First of all let me introduce to you one of the loves of my life. Bella. She is a Boston Terrier, aged one and a half.
I have had her since she was fourteen weeks old and have loved every single moment.
She is my first Boston Terrier and so far so WOW! They are simply incredible dogs. I have had a Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd/Red Setter and a Gordon Setter but Bella is like no other dog on this planet!
Being the type of owner who likes to keep a dog safe at all times, one of the first things I wanted to teach Bella was the recall command.
Oh and by the way, this was the first time I have ever used FEEL4 methodology to train a dog of mine and the results were amazing.
In the interest of helping others looking to teach their dog the recall command I am now going to share my FEEL4 path with you, please feel free to copy and use it.
As usual I have written my path out in the FEEL4 way. Hopefully by now, from reading the guide and the other blog posts, you are getting used to the four step structure. By using the same sequential structure it makes it very easy to quickly read through and apply things to improving your (in this case dog training) situation.
Step 1 – FOCUS:
I am focusing on getting my dog to come back to me immediately when I call her and I want to do this as soon as is realistic for her age and temperament.
Step 2 – ENERGIZE:
I feel energized to do this because…
★ Having an obedient dog who comes back immediately on command is a safer dog.
★ Learning the recall command is something that might save my dog’s life (i.e. if running near a busy road or near an aggressive dog etc).
★ I also want to feel the sense of achievement at having successfully been the person who trained my dog.
★ It will make me feel better too when other dog owners see how well behaved my dog is.
★ I am very eager to show the world another example of how successful FEEL4 is no matter what you apply it for.
Steps 3 & 4 – ENGAGE & LEARN:
To achieve this focus I am going to…
★ Engage with getting together the items I need to take Bella out for a walk…
☆ I learnt I need the following…
☆ A bottle of water with integrated bowl for when it is too hot (I learnt this RoyalCare water bottle to be perfect because of the detachable bowl which means if she doesn’t drink the water you can pour it back into the bottle)
☆ The most desirable food which will energize my dog to want to run back to me when called (I learnt that stinky cheese and or ham works miracles)
☆ A comfortable dog harness that would not hurt my dog when I pulled her on the lead (without doubt the best harness I have found is the Puppia Ritefit Harness).
★ Engage with finding a good place to walk my dog on the lead where we will not be disturbed by other dogs (until she is coming back to me at which point I will go to a busier place with distractions).
☆ I learnt that walking in the deeper countryside or the larger parks where you can easily stay away from other dogs made the recall training much easier (just Bella and me).
⚊ (Assuming a dog is new to the lead like Bella was) Engage with walking my dog on the lead until she was comfortable with having the lead on…
☆ I learnt that dogs are inquisitive and may try and bit the lead. I learnt the best response is a firm “NO” whenever they try to do so. I learnt if you are going to feed them a reward treat you must make sure the dog understands that they are getting the treat for not biting or playing with the lead and not being given it to bite it! You do not want to encourage your dog to bite and play with the lead by rewarding him/her. I personally found just saying a firm no worked well.
☆ I learnt that you must be patient when training a puppy. It literally can take months of repeat training to get your puppy to do something major; do not expect your dog to be like a remote control and instantly react to you, and never ever get angry.
☆ I learnt that you must never EVER tell your dog off for coming back to you. Even if your dog has disobeyed you or rolled in something nasty, never tell them off for returning to you, only tell them off whilst they are in the act (example, you see your dog rolling in something horrible, raise your voice and deeply say “NO – BAD – NO” then say “COME HERE” in a higher more encouraging pitch and as soon as they come towards you praise them with a “GOOD – THAT’S IT – COME HERE – GOOD”).
★ Engage with starting the recall training…
☆ I learnt that before you commence the walk you should give your dog the treat you will be training them with – the ham or the cheese or both! Then show them you are taking the treat with you on the walk. This tells them that you have something they want, it helps grab their attention before you have even set foot outside the door of your home. You should also give them another treat when you arrive at the park (your destination). Please make sure it is small, do not start feeding your dog tons of food!
☆ I learnt that once you are in the correct environment with no distractions and your dog is walking in front of you on the extendable lead at full length, if you shout excitedly “COME HERE” or if you use a whistle or other recall technique, you must immediately pull (not jerk) the lead so that your dog has no choice but to walk back towards you. To confirm, I pulled the lead continuously until they were back at my feet. I found that it is best to then praise the heck out of them when they get to you by verbally saying “WELL DONE” and patting them encouragingly – and only after you have done that should you take some food out and give it to them, again praising them as you do it (only give them one treat per recall). I learnt that you must keep repeating this whole lead-pulling exercise until you get a reaction from your dog and ideally they start to come back to you without you having to pull the lead. What you are achieving by doing this is the conditioning of their mind to always return to you upon hearing your recall command, hence it is important to keep it the same command and tone every time you use it. By giving a treat after you have given praise, you are showing you’re the one in total control of their food and that energizes them to always be aware of your magic treat pocket!!
☆ I learnt that once your dog is coming back to you without you having to pull them back you MUST still keep on doing this throughout their life in all kinds of situations (do not just stop and think they will always remember, you must keep their habit going). In other words if you are walking your dog on the lead in a busy park or street, use your recall command and encourage your dog to return (pull the lead again if you have to – go back to basics). The idea is to get them totally conditioned in all situations. I also learnt you should wean them off being given a treat every time they return to you once they understand what to do. I learnt you can instead give them a treat when you return home and tell them they have been “VERY GOOD TODAY” – trust me they will learn what that means and if they are not good you should so “NO TREAT TODAY” when they return (to be clear I am saying give no treat for the first 30 minutes of being back home after the walk – you can of course give them a treat after that time.
☆ I learnt that once you have mastered the lead recall you can start to do exactly the same tactics with them off the lead. However I learnt you must find a suitable place to do this, ideally a quiet fenced garden or park so they cannot run away too far. I learnt that using very simple commands such as “NO” or “GOOD” or “BAD” and being consistent with them all eventually help communicate with your dog to act like an invisible lead controlling them. I learnt that if your dog does not come back to you when off the lead that you should find a corner where they have no choice but to come towards you to reach other parts of the park or garden – and when they do – you should again praise them and then reward them with a treat. The key thing here is to use step two of FEEL4 formula; you want to energize them enough to make them want to come to you every time. Ask yourself, would you run towards an angry bull or a friendly wagging puppy? Be the puppy!
☆ Overall I learnt that kindness and consistency with recall and voice commands are the key things that will get your dog to return to you on recall.
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF
I hope this helps you. I promise you that if your dog is not coming back to you then it is 99.9% likely to be your fault. Harsh but true. What do I mean? I mean that you will be doing something wrong; it could be your tone is not encouraging enough – maybe you did tell them off once for returning and they need to trust you again – perhaps you are walking them too near distractions (smells) – it could be they just need more time (it can take months).
The key thing is to be persistent and keep walking through the four steps of the FEEL4 formula. Remember the steps automatically tweak and focus you on improving your situation and achieving your aims. The more four step paths you repeat the closer you will get to achieving your focus.
Best of luck!
Any photos of your dog or any other comments please add them below or in the community.