Welcoming a new puppy into your life is a joyous and fulfilling experience, although it may come with some challenges. One of the most crucial commands to teach your beloved Best Mate is recall (coming when called), ensuring their safety and your peace of mind. In this blog, Peter will provide some valuable guidance on Mastering Recall: How to Train Your Puppy to Come Every Time
Start Early: Begin recall training right from the moment your puppy enters your home. Early training is essential as younger puppies have a higher receptiveness to learning, allowing you to establish a solid foundation for their recall skills. Val Bonney, the Founder of 'Bonnies Dog Obedience and Puppy School', emphasises the significance of this early learning during a puppy's formative periods, as it leaves a lasting impression (Imprint) on their minds for a lifetime. In addition, Val recommends reviewing the Dog Blog article on FOCUS and their NAME, as it complements recall training and contributes to the overall obedience of your puppy.
Positive Reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage your puppy to come when called. Reward them with high value treats, praise, and affection when they respond promptly to their name. Remember to 'Mark" the great behaviour with a verbal YES, Good Boy, Bonnie 'as soon as they come to you'. Don't delay, speed and timing is essential as it is in all exercises and commands. Marking each success, is of paramount importance. Read the blog on Timing. "Make a FUSS' when they come to you. Be really animated and excited they have come. Use your high value treats to reward your puppy. We do our recall training at the end of our Bonnies puppy classes. Why? We train our clients to be CALM and RELAXED - this training calls for a very animated handler being over the top positive when the puppy comes.
Begin recall training in a peaceful and secure setting: free from distractions. As your puppy's reliability improves, gradually introduce distractions to reinforce their recall abilities. In my own childhood, my sisters and I had a blast practicing recall (Come command) indoors at home with our adorable dog Bonnie. Sitting about three - four meters apart in the hallway, we took turns calling our puppy, Bonnie, using the command "COME." Armed with special high-value treats, we enticed our Best Mate to come running to us joyfully. The training sessions not only created a strong bond between us and Bonnie the dog, but also served as an excellent foundation for his obedience. Under the watchful eyes of our parents, Val and Bruce Bonney, who were the undisputed leaders, Alphas, in our household, were always there and supervising us in order to prevent the puppy's excitement from turning into unruly behavior which would include jumping up, nipping and mouthing too. This simple yet crucial training laid the groundwork for a well-behaved and happy dog, one who would come every time we called him. Make it a habit to practice this exercise before your puppy's meals when they're hungry and eager to work for those rewards.
Choose the Right Time: At www.bonnies.com.au we take advantage of times where we know our puppy will come - no question. When is this? - when you are going to feed them. Puppies learn the routines you setup for them very quickly. When you open the fridge or the cupboard at certain times of the day and they hear the sound of their food being prepared they will be on the way to you. Use this routine - make it work for you. When we did this as kids we were told by mum, Val Bonney to hold the puppy. Then the puppy would hear mum getting the food out, and then she would say - Bonnie - COME (Yes Bonnie was a dog). Then we let Bonnie run to mum. We thought this was great fun and it worked.
Use an Exciting Tone: Make sure your tone of voice is enthusiastic and inviting. A happy and exciting voice will encourage your puppy to associate coming when called with a positive experience. Sorry boys - we are the ones that find this exercise a real challenge. It is harder for boys and men to use an exciting tone and pitch. Girls are better as they are in many cases more animated. The puppy is excited to go to her because she is exciting.
Use your Body Language: In every article we write, we emphasise the significance of using proper body language and visual cues to enhance our communication with dogs and ensure their understanding of our commands. During recall exercises, many people have a tendency to bend down and call their puppy with their hands down, especially when the puppy is small and called from inside the house or the backyard. To counteract this, we teach the V-Signal. This involves standing tall and raising your arms up to form a V over your head. The reason behind this technique is simple: when you find yourself in a noisy, outdoor environment like a park or beach, filled with various distractions, you'll need your dog to come directly to you. By standing tall with your arms raised high, you remain visible to your dog, even if they can't hear you amidst the commotion. This ensures a more effective recall, promoting a stronger bond between you and your Best Mate.
Keep Sessions Short and Fun: Puppies have short attention spans, so keep training sessions brief, frequent, and engaging. End each session on a positive note to keep them looking forward to the next one. As kids when we wanted to engage and interact with the puppy we would take the puppy out of their playpen, put them on a leash and then do 5 - 10 minutes of fun training. Then the puppy went back into their playpen and we went off to play somewhere.
Use Long Leashes or Fenced Areas: When starting recall training outdoors, use long leashes or work in securely fenced areas. This ensures your puppy's safety while allowing them the freedom to explore and practice coming when called. Long leashes are fantastic and we certainly use them however we don't use them with very young puppies. When they come to you every time you call on a short leash then use longer leashes. Don't rush this transition to a longer leash.
Use a normal leash to practice: You can absolutely use a long leash up to 5 to 10 metres in length as the puppy learns and grows - becomes comfortable with what you are looking for. When we start training however we use a much shorter walking leash. This allows One person to hold the leash and another person calling the puppy to be about 3 - 4 metres away.
When training for recall in solo sessions: Various strategies can be employed. Start by practicing the "Come" command during a short walk (5 - 10 metres) on a leash. Begin the walk with your puppy on your left side, using the "Heel" command as you step off with your left foot. After walking a few meters, back up while calling your puppy using their name first, for instance, "Happy, come!" Reel them in like a fishing line. Show enthusiasm and high energy when they respond AND COME TO YOU, to reinforce the positive association with 'coming when called'. This method is useful when you're training your puppy alone without any assistance.
Be Patient and Consistent: Recall training takes time and patience. Avoid scolding or punishing your puppy if they don't respond immediately. Stay consistent with your training efforts, and your persistence will pay off.
Practice Recall in Various Situations: Gradually increase the complexity of recall training by practicing in different locations and with varying distractions. This will help your puppy generalise the command to different scenarios.
Your puppy must come every time: Use a leash and run along side your puppy when your partner and or children call the puppy. This ensures the puppy actually gets to the person calling them.
Don't use their NAME as a command to COME: Many people get this very wrong. They call their dog by saying the puppies name only. Happy, Happy, Happy. This will only work on some occasions not all the time. The command to come is Come. Happy - Come. Their NAME is the word we use to get their attention - COME is the command we give for them to come to us directly. When training this I will say to the client "Ok you have said their name 5 times and you know they heard you the first time. Now say their Name and then follow with a COMMAND - COME." We know we are training people first so we are really as clear as we can be with them. People need to embed these things too.
Don't Use Recall for Negative Situations: Avoid using the recall command in situations your puppy dislikes, such as giving them a bath, administering medication, or putting them on a leash. The goal is to associate the "come" command solely with positive experiences. For instance, refrain from calling your puppy just to put them on a leash. Instead, call them with enthusiasm, like "Happy, COME," and when they respond, reward them with praise and a high-value treat. Then, instruct them to SIT and WAIT before putting on their leash, using a separate command after the recall. When they sit as instructed, promptly reward them to mark a positive outcome. By employing this approach, you ensure that the recall remains linked to joyful experiences, reinforcing their responsiveness to the command.
Don't wait to be positive: be proactive from the start. It's not uncommon for clients to call their new puppies or young dogs and immediately expect them to sit in front of them when they do COME. However, the primary focus at this stage should be on establishing a reliable recall. Concentrate on perfecting the recall command initially. After a month or two of recall training, you can introduce the 'SIT' command, followed by the 'CLOSE' command, where the puppy comes back to your left and sits. Keep in mind that this advanced training is more suitable for juvenile or adult dogs, not puppies, as it can overwhelm those below approximately 16 - 18 weeks, depending on their age when they come into your care. While there are instances where we challenge our puppies, this isn't one of them. Prioritise building a strong foundation for recall before adding more complex commands.
Avoid Chasing Your Puppy: Under no circumstances should you chase your puppy if they run away during training, regardless of whether you're an adult or a child. Chasing can turn the training into a fun game for the puppy, making it harder for them to take your recall command seriously. It is essential to refrain from playing chasing games, as it may inadvertently teach the puppy to run away, leading to potentially dangerous outcomes. For this reason, we strongly advise against training puppies off-leash in public spaces, where they may run onto roads or encounter hazardous situations. Remember, puppies are not street-smart and lack awareness of traffic dangers, so always keep them on a leash for their safety during training and in unfamiliar environments.
Don't Call Your Puppy to Punish: Always remember never to call your puppy for the purpose of disciplining or punishing them. Coming when called should always be associated with joy and rewards. Please avoid punishing your puppy; they are learning and need time to understand and adjust to our world. If you find yourself getting frustrated because they aren't performing as expected, take a break from training for a few minutes. Relax or place the puppy in their playpen to create a positive and calm environment. Reacting with anger will never yield positive results and can be counterproductive to their training progress. Patience, kindness, and positive reinforcement are the keys to successful and enjoyable training sessions with your furry companion.
Avoid Overusing the Command: Avoid repeatedly calling your puppy if they don't respond immediately. Doing so can lead to the puppy ignoring the command entirely or associating it with annoyance. This is a crucial aspect of training. Repeated commands may result in the puppy needing multiple commands to follow any instruction. While it's common for new dog handlers to make this mistake, it is not necessary. Instead, focus on clear and consistent communication during training, providing the puppy with a single, clear command to foster better understanding and responsiveness.
Never Punish Non-Compliance: Avoid scolding or punishing your puppy if they don't come when called. Negative reinforcement can create fear or anxiety, making them hesitant to respond in the future.
Don't Start Training in Busy Areas: Begin recall training in quiet environments before moving to busier areas. Introducing distractions too soon might overwhelm your puppy and hinder their progress.
Avoid Inconsistent Verbal Cues: Use a single, consistent verbal cue, such as "come", for recall. Using different words can confuse your puppy and delay their learning process.
Avoid Inconsistent Visual Cues: Use a single, consistent Visual Cue. The V signal.
Conclusion: Training your puppy to come when called is a vital skill that ensures their safety and strengthens the bond between you. By employing positive reinforcement, patience, and consistency, you can turn recall training into a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your furry companion. Remember the dos and don'ts, and with time and practice, your puppy will come to you with joy and enthusiasm every time you call. Happy training! Peter Bonney.
Master Puppy Trainer Peter Bonney, Director of Bonnies Dog Obedience and Puppy School, authored this informative article. Knowledge is power, and we encourage you to share this valuable information with your friends and family who either have or are planning to get a puppy. Feel free to leave a comment and suggest topics you'd like us to cover in future articles. For those interested in diving deeper into understanding their dogs' psychology, Val Bonney's books are available for download on our website, https://www.bonnies.com.au/shop-1. These books provide excellent insights into the psychology of your dog. Additionally, if you're expecting a baby and have a dog at home, "Hey Baby, Who's the BOSS" is available to help mothers foster harmony between their baby and their Best Mate.