Most dogs, like most children, are smart – and will typically do what they find most rewarding. As an owner, you need to make obedience have the most rewarding outcome for the dog. As such, you need to make obeying your command more enticing and rewarding than anything they can experience off the leash.
Start Training as Early as Possible:
• Train your dog from as early an age as possible – obedience will become a habit for your dog.
• As soon as you bring your puppy home for the first time is ideal; otherwise, as soon as the dog joins your family.
• Obedience is a habit – insist on obedience every time!
• Start small – begin training in a small space with few distractions.
• Keep training sessions short initially. A focused pup or dog will learn more quickly.
• Reinforce good behaviour with reward – what motivates your dog? Use high value treats.
• Repeat, repeat, repeat. Initially call your dog to you from just a few metres away. Reward every time he comes – and repeat until he comes every time.
• Gradually increase the recall distance between yourself and your dog. Reliable recall is established with repetition of the task and reward every time he succeeds.
Expand his Horizons:
• Gradually widen the area of recall practise – to other areas in the house. When recall is reliable, move out into the back yard.
• Gradually introduce potential distractions – other people, pets, and toys.
• Use a long leash. Over time, increase the recall distance.
• Keep rewarding with high quality treats, lots of praise, and attention.
• When on-lead recall is reliable one hundred percent of the time, practise recall in a fenced yard off-leash. Follow the same steps as before, with plenty of repetition, until off-lead recall is one hundred percent reliable.
Move onto a Dog Park:
• Take your dog to an off-lead park and practise recall on a long-line lead. Try to begin in an area with fewer distractions; when your dog’s recall is reliable, allow distractions to be introduced.
• When on-lead recall in this environment is reliable, move onto off-lead training in the fenced dog park.
• Make sure the area is fully safe and secure. Repeat this training often and in various conditions (ie times of day, different locations, etc).
• Be sure to practise recall in windy conditions as well. Like with children, windy days can send dogs haywire. Fido needs to learn that recall means “COME!” no matter what.
• ALWAYS reward successful recall. Food treats aren’t imperative every time, but praise is, and food treats should be given often enough that good behaviour is reinforced.
• If good behaviour is no longer rewarded by you, the dog may decide that playtime is more rewarding than obedience – and you will be back to square one.
Next week, we will look at some troubleshooting methods with regards to Recall Training. Stay Tuned!