The Missing Link in Recall Training

Imagine all the delectable things that can arise in the course of a walk through the neighborhood; strangers with food, new dogs ready and willing to play, hidden smells in a garden, standing water of dubious quality. In situations like these most folks call their puppy or dog and hope for the best. Unfortunately “the best” rarely happens and your puppy will likely head straight for temptation. So how do you teach your puppy or dog to turn away from temptation and race back when called?

Turning from Temptation, vs The Qwan

Here’s a concept I call, The Qwan. When Cuba Gooding’s character Rod Tidwell demanded that Jerry Mcguire show him the Qwan, he was referring to everything in life anyone could want; Money, Fame, Respect, Love. To your puppy, the Qwan is food, new dogs, and playtime! Now that you know this, all you have to do is teach your puppy that he gets the Qwan only by racing back to you when called.

Here’s how to train it:

  1. Make sure you’ve taught your puppy or dog Recall I – racing back to you when called without distractions present.
  2. Once your puppy or dog understands the concept of Recall, set up some distractions in a fenced in place. These can include having a friend hold some roast beef, a new dog, or a squeak toy your puppy loves.
  3. Allow your puppy to approach the person, then call him as your friend turns away, withholding the tempting item.
  4. Praise your dog when he realizes there’s no payoff and turns and runs to you. Do this a few times and your puppy will get faster as he realizes he cannot have the item.
  5. Bring him back to your friend and allow him access to the temptation. Practice this a few times, varying the item.

If you repeat this throughout your dog’s training he will have great expectations whenever you call him. Of course there will be times he cannot return to the busy street, crowded bike path, unfriendly dog or tainted water, but in the course of your life together you can rest assured that if you do have to call your dog away from possible danger you can do so. As for your dog he will have learned that most of the time he gets the Qwan, that life is abundant and all things originate with you.

A Note about Recall Training

Recall, or calling your dog back to you is the most important skill you will teach him. It will keep him safe, keep you together, and strengthen the bond between you. Recall is a skill that is best learned over time, as your dog matures and encounters increasingly complicated situations. Continue to hone your dog’s Recall ability well into adulthood to keep him responsive. Carry treats on your walks and remember the Three Rules of Recall:

  1. Never call your puppy or dog if he’s playing with another dog or meeting a new person
  2. Never call your puppy or dog to put him up or crate him,
  3. Never call your puppy or dog if you are uncertain he will race back immediately. In other words don’t introduce ambivalence into the mix (Sometimes he calls, but I don’t always race back). Especially in the early days of training, if you’re not sure he’ll come when you call, just go get him.

At Hillary’s Hound House we start Recall training immediately – as early as 8 weeks old. Puppies are wired to follow you and to race back if left alone. That makes puppyhood the perfect time to teach them to race back at top speed when called.

As soon as our puppies understand the concept of Recall, we introduce lots of distractions, even potentially scary ones like bicycles, skateboards, yelling children, so they learn that safety and predictability can be found in our presence.

Because dogs are literal beings they do not always generalize what they learn in one location to another situation. For this reason it isn’t enough to teach them Recall in your backyard; you must train them in the very situations they will encounter in life.

That said you’ll want to make up all kinds of potential distractions so you can teach your puppy or dog to come away from them on command. Finally, set your dog up for success by making sure that you continue to use great treats in your Recall practice so that your dog anticipates a special reward each time you call him.