Training Tip Tuesday ~ Emergency Recall

Recall, it’s one of the most important behaviors to have one cue and reliable. Having a number of recalls in your training arsenal is a good thing. You want to make sure though, that you have one cue that no matter what, will stop that dogs in its tracks and return him (or her) to you. Many trainers will refer to this cue as an Emergency Recall. A cue that if your dog hears, it’s been paired with something he loves so many times he thinks, “really I get that right now” and turns and comes running back to you for it.

Callie practicing a basic recall

When training something as important as an Emergency Recall, you want to make sure that you pick something the dog absolutely goes bonkers for! For some dogs that might be steak, or roasted chicken, or a favorite lunch meat/cheese found in your refrigerator. Whatever it is, you want to make sure it’s something that your dog doesn’t get on a regular basis. You want this to be a special treat for him. Once you’ve got that figured out, you want to pick a cue or word to pair with that super special treat. A word that is not used in your daily conversations and is not repeated often. Sometimes this is the hardest part of teaching the behavior, picking a good word to use. I’ve had people use weird food names, brand names, or even a word in a different language that would never otherwise be spoken. It’s up to you!

Once you have chosen the cue & the super special treat to give your dog, all you have to do is begin to pair the two over the next couple of weeks. Here’s how:

Week 1: Start out by getting your dog’s attention, saying your cue (in this case I will use “Jiffy”) and then immediately following your cue give the dog the special treat. Repeat this about 5 times and then end the session (Get dogs attention, Cue Jiffy= treat, Jiffy= treat, Jiffy= treat, Jiffy= treat, Jiffy= treat, end session). Over the next week you want to do this at least once per day at different times of the day and in different rooms of the house.

Week 2: Begin testing your dog randomly by saying the cue out-loud when the dog isn’t expecting it or is in a different room of the house. Most dogs will come running as fast as the wind. When they do, give them the special treat. Over the next week continue to practice. You want to do this at least once a day at different times of the day and in different rooms of the house trying to cue when your dog isn’t expecting it. (Note: if your dog doesn’t come running when you say the cue, A: try to go back to week 1 for a couple more days and then try again or B: change the treat. Perhaps the treat you’ve chosen isn’t special enough, try something new and think smelly! Dogs love stinky stuff like feta cheese or sardines)

Week 3-4: Once your dog is consistently responding to your cue, begin to switch things up or make them even more random. Begin spacing out the times/days you cue the behavior. If you have a fenced in yard, you can practice outside. Remember that anytime you use this cue you must pair it with a special treat. This is a behavior that you want to be as consistent as possible with your rewards.

Rest of the dogs life: Considering this is an Emergency Recall, it shouldn’t be used very frequently. With that being said, if you haven’t used it in a while, don’t forget to practice it every now and then to keep it fresh in the dogs mind and highly rewarded!

Well, that’s all I have for today’s tip! How many of you have an Emergency Recall in place for your dog? What other ways have you found to successfully get your dog to come running back to you? We’d love to hear your stories!