You and your puppy are playing in your front yard when suddenly a squirrel runs nearby. The puppy, young and prone to distractions, breaks away from you and chases after the squirrel toward the street. If your puppy is so distracted that he doesn’t listen to you, he could run into the street and place himself--and others --in significant danger. Training your puppy to recall is a critical component to establishing a safe environment for you, your dog, and anyone in the immediate area.
Training for recall can be a time-consuming and challenging process because you are working against a dog’s natural instincts and depending on the breed, prey drive. That’s why it’s helpful to teach your dog to recall while he is young. He will learn to listen to you and understand your expectations when you call him. Recall with distractions will, in turn, teach your puppy to learn quickly and be highly focused.
The key to training your puppy to recall even with distractions around is to make responding to your command more rewarding than ignoring it. Like people, dogs often measure up the benefits and costs of a situation to determine what will benefit them the most. Therefore, incentivized recall training is essential for your dog to master this skill successfully.
Know your puppy well. What does he respond to most? Does he have a favorite kind of toy or treat? How can you potentially use what he loves to help him ignore the multiple distractions that he encounters on a daily basis, and focus on you instead? By following the training guidelines below, you can teach your pup to respond to recall even when there are other people, dogs, animals, and activities happening around him.
Make sure that your puppy knows basic recall training, and that the command you’ve chosen for recall (“come,” “to me,” etc.) is used consistently throughout the process. Start in enclosed areas with minimal distractions and slowly, with each small step of success, work up to large, spacious areas with more activity.
You will need a long lead line for some of these training steps as well as high value treats to help entice your pup to focus on your command. Remember to be patient and consistent at all times. Keep the training limited to short session of ten minutes or so to help prevent boredom for your puppy and frustration for you.