The "Don't Be Greedy" Recall

If you have a dog that consistently comes when called anywhere at anytime, this blog may not be for you but you may find it helpful for maintaining or sharpening that good behavior and responsiveness to avoid having it fade.

For those of you who do not have a dog that is amazingly well-trained on the Recall, it is a good idea to practice highly rewarding, non-greedy recalls to work toward the status of having a dog who comes everytime you call.

This "Pay and Release" method may actually prove to be more profitable to you than to your dog, but he doesn't have to know that. Let's just call it a win-win. You get a dog that comes when called and he learns to love doing it. Here's how it goes:

  • Call your dog to you- "Rover Come!" - in an enthusiastic, non-threatening yet authoritative tone. Assuming your dog has been trained to come and really knows what it means, he should arrive in front of you and promptly assume the Sit position.
  • AS SOON AS that little doggie butt hits the ground, give them a treat and IMMEDIATELY give the Release cue ("Okay" for example) letting them go back to whatever they were doing.
  • Don't make them look at you, lay down, stay for another recall or any other creative thing you may be thinking of. That would be greedy! He just gave up something fun to come to you and now you want a bunch of other silly human nonsense? Come on now! Keep it simple. Just call, reward and release, simple as that. Nothing fancy.

Do this and you may soon have a dog that will come when called in any and all situations. Well, I guess that actually is kind of fancy isn't it? If not fancy it is at least unusual and pretty darned impressive.

The Power of this Simple Formula is Threefold

  1. Number one is obvious-  the dog gets positive reinforcement from treats. But, being called away from something fun or exciting is actually a punishment, which brings us to the second power of this exercise.
  2. The Immediate release back to whatever distracting thing he was doing (aka environmental rewards) minimizes or eliminates any potential negative association of being called away from something fun.
  3. And power button #3 is no fooling around with reward delivery. It's just BAM! Get over here, put your butt on the ground  and get paid, right now. No muss no fuss! The dog only loses a few seconds of fun which is then paid promptly and handsomely and the fun is given right back. There's really nothing to lose.

This "Don't be greedy" approach is super effective and often overlooked. Many dogs actually learn NOT to come because of greedy handlers expecting too much too soon. They hold out on payments, ask for extra behaviors or fail to use freedom as a reward. You can always get fancy and raise expectations later, AFTER you have a reliable, enthusiastic Recall. First you must build the dog's drive to get to you as fast as possible. So pay well, pay fast and don't be greedy.

-Chad Culp, Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant

© Thriving Canine 2013