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Calling Your Dog – October 29, 2011

One of the most common complaints that owners have is – “My dog does not come when called”. It is important to practice this behavior at gradually increasing levels of difficulty to ‘proof’ the behavior and make it strong.

Here are a few examples of recall games that you can play with your dog:

(LOW distraction) Have a friend make noise to attract your dog over to him. After she runs over, call your dog: “Puppy, come.” The friend then shuts down and becomes the most boring human that Puppy knows, so she will eventually run over to you, the interesting one.

(HIGHER distraction) Have a friend make noise with a squeaky toy to attract your dog over to him. After she runs over, call your dog: “Puppy, come.” The friend then shuts down and holds the toy to his chest, again becoming the most boring human that Puppy knows, so she will eventually run over to you, the interesting one. Then you give him a treat and run back over to the friend, who presents him with the toy and a fun game.

(possibly HIGHER distraction) Have a friend hold a container of extra-good treats and attract your dog over to him in some way. After she runs over, call your dog: “Puppy, come.” The friend then shuts down and holds the treats above dog level, yet again becoming the most boring human that Puppy knows, so she will eventually run over to you, the interesting one. Then you give him a treat and run back over to the friend, who presents him with the even better treats. Puppy learns that coming to you is the way to get what she wants.

(EVEN HIGHER distraction) When Puppy is playing with dogs, look for a break in the game and call her over to you. Give her a yummy treat and send her back into the fray.

(WAY HIGHER distraction) When Puppy is playing with dogs, call her over to you (the difference here is that she is actively playing). Give her a yummy treat and send her back into the fray. Be careful not to go past what she is ready for. You don’t want her learning that she can say “in a minute” and go back to playing.

(SUPER distraction) Squirrels. You may never get to the level where Puppy will come running to you if you call her during a squirrel chase. There is a possibility that you can teach her to drop on cue so well that she will do that during a chase. Then you can get her to calm down and, after a minute, call her to you. Consult a professional.

Chase — chase is fine, as long as you are the one running away. Call your dog, then sprint away as fast as you can. She will catch you. Turn and run a different direction. She’ll catch you again. Ask for a sit and give her a treat. You don’t necessarily have to treat this one — chase is rewarding in and of itself.

Hide-and-seek. Hide in a closet in the house and call your dog. You may have to make a noise so she can find you, but don’t make it too easy for her. Give her a nice reward when she finds you, maybe even a 30-second party. You can play this at the park, too, when she’s ready for it.

Two-dog recall. If you have multiple dogs, give a treat to the first one who shows up. This also helps speed up responses to other cues. Treat the first one to sit, lie down, etc.
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