How to Train a Dog – Perfect Recall

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One of the most important skills to teach your dog is to return to you when you call them.  A reliable recall could make a difference in a life or death situation. So, how do you train a dog for the perfect recall?  Dexter is the best with his recall. I honestly think it’s because he is a small dog, that it was easier to train him to stay close when off leash and to return when called.  

Dexter is a Yorkshire Terrier “Yorkie.”  According the the AKC, Yorkies are on average 7 pounds and they make excellent guard dogs (well not in the normal sense).  

From the moment we got Dexter he was like velcro. He would constantly ask to sit on our laps and almost never leave our side.  He has a fantastic hearing! He can hear the faintest sound in the house and will be immediately able to tell us. I think this is why it was so easy to teach him to come back to us when called.

So instead of just using Scorpion’s saying of “ GET OVER HERE!” What do you need to do?

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How to teach a dog to come when called?

When Dexter was a puppy, we would sit in the living room with training treats and work on our commands this would include working on a perfect recall.  Here is what I would do:

  1. I would go to the pet store and stock up on some dog training treats.  These are smaller treats that I would only use during training sessions.  This way the treats would be “high value” treats that would entice the dogs really pay attention.  Early on, I found that anything rabbit or “gamey” are best. Recently, I have been using Zuke’s training treats in the rabbit recipe.
  2. I got a small bag that would be easy for me to reach into and not so easy that the dog can reach the treats inside.  This would let me keep a smaller amount of treats on me during training sessions without having to deal with the hassle of the full bag.  Here is the one I have been using.  I like it because it has a sturdy shut mechanism and a belt clip.
  3. I would put away any other dogs in the house.  Most times I would preoccupy Daisy in another room with a treat or toy while I worked with Dexter.
  4. Next, I ask Dexter to sit and stay (skills he already has down).  
  5. After a bit of warm-up I would have him sit and stay while I took a few steps back.  
  6. I use the word “come” and any time he would come back to me from the sitting position I would reward him with a treat.  Dexter is a very visual dog as well so I couple the command with pointing to the ground in front of my feet.
Dexter as a puppy, perfect recall.

Reinforcement

Here is what made the difference for me:  These training sessions were great but I found teaching Dexter the real world application on how to use his new skill made a huge difference.  So when he went out back, I would sit on the deck and use the command. Any time he came back to me, I would reward him with a treat. Eventually, he has gotten so good at this that in certain situations, I don’t worry about putting a leash on him.  My parents have a giant yard. When we are more worried about leashing up Daisy and Pepper to go out back, we can just let Dexter out.

This really came in handy one time when he slipped out the front door around me!  It was a Sunday afternoon and I was busy getting ready to go to the grocery store.  I was so preoccupied with getting the bags, my list, my purse that when I opened the door, Dexter bolted!  He ran across the street to get in his smells of the dogs that live there. I carefully crossed the street and said, “Dexter come!”  This broke his attention and he came back to me. I scooped him up and took him back inside.

Instead of having to chase and look for him for hours, hoping that some wildlife hasn’t gotten him yet, I was able to use the recall command that we have worked on so many times.  It ended quickly and happily.

Conclusion

Never be in a situation where you don’t have control over your pet.  As I started with, a reliable recall is not only convenient to have it could be the difference between life and death!  Keep training sessions fun and short and your dog will have it in no time!

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