One of the most important behaviors to work on with any puppy is their recall, in other words, their ability to come when called. It is not a difficult behavior to train, but you will need to plan on starting early and practicing often. You can even start training this behavior as early as 8 weeks old!
Labrador Retrievers are very intelligent as well as energetic. While your Lab puppy is likely to learn to come when called quite quickly, it will take you several months to a year to get it strong enough to rely on in an emergency. If you keep your training sessions fun and interesting, your Lab puppy will look forward to learning this and other behaviors.
The three methods offered in this guide will give you the information you need to teach a basic recall command as well as make sure to make sure your recall is “proofed” so that it will work even when your Labrador is distracted. However, no matter how good your dog’s recall is, it is still critical to keep her on a leash near dangerous conditions such as traffic.
When working on training your Labrador puppy to come, follow these tips for the best results:
Make it rewarding. Never call your Lab to you and then punish them or take a toy away.
Keep it exciting. Be more interesting to your Labrador than the environment and you will find that she will naturally keep her attention on you. Over time, she will learn to love training because it is fun and interesting.
Don’t chase your dog. Your Labrador puppy is likely to think that a game of chase is lots of fun. If you make the mistake of chasing her when she doesn’t come, you are actually rewarding her for not coming when called.
Practice often. Our methods will show you how to gradually and safely add distractions to your recall training time so that you can give your Labrador puppy the skills to come when called, every time.
Before you get started with any training, it is important to understand what motivates your dog. Chances are very good that your Labrador puppy is very food motivated, one of the reasons these lovable dogs are so easy to train. While it is fine to use food rewards when training new behaviors, even desirable since food rewards are fast and easy to repeat, you will want to try to randomize your rewards a bit with recall training.
For example, does your Labrador puppy also love vigorous praise, a quick game of tug, or a toss of the tennis ball? It is okay to use any of these motivators as rewards when training recall. It actually helps to reinforce your recall if your dog is left guessing about which awesome thing he will get the next time he runs to you when called!
Besides rewards, the only equipment you will need to train a sturdy recall is a 25’ or longer leash or rope. You will use this to have some control over your puppy once you are ready to move your training outdoors. This way, even if you do not have a fenced yard to practice your recall drills, you can use the long line to make sure she does not get too far away or into any trouble.