Dogs Do Not Speak English, They Speak Dog!
As obvious as this statement sounds please consider it before ignoring it: Dogs are not programmed to understand English … or German, Finish, Chinese or Hungarian. They understand “Dog”. By that I mean we have to teach them a new language so that we can communicate.
Recall is a learned behavior, it is not hard to teach but to become good at it we have to continuously train to maintain. Here is a quick overview of how to achieve this goal:
We have to add a cue “Come” and then teach our dog to return to us by reinforcing his good behavior by giving him a treat and fuss.
We have to practice until the behavior is second nature, ie giving the cue followed by a fuss or treat.
Then we have to generalize the behavior in a variety of settings starting with low distracting environments and gradually progress to more distracting environments such as in the garden, progressing to walks and the park.
Maintenance; we have to practice the recall so the behavior stays solid. Practice in all environments ensuring our pup's success becomes a natural response to our cue. At this point treats may not always be necessary but it is always a nice surprise for our pup when we do have them!
Finally we can take our dog into highly distracting environments, such as off leash play with other dogs, because our pup listens and responds to our call above all other distractions.
You are out with your pup and he is enjoying the smells of the park and you call ‘Come’, he runs over to you and you give him a treat. You have reinforced his good behavior and you have a connection. Your pup knows that by returning to you he will get a tasty morsel.
Then another time you call him into the house, grab your keys and go off to work, unfortunately in ‘dog language’ you have just punished him for coming inside when called, so he may think twice before returning to you next time. Therefore be sure to always have your pups favorite training treat on hand and spend a few moments scratching your dogs head and letting him know you will be home later, especially when your behavior may constitute a punishment in ‘dog’. A few extra moments here will reinforce his good behavior and maintain his recall.
One way to ensure your dog will never come when called is by yelling, screaming or (heaven forbid) hitting him, as your dog will perceive you as unpredictable.
Good luck with your recall training, it is a journey and the goal is perfection!
A red hot training tip I was told when I first started training dogs was "Always use your happy voice when training your pup." There are two advantages to this:
Your dog will know that he is not in trouble (even though you may really want to go ballistic at him for chasing next doors cat across the road). Instead he will come happily believing he has saved you from a gruesome mauling by Fluffy.
By always using your happy voice when you speak with your dog your load will become lighter and you will actually become a happier person.
FYI: K9 CRACK Liver Stix is an ideal training aid because it will keep the attention of even the most distracted pup. Just a shake the bag will have your pup coming back for more.