How to get my dog to come when called

Teaching a dog to come when it’s called is one of the lessons that could save its life.

Most owners achieve this without too many issues.  However, some dogs get a real kick out of chasing things that they shouldn’t, such as joggers and cyclists. When they are distracted/focused by this behaviour, they are unlikely to respond to an owners call.

In order to address this, a more targeted approach for this particular issue is required.

We call it the ‘chase recall’. The aim of this exercise is that when the dog hears a particular word or sound, they learn to disengage from what they are chasing to respond to the owner and chase something more appropriate instead.

What you will need

  • A harness
  • A long-line lead
  • Gloves (Whenever you handle a long-line lead, you should always wear a pear of gloves. If you get caught out and the line runs through your bare hands, you could receive some nasty friction burns).
  • Two toys (One that your dog absolutely loves and enjoys chasing, and one that is still interesting but of less value to your dog. In some cases, a squeaky toy can be beneficial too).

The harness and long line are needed for safety reasons. The low-value toy will be used as a decoy, and the high value toy will be used as a reward.

Teaching a ‘chase recall’

The first step in teaching a ‘chase recall’ is to condition the word ‘come’ (or any word or sound of your choice) to mean ‘chase this instead’.

This is done by starting in the house or garden. Wait for your dog to be distracted by something and shout your chosen recall word. As soon as your dog looks at you, shout ‘yes’ and throw the high value toy for him to chase. Once you have achieved a positive and enthusiastic response, you are ready to move onto the next step.

The next step requires you to take your dog to an area where you are unlikely to encounter your dogs chase triggers. This is where the less exciting toy come into play. Try throwing this toy and as soon as your dog engages in chasing it, shout your recall word and see if he acknowledges your call. If he does, shout yes and immediately throw his favourite toy in the opposite direction. Remember, we want your recall word to mean ‘stop chasing that and come and chase this’. For some dogs you might need a squeaky to help break their focus away from the first toy. If your dog likes a squeaky toy, the sequence would be ‘recall word’, a squeak of the toy, and then throwing the high value toy.

Once this has become reliable in an environment without any chase trigger distractions, its time to up the ante and try it in a more challenging setting.

This is where the harness and long line are important. It is socially unacceptable and in some cases dangerous to allow a dog to engage in chase behaviours as they can result in accidents – someone might fall of their bike or even receive a nip on the back of their leg. This cannot be allowed to happen, hence the use of a long line. We also need to prevent the dog from practicing the unwanted behaviour of chasing.

Keep working with the two different toys to ensure the response is still solid in that setting, and then bring in the help of a third party.

Setting up a training exercise where a third party can play the role of your dogs trigger is a very valuable step.

The advantage of using a third party is that they can be instructed to stop all movement if your dog fails to respond to your call. By stopping their movement, the trigger becomes less exciting and your dog is more likely to then respond to your call.

Once you have achieved reliability with regards to your stooge trigger, you can then trial your training in the real world. Be sure to keep the long line attached.

Remember, each time you change a location you may have to go back a step. This is normal in all aspects of dog training.

Finally, just because your dog now comes when he is called, please don’t take his compliance for granted. If there’s one exercise that should be frequently rewarded, it is coming when called. Also, it is a fact of life that NO dog has a 100% reliable recall – they are sentient beings and can have ‘off’ days just like us.

Enjoy your training!

Looking for more advice?

If you are still struggling with chase recall training, or have any other questions about your pet, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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