Coming when called is a highly desirable skill for dogs to learn. It allows your dog much greater freedom in the world. They can run around off lead and you have the knowledge they will return when called. There are a number of fun games out there to improve your dogs recall.
“Be as engaged with your dog as you wish them to be with you.”
Recall training is about teaching your dog to come to you. As part of this training you must ensure that proximity to you is rewarding for your dog. Do they want to hang with you and enjoy being near you? We expect our dogs to focus on us and similarly we must do the same. Be as focused and engaged with your dog as you wish them to be with you.
To improve your dogs recall here are a few of my favourite games to play with your dog.
Follow The Leader
This is a wonderful chasing game, encouraging your dog to “catch” you.
To start the game simply get your dogs attention and run away. Then encourage your dog to follow and once they start chasing you, stop and enjoy a good game. Wrestle and tug are great options. It is important to reward those initial follows quickly. After a few seconds of play run away in a new direction and let them catch you again. After they become better at chasing you, you can run for longer before stopping to play. Run around objects or randomly change direction to make the chase more fun before they “catch” you.
Be sure in this game you are the one being chased. If you see your dog losing motivation or becoming tired finish with a final play and stop. A game loses all fun if we consistently play till exhausted.
This is a game for two people and pup to play.
Start the game with both people standing a few feet apart. One person call and encourage pup to come to them. Be sure to give pup a treat, big cuddle or play a game to reinforce them for coming to you. When ready signal the second person for them to call pup to them. While the second person is rewarding pup, the first person should move a little further away or off to the side. Each time you call pup to you, it should be from a new spot. Once signaled by the second person that pup is ready, they can call pup and repeat. Keep it fun and be sure to reinforce pup each time for coming to you.
Continue to play while pup is having a great time and engaging in the activity.
Hide N Seek
Exactly as it sounds! You will hide and encourage pup to see you out. To play, wait for pup to be distracted meanwhile you run and hide. A second person can also play and help by distracting pup. Start with easy hiding places, behind trees or chairs etc. Call pup over and every few seconds make a noise to help pup locate you and keep them engaged in the game. On finding you cheer, play a game, have a cuddle or feed a treat. Whatever it is that pup loves can be used to reinforce him for finding you. Repeat, for as long as pup remains interested in the game.
This is a great game to play on walks if there are two people. The person not holding the lead can drop back and hide behind a tree or other obstacle and call for pup. The person left holding the lead can encourage pup to find them, “where did they go?”.
As always when doing recall training ensure that you highly reinforce them for moving and getting to you.
Funder – Absolute Dogs
Absolute Dogs has developed many wonderful games for teaching concepts to dogs. This is one of my favourite games for teaching your dog to check in, move toward you and be comfortable near you. It is called “Funder”.
To start, count out 6 moderately sized pieces of food. Stand with your legs a comfortable distance apart so your dog may run through them. Get your dogs attention and lure them close to you. When they get close, toss the treat through your legs behind you. We want your dog to run between your legs to get the yummy treat. To start, toss the treats close by and as they get more comfortable with the game you can toss the treats further away.
For larger dogs, or if you don’t feel comfortable with a dog running through your legs, tossing the treats from side to side is also effective. It is important that the dog run pass closely to you. Simply toss the treat to your left, and when your dog turns toward you toss another treat to your left.
Once the dog has run after the treat, you wait for them to finish eating and turn to look at you. Mark (with your clicker or marker word) the dog for turning his head toward you, and toss another treat between your legs. In this way you are marking and reinforcing the dog for checking in with you. Your treat placement encourages them to move toward you and sets you up to repeat the game.
After you have tossed the sixth treat, mark the dog for turning toward you. Reinforce by cheering and engaging in a play or cuddle. If your dog does not like cuddles or rough play then simply give them the last treat from your hand.
“Keep it fun!”
These are such great games to improve your dogs recall. They use a variety of reinforcers with play being included at every level of the games. It is a good way to practice having your dog move to you and hang near by. In this way you practice arrival control, not immediately running off again so you cannot put a lead on them.
Having difficulty with your recall training, contact a trainer today!