Do you dream of your dog flying back to you every single time you call? Start here!
What would it mean to you if you could give one call, and your dog zoomed in and arrived at your feet? Every time!
Hard to imagine? Maybe.
Possible? Most definitely!
Fun? Very much so. (If it’s not fun, your dog won’t do it. So there’s lots of fun!)
Little by little
The problem is that many people think their dog comes with a recall installed. No! Whether a puppy or a rescue, you’re getting Dog 1.0 - the basic version. Upgrades are installed through hours of fun and games, aka force-free dog training.
When your new little puppy arrives, you may be tempted to think she has a great recall because she quickly finds you. This is just her infant clinginess. Like a lamb at foot, the young puppy tends to keep close to her minder. Once she starts to grow a bit, in confidence as well as in size, you’ll find that infant clinginess will evaporate. And if that’s what you’ve been relying on, you are now up the creek without a paddle.
So you need to get in early, ensuring that you use that time when your puppy wants only to be with you, to build a thumping good recall. Naturally, with a puppy of a few weeks old you’re only going to teach through games! The secret is to keep those games going as your dog gets older, so they will always choose you over the distraction they were about to hurtle towards.
In days gone by (thankfully), people didn’t start teaching dogs till they were six months old or so - the reason being they had to be tough enough to stand up to the harsh treatment meted out to them.
What a trick they missed!
All those early weeks and months when your puppy is like a sponge soaking up new information. Why on earth let your pup run wild for months learning to do all kinds of things you don’t want her to do - then say, “Right, now I expect you to behave differently.”
So with your new puppy, start the day she arrives. With a new rescue dog you may have a lot of history to work against. The easiest way to achieve what you want is to imagine this is a new puppy and teach the exact same way.
First things first
There are two things you need to be clear on before you start:
1. If you don’t want your dog to do something, then don’t let it happen
So if you have any suspicion your dog may run off and not come straight back - highly likely in a new rescue dog - then you need to learn how to use a long line safely (not an extendable lead) while you teach your super instant recall. This does not mean you never let your puppy off-lead! This will not teach her anything except to want to get away from you. Your dog must be free in order to make a choice to come back. But only let her off-lead in an enclosed area. Gradually your dog will earn her freedom in larger areas.
2. Everyone on the planet listens to the same radio station: WII fm
WII fm? That’s “What’s in it for me?” Your dog will be making a choice whether to hare after the distraction or shoot back to you. What’s in it for her? You need to make your recall games such fun that her response becomes automatic. And an easy way to train in any kind of knee-jerk reaction - so that her recall goes onto auto-pilot - is to use rhythm and patterning in your games.
Step by step
When you were learning to read, you were not given a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses and told to get on with it! You were taught shapes of letters or words and their sounds, gradually slotting those jigsaw pieces together till you could hit a line of text running, read it and understand it.
So letting your dog wander off then calling her and expecting her to know what to do is just as mad as giving your toddler Ulysses.
The very first thing your pup needs to learn is that her name means good things, and only good things. You should never use your dog’s name if you are frustrated or annoyed with her. Any other word! - but not her name.
Here’s a simple game to get you started. Watch out for other family members as well as yourself. You may be surprised at how much negativity is being attached to your dog’s name on a daily basis!
1. Say dog’s name once
2. When she responds - by raising an eyebrow or hurtling towards you and crashing into your legs - reward her with something good
3. Repeat at every opportunity throughout the day
4. Enjoy your dog
What should her reward be? That’s something that you should be finding out if you don’t already know! What does she like? A run and laughter? A piece of cheese? A game with you and a toy? A game of chase? Whatever “is in it for her” is what you use to reward her response to her name.
One day her willing and instant response to her name may save her life. Be sure to take time building that response.
And for a step-by-step guide to a lightning-fast recall - every time - go and take a look at Here Boy! Step-by-step to a Stunning Recall from your Brilliant Family Dog, the fourth in the series of Essential Skills for a Brilliant Family Dog, available from your favourite e-book store now. Go now, and you can be reading it within minutes!
Picture this: your dog is racing towards another dog, you call her name - once - and she spins and races back to you at the same speed, arriving with a smile on her face and a happy waving tail, saying, “Didn’t I do well?”
This can be you and your dog!
Go check Here Boy! right now.
And in case you missed my first piece "My dog can’t keep still - he’s mad all the time!" you’ll be pleased to know you can still get the first book in the series free at most outlets!
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Articles from Victoria Stilwell
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- Becoming a Dog Trainer
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- Does Your Dog Respect You?
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