of you, this time use the cue and act as if you’re about to run for the chase, but stay in one spot. This will reinforce that they can come on command regardless of if you’re moving or standing.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Be positive, happy, upbeat, and patient.
Let’s win some treats!
Visit the participating bloggers below and then check out the prizes we have this year! The Giveaway widget is at the very end, so keep scrolling, it's worth it!