I see it all the time. The questions that come up over and over again involve wondering why a dog chews shoes instead of toys, how a dog finds that one 5x7 rug in the bedroom to puke on, and why a dog has a perfect “come” (known as recall in the dog training world) in the house but runs away like a banshee the second his leash in unclipped.
The answer, at least to that last question, is simple: have more fun with your dog.
If you’ve ever called your dog when you are angry at him for chewing a piece of furniture, when you are about to take him home from having fun at a dog park, or to join you in the washroom for a dreaded B-A-T-H, then you may have unintentionally sabotaged your recall.
But, never fear—with some work, you can get it back (figuratively and literally!).
In order to achieve a great, reliable “come,” we must be more cognizant of building positive associations with the cue and eliminating negative ones. And since dogs are the ultimate gods of frolic, if you can convince them that coming back to you is a game instead of a chore, they will be all in!
Here are three of my favorite recall games, guaranteed to make any pup come running at top speed when he hears the “C” word!
Puppy Drag Racing
Ever tried to chase your dog to catch him? If so, you probably realized that chase and be chased is one of the most fun dog games ever. Also, I’m willing to bet that you probably didn’t actually catch your dog. This effective game channels your dog’s natural chase response, so that next time your dog gets the zoomies, when you say the word, the game switches and it’s time to chase you! Playing this game, especially with a young dog, creates some of the speediest recalls I’ve ever seen!
- This game is going to take two people to play, a 30-foot leash, or a long enclosed room or hallway, and some tasty snacks or your dog’s favorite toy.
- Assign one person to be the holder and another to be a chaser (And don’t worry, you can switch roles in the middle of the game).
- Start with both the holder and the chaser standing together with the dog.
- While the holder crouches down and holds the dog with them, the chaser should call the dog’s name and sprint away from the dog for about 25-30 feet.
- When the chaser gets 30 feet away, they should turn toward the dog and call it with its name and the word “come” (i.e. “Porter Come”).
- When the dog gets to the chaser, the chaser should reward him with effusive praise, a treat, or a quick game.
- Now switch! The chaser becomes the holder and vice versa. This will help the dog to generalize that “Come” means to run to the person calling at top speed!
This one is awesome if you have a more distracted doggo. In this creative take on a recall game, your dog is actually rewarded for running away from you. But the only way they earn that reward is to come to you first. This is reverse psychology at its finest!
- For this game, you’ll need a 30-foot leash or a long enclosed hallway, and a handful of tasty snacks.
- Allow your dog to roam freely. Then toss a treat (in a manner so that it catches your dog’s attention when you toss it) out away from you.
- Allow your dog to eat the treat, and then call him back to you.
- When your dog starts coming toward you, toss another treat back out away from you (again, in a manner that catches your dog’s attention when you throw it.)
- You should notice that every time your dog eats the treat away from you, they come a little closer to you a little more quickly, seeking the next treat.
- On each repetition, ask your dog to come closer and closer to you before throwing another treat.
- When your dog becomes less excited to explore his surroundings and more excited to run back to you, reward and quit the session. Next time you start to practice, your dog should remember and focus on you more quickly.
Hide and Seek
This is another game that taps into your dog’s urge to chase and find you. Not to mention, your kids will love having an activity that is fun and teaches the dog to listen to them as well as he listens to the adults in the house! Wanna know how well this one works? It’s actually how many disaster relief and police forces teach their dogs to find victims that need rescuing!
- For this game, you’ll need at least two people, but the more the merrier! One person can be a holder, and the others are hiders.
- Arm your hiders with some tasty treats or a toy. When starting out, the dog should watch the hiders hide. Hiders can go behind a tree, around the side of the house, or on top of a play structure. You are only limited by your imagination.
- Cut your dog loose. And allow your hiders to call your dog to “come” one at a time. When your dog finds his first hider, the hider should reward him and then come out of hiding while another hider calls him.
- When it gets too easy for your pup, don’t let him watch the hiders while they scamper to their spots.
I hope we've given you a few strategies for building a solid “come” with your dog.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to slip on my chewed shoes and head off to the grocery store to rent a carpet steamer.