No dog owner is unfamiliar with the frustrating problem of needing your dog to return to you and having him ignore you entirely. With tired repetition of the word “Come!”, he only turns to look at you for a brief moment and then continues on his merry way, sniffing and playing as if you’d never said anything to him at all. Situations like this are why many dog owners are desperate for their dog to have great recall.
For owners of German shepherds, teaching recall may be easier than most other breeds, as German shepherds are exceedingly eager to please and very quick to learn what their owners ask of them. Some are even quite capable of behaving off-leash very well, provided the area is dog-friendly. There is a reason why the German shepherd is probably the most popular dog in both the armed services and local police forces. With impressive intelligence and friendly demeanor, a German shepherd can learn a reliable recall in almost any situation.
Teaching recall to any dog can pose some interesting challenges for dog owners. Many times, the tired old phrase of ‘come’ loses much of its meaning and your dog would much rather continue to ignore it than acknowledge it. Other times, whatever it is that is holding your dog’s attention is much more interesting than you are, and beyond that, if you find it necessary to chase after him, he simply runs off for an impromptu game of tag where you are always ‘it’.
However, for any German shepherd owner who is considering teaching recall, it certainly doesn’t have to be a chore. Understanding why your dog is ignoring you or teaching recall to a dog who has never done it before both require you to find what motivates your dog and how you can use that to your advantage. Using food and toys to entice your dog to you and remind them of good things will always give you a solid recall foundation. Puppies especially should learn recall as early as possible once they’re ready for obedience training and adult dogs can adjust to a new recall in just a few weeks with enough practice. Determine your dog’s needs and whether you need to introduce recall as a whole or troubleshoot the poor recall that you’re already struggling with.
Before allowing your dog to roam on his own, you’ll want to start teaching in an environment where you can control how far he goes. Get him into a collar and long leash to start with and work your way up from there. Gather up the things your dog values most like a great chew, yummy treats, or a fun toy. These will act as your motivators and you should have them on you throughout your dog’s training. Your dog needs a reason to return to you.
Start training either inside of your home or out in an enclosed area like a small backyard. This will give you a better line of sight on your dog as you progress through his training.