Dogs and puppies NOT coming when we call them can be one of the most frustrating things!
We ask nicely, we call them, we shout and scream… We even begin to wonder if our dog or puppy has a hearing problem!
Even worse is when they’re running wild at the park and we have an audience watching us… so embarrassing!
Let’s face it, most dogs only come when they want to. You know, when it’s dinner time, when they want a pat or when there’s nothing else going on!
But when you REALLY want them to come, because you need to get in the car and go home, or they’re about to ruin somebody’s picnic… that’s when it actually matters most and it seems like it’s at this point that many people’s attempt at recalling them fails. As a professional dog trainer I’ve seen it all…
…including those people who are just too scared to let their dog or puppy loose in case they disappear into the sunset!
In fact over the years it seems to me that this is one of THE MOST COMMON behavioral issues and YET… it’s one of the simplest to solve (when you know how)! All it usually takes is somebody who knows the tricks to point out where you are going wrong and then you can turn it around.
That’s right, it IS possible to train your dog (ANY dog in fact)… Even if they’re a husky or a beagle! No matter what age or size or shape or energy levels they have.
So here’s a checklist of what to change if you’re struggling with getting your dog to come when you call. I’m going to keep it as simple as I can, but you really have to follow the steps for it to make sense! Seriously… The next 5 minutes could change your life forever. Work your way down the list and make sure you’ve got all these things covered.
And if you read all 7 you’ll discover I have a gift for you at the end. Did you get that? That’s right. A free gift. From me to you…
By the way, these really are my 7 Secrets To Success when it comes to the RECALL (which is the general term given to getting your dog to come back when YOU want them too!)
Here we go…
My 7 Secrets To A Successful Recall
1. Tasty Treats
Yes I know, we all hate bribery… BUT trust me on this one thing. If there is ever a time to use food to train your dog then it’s when we’re developing the recall with our dog.
I’m actually not a fan of using food when it comes to stopping behavioral issues but this is different. This is asking our dog to do something as fast as they can and we need to reward (or pay) them so that they do it. Think of the food as payment… After all, would you keep going to work if they stopped paying you?
So when you ask your dog to stop playing with their best friend and come running–all the way back to you down the beach–they need more than just a pat!
Of course later on we can fade out the food, but for now, let’s just get it happening.
This is so important because if you start to fade it out too soon, before our dogs have developed a strong positive association with the command, then the whole process can break down.
2. Keep control
One of the most common questions I get asked is what do we do when our dog is running away and won’t come back? And the answer is simple…
There is not a lot you can do.
It’s the same as when a horse has bolted out the stable and is galloping off. They are out of control!
You see there are really only two ways to get our dogs to come to us…
The first way is when we still have physical control of them – so they’re on a leash or a long line and we can get them to come to us with a bit of encouragement.
The second is that we have a verbal recall, in other words when we call them they listen and choose to come running!
So if we don’t have a good recall we first need to consider option one by purchasing a line to attach them to. The safest way is to attach the line to a clip on the back of a dog harness.
If it’s just on a dog’s collar and you stop your dog abruptly you can injure your dog, so a word of warning there.
That said. This line will give you the opportunity to keep control and then train the recall – it’s a game changer!
Remember, without control, and no recall, our dogs are by definition “Out of control.” Don’t let that happen.
3. Setting our dogs up to win
Okay, this is a very subtle concept, yet hugely powerful. Let me first describe a typical scenario that occurs with a lot of dogs…
As soon as they are let off leash they run off… happy as can be… they have heaps of energy and run away fast. Often they pick up on a smell or see another dog and go visit.
Owners, knowing that they have a recall issue, start to panic and want to keep the dog under control so they make the decision to immediately try and call the dog back closer… But the dog is so full of energy and delight at being free that the chance of them coming is next to zero. So why do we call the dog?
Was the dog doing anything wrong?
Was the dog going to run off into the sunset?
Was there any danger?
Is the reason our dogs are off leash so they can run, sniff and play?
Was the dog going to have a sniff or a quick play and then follow you?
In which case we’re MUCH better off waiting until our dogs have had a quick run around and are coming TOWARDS us before calling them… then crouch down, give them a treat and let them go.
This is the concept of “Setting the dog up to win.”
We need to let our dogs have fun and call them only when we know they are going to come. Less is actually more. So only call them a few times. That keeps it special.
If our dogs are totally focussed on something such as another dog, try just giving them a bit more time, maybe move closer to them or go and get them calmly.
Remember good dog trainers NEVER call the dog when they know they aren’t going to come!
4. One clear, constant command
Let me ask you a question…
How many different names, phrases or voices do you use when you call your dog?
Come on, be honest!!! Most people have a whole selection of commands. Some when the dog is in trouble, some when there is a treat coming… And the truth is that all these different words, terms and tones of voice just add to our dog’s confusion.
We really just want one word or phrase that we use every time and we want it to be in the same consistent tone. This word or phrase should mean “Come here and I’ll put food in your mouth and then I’ll let you go and play again”.
The more phrases, voices and sounds we use the more inconsistent it is for our dog or puppy. I know it’s not always easy but staying calm and using a consistent command even when our dog isn’t coming can be crucial if we want them to come.
And whatever we do, don’t tell them off when they finally arrive, just clip the leash on and ignore them. It’s so easy to instantly ruin a great recall when we scold them angrily when they finally do come. It becomes a vicious circle and the next time we call them they’re even less likely to come.
So remember: That one clear command needs to mean “Come here and I’ll put food in your mouth and then I’ll let you go and play again!”
5. Use the (HUGE) power of random rewards
Why do people play the lottery? To maybe win ten bucks? No… of course not.
Everyone’s playing to win the ten million dollars. We want to win HUGE and that’s what gets us hooked and coming back for more.
And guess what… It’s the same with our dogs! If they never know when they’re going to win next, or what they’re going to win, they’ll keep playing.
So it’s random rewards that work so much better than just using the same food every time. There’s a huge difference in performance between a dog who knows the reward is just a dry biscuit at best (probably the same dry biscuits they ate for breakfast) and a dog who thinks they may get a piece of that yummy sausage, a morsel of cheese, or their favourite treat.
Just like humans… I know what I’d do for one million dollars compared to what I’d do for a single dollar.
And just remember the key is to keep our dogs guessing. They shouldn’t know which of the treats they are going to get. That’s the random bit!
Now one simple way to do that is to have all the treats in a little bag or pocket and only bring the treat out once your dog has arrived. That way they can’t see what the random reward will be. And sometimes give your dog more than 1 little piece (Yep, small pieces is better) and sometimes give your dog 5 little pieces of different treats in a row. That’s random.
The day you take half a chopped up sausage, a little piece of cheese and some other yummy treat you will see what I mean. You won’t be able to get your dog to leave your side!
One sure way to win your dog or puppy’s heart is through their belly!
6. Increasing the motivation
Now this secret to success is understanding how to increase your dog’s motivation and drive to work for YOU.
Very simply… a hungry dog will work for food. A dog who is full will generally lose interest.
So try taking them for their walk before you feed them. This way they’re hungry and far more motivated by the treats. Over time you’ll start to realise that you actually have breakfast in your pouch and they have to “work” for it. It becomes a game 🙂
And most dogs LOVE running and eating so it should be fun! It’s actually much better for a dog to eat meals AFTER any vigorous exercise for the same reason it’s not good for humans to exercise straight after a large meal.
If you must, just a few treats or a small part of their meal before you leave is fine, but don’t over feed them or they won’t be interested in the training!
7. Consider the use of a professional dog whistle
Have you ever wondered why so many farmers use dog whistles? And why more and more professional dog trainers are starting to use them?
The answer is simply because they’re easy to use and they work! In fact they’re one of the most useful tools when used correctly.
- The whistle has a constant sound. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bit frustrated with your dog or in a rush or upset, when you blow it the sound that emanates is constant. And your dog responds to that neutral sound very well.
- So easy to use. A professional dog whistle is very easy to blow (be careful of the metal ones when it’s really cold though as I’ve had them stick to my lips).
- The sound of a whistle travels a long way, a lot farther than you can shout. Voices don’t travel that well, especially if you have a quiet voice. The whistle that I use can travel up to 500 feet and it’s gentle on your vocal chords!
- Easy to hear. Good dog whistles operate at a high frequency. This means that they can pick up the sound easily and it’s appealing to them but not at all harsh on the human ear.
- The high pitch also cuts through all the background noise such as other people shouting, wind, trees and bushes because it’s such a unique sound.
- Saves your voice. You never need to shout or raise your voice in front of people ever again.
- Fresh start. For many people, the quickest way to develop a great recall is to start again with a fresh sound. The whistle gives us this chance.
So there you go. Start at the top and put ALL those steps into place and if you are still struggling consider trying the whistle.
I use the whistle when I REALLY need my dogs to come immediately!! (As you will see in the video below!) However I can still use my voice command around the house etc.
It means I have a recall… and then I have my SUPER URGENT whistle recall when I need them to come running as fast as they can.
Of course there are lots more tips and tricks that I’ll share with you later but I’m sure that’s enough for you to get started on something right now.
So I hope that’s been of real help.
And now my gift to you…
Remember as a dog owner a Whistle can be one of the most useful items you can ever own, but it’s totally useless unless you know HOW TO USE IT!
So I’ve put together a training DVD called the ‘Whistle Training Masterclass’ where I show you EXACTLY how to stop your dog dead in their tracks and come to you everytime you call (a do a whole lot more!). And the awesome news is I’m giving away a FREE Professional Dog Training Whistle and Lanyard with every DVD order.
And the even better news is… I’m running a special on the DVD right now, where you can save $20 off the normal price.
Just click on the link below, watch me using this exact whistle and tell me where you would like your order sent…
I don’t have a huge amount of these, so it’s first come, first served… “Carpe diem… Seize the day!!!”
I told you there was a nice surprise at the end!
Oh, and one more thing before I end…
You might be thinking, “Dan, these tips are great, but do they actually work?” And my answer is “YES!” And to prove it to you I want to share how I’ve trained over 77,000 dogs with my methods.
All the best with your training…
~Doggy Dan 🙂