“My dog doesn’t need a lot of commands. The most important thing for me is that he comes back reliably. “
This sentence expresses what most dog owners want: a dog always comes back when called. However, reality may let you down. You call and call, but your dog doesn’t think about running to you? For many dog owners and their loving dogs, there is a huge gap between the wish and the reality.
Why is the recall of your dog such a big issue? You will find out all of this in this post.
“He Should Just Come Back”
I’d like to ask you something. How many times out of ten times does your dog react quickly to your callback and come running back purposefully? You probably answer that it depends on the situation. If you are walking on the usual route where nothing exciting is happening, he may come back quickly.
But if he sees another dog at that moment, then there is probably less chance of calling him back. If he is stuck upside down in a mouse hole, then you may have to repeat your recall several times or even collect your dog yourself.
In this example alone, we are dealing with three different situations.
- Your dog is not distracted
- Your dog sees a friend
- Your dog is digging
This list can be supplemented by many situations where your dog is distracted by his environment while you call him. And these distractions affect whether you’re recalling your pet dog is effective.
Distractions Make it Difficult to Turn Away
The more your dog’s attention is captivated by something, the less likely it is to notice you. But you want even more than that. He should get away from the distraction and walk away. What sounds so easy to you is a huge challenge for him.
- Maybe your dog is happy about what he is looking at right now? Then it is understandable that he is reluctant to walk away from it.
- Perhaps what’s attracting his attention also frightens him? Even then, it is difficult for him to turn away from it because to do so, he would have to let the supposed danger out of his sight. Looking at it, however, gives him a sense of security.
- Maybe he is reacting aggressively to what he perceives? This is also a reason for him to keep an eye on this distraction by which he feels threatened.
In addition to environmental distractions, there are also activities your dog is doing that will grab his attention. Digging, playing, sniffing, swimming, or hunting are just a few of the things dogs love to do. Coming back is rarely one of those things unless it has a lot of fun for your dog. And that’s exactly where the key to success lies: to make sure that the callback is something interesting for your dog. After all, you are interrupting him doing something that is important or pleasant to him.
You can recall your dog by rewarding your dog as variedly as possible, so he is happy coming back.
Use the Right Reward
In order for the dog recall to be an effective signal, using the right reward is the key. This doesn’t mean just treats, but everything that your dog enjoys. The better you know what he likes, the more effectively you can reward him. This is exactly one of the various keys to success and yet it is often ignored. How often do I see a dog getting a few boring treats, even though it has just done a brilliant job? From your dog’s point of view, this is disappointing and not exactly an incentive.
Use high-quality rewards such as fresh liver sausage or even a game with his favorite toy. Offer your dog something that he likes and enjoys.
However, it is not just a matter of the right reward, but also a matter of giving it appropriately. You can be creative. The social part is too often underestimated when it comes to rewarding a dog.
The basic rule is that the reward should please your dog, not you. There is the saying “the bait should taste good for the fish, not the angler”. What you feel good can be felt quite differently by your dog. Maybe he just doesn’t want to be petted because he’s so excited. Then he finds your patting on the head not so nice.
It’s the same thing if you leash him immediately after he comes back to you. The leash means “fun over”. If that is the consequence that he has reacted to your recall, then your four-legged friend will consider whether he will come back in the future.
Therefore, be sure to praise and/or reward him before you put him on a leash. If you are not sure whether you can let it run freely, a tow line is a good idea for you and his safety. This is ideal, not only for the recall training phase but also for the hunting dogs.
Let’s take a look at dog walking without a leash. This usually also means your dog is at a greater distance from you. If your dog is in your vicinity, he will probably hear you well. He can also see you, which also makes things easier.
But if he is far away from you, you have to give your signal louder. However, a whispered “here” sounds different than the one you call in a loud voice. In addition, your dog does not see you so clearly – if at all. Thus, you need to practice the recall at a distance with your four-legged friend.
But you can also make mistakes when practicing. If you only practice in the same environment, for example on the field or in the garden, your dog still does not know what the signal means in the forest or in another different environment. He has to learn that first by training him.
The most common mistakes when setting up a callback
In addition to the already mentioned, there are other mistakes that make the dog recall difficult for you.
There is no clear signal
Sometimes you call “here”, sometimes “come” and sometimes something completely different. This is confusing for your dog. What you need to do is a clear signal that associates with a positive consequence. Only in this way can your dog understand you.
You call your dog whenever something exciting comes up.
Instead of coming to you, he looks around to see where the pedestrian, cyclist, or other dogs he is expecting are, after your signal. Your callback has become an announcement and therefore fails to meet its target. You can only interrupt this cycle by consciously giving the signal again when there is no distraction around. Alternatively, it can make sense to rebuild the callback from scratch.
You don’t take the recall so seriously.
You would like your dog to come over, but you have no desire to take action. Instead, you just let your dog run freely and hope that he will somehow come back to you. Your dog will feel your listlessness or lack of seriousness. Your recall has become more of a sham signal to others that you are doing something. It is clear that you have little chance of success.
You underestimate your dog’s desire for freedom
As a puppy, he followed you well, but since he reached puberty, has he simply stopped hearing your recall? As a small baby, dogs still have a strong need to be around their humans. As young dogs, however, they develop a clear urge to explore and be free. In addition, the hunting instinct comes into play. Now it is a matter of targeted recall practice so that your dog comes back to you.
Expectations too high
Many dog owners underestimate how difficult this recall is for the dog. They have very high expectations of their four-legged friends but don’t want to do much for their dog to meet their expectations. The wish alone is not enough for your dog to come to you joyfully and quickly. In addition to intensive training, a good callback requires a great deal of understanding of your dog’s needs.
All of these factors contribute to the fact that the recall is not bomb-proof, but rather works at random. With a little luck, your four-legged friend will come back to you. However, you should not rely on this, because both his safety and the safety of other people and animals depend on your signal.
I know that it can be a nuisance to practice dog recall in everyday life. Without perseverance, however, you will not succeed. somethings practicing the recall can be a lot of fun, for you and your dog. It is better to walk a few meters less but practice intensely for a few minutes. You can achieve a lot with it if you practice it regularly.
An effective dog recall is essential so that your dog can run freely without posing any danger to himself or others. In order for your dog to come reliably, it has to be rewarding for him and the signal is given before the reward. You should therefore not save on praise and rewards, but use them as variedly as possible. As long as the recall does not work as expected, you should not take the freewheel. It is better to secure yourself and your dog with a tow line, so you can relax and your dog still has its space. When the recall really works effectively, you can say “Leash off, and run.”