Coming when called (aka Recall) is an essential skill that all domestic dogs should possess. It can be extremely useful in day to day situations where redirecting a pooch out of the way of household foot traffic is required. Moreover, an effective recall can be lifesaving in outdoor situations where a distraction may draw a dog’s attention into unsafe circumstances with cars or reactive dogs. One would think that teaching a dog to come would be easy, yet many pups are seemingly oblivious to their human’s requests for attention. Why?
Take a look at the world from your dog’s perspective. The first thing a dog usually hears when we want his attention is his name. His name might mean that he’ll receive some food or some physical contact if he comes to you. Conversely, it could also mean that he may receive some sharp words of reprimand or physical punishment from you. It may also mean that the fun and interesting activity he was happily engaged in – sniffing the grass, digging a hole, chasing a squirrel, romping with another dog is about to be over. Given all these possibilities, is it any wonder that many dogs have what is often called “selective hearing” or are labelled as “stubborn” when it comes to their resistance to coming when called?
We may feel that our dog SHOULD come to us because we feed and house him. We may also feel that we are our dog’s “pack leader” and therefore if we call our dog assertively enough the dog will be compelled to comply. We may also compel our dog into compliance by applying a correction or pressure through a long leash or through an electronic collar. All of these strategies might work to teach a dog that if he comes to us he can avoid a correction or have pressure relieved. If our goal is nothing more than compliance with our recall request, these options are certainly on the table and may produce quick results.
However, the use of such training tactics is very stressful for the dogs. A recent dog training study in the UK showed that dogs trained with e-collars demonstrated cumulatively increasing signs of stress (yawning, not interacting with the environment, higher than normal salivary cortisol levels) before and during training sessions. Did they come when called? Yes. Were they happy to see their handlers? Maybe, but they were definitely stressed out at the prospects of enduring another training session.
WHAT IF our goal was to have our dog come to us because he knew that if he did, it would mean he would be rewarded with great treats and fun, stimulating companionship from us? WHAT IF coming to us was MORE REWARDING and ATTRACTIVE to him than chasing the squirrel, digging the hole or romping with the other dog? Is that even possible?
The answer is YES!!! You CAN have a dog that comes when called because he LOVES what happens when you call his name or say the word “come”. Even better, you can very easily teach him this without the use of pain as a motivator and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a dog that comes when called reliably in almost ANY situation. Reliable recall is essential. It demonstrates the strength of your bond with your dog and can be used to direct your dog to safety or to more fun!
If recall is something you are struggling with, please reach out to our training staff here at DogBoy’s. We are available to assist and answer you training questions!
Blog post by Angelo Marinakis, DC, CPDT-KA, DogBoy’s Director of Training