Practicing recall is a great way to be a responsible owner and respect the space of others in public, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun!
The way that I see recall, it's not something that should be used to "end" the fun times, like telling a kid they have to leave the playground. Practicing recall in all types of situations, while being the most fun thing in your dog's environment, is a great way to make sure your dog is excited to come back to you every single time.
While we talk about treats as the reward in this article, you can use whatever your dog finds most motivating—that may be verbal praise, toys, or physical affection! It's important to figure out what works for you based on the dog in front of you.
Playing games with your dog is not only fun but also a great way to enhance their recall skills. Here are four fun games that you can play with your pup to help them recall on command.
1. Hide & Seek
To play hide and seek to improve your dog's recall, follow these steps:
Start with a sit and stay command: Have your dog sit and stay in a designated area while you hide.
Hide: Find a hiding spot that is within your dog's line of sight, but not too obvious. Keep in mind that your dog will be able to hear you, so don't hide too far away.
Call your dog: Call your dog's name in a happy and excited tone. When they find you, reward them with treats and lots of praise.
Repeat: As your dog becomes more skilled at finding you, increase the difficulty by hiding in more challenging locations.
Reinforce: Reinforce your dog's recall command by rewarding them every time they come to you when called, even if they don't find you in the hide and seek game.
Remember to keep the game fun and exciting, and to always use treats and praise to motivate your dog. Over time, your dog will learn to come to you quickly and reliably when called, making hide and seek a great way to improve their recall skills.
This is a great game to play because it teaches your dog to seek you out. Start inside your home first, where there are less distractions. As your dog starts to understand and enjoy the game, you can move to the outdoors and play with your dog on a long line. Until you're absolutely confident in your dog's recall, keep a leash on them for safety!
2. Catch Me If You Can
Too often we see people running after their dogs to try to catch them. And to some dogs, it's an incredibly fun game! Try flipping the script and getting them to chase you instead to improve their recall.
Stand a short distance from your dog and call their name. Start by calling them once and then begin to run away from them. Encourage your dog to chase you: As you run away, call your dog's name again and use excited gestures to encourage them to chase you. If your dog isn't following you, start small and just take a few steps back when they come towards you.
Reinforce the recall command: Once your dog catches up to you, praise them and give them a treat. Repeat the process several times.
Gradually increase the distance: As your dog becomes more confident in their recall, gradually increase the distance between you and your dog.
Vary the game: To keep the game interesting, try running in different directions or hiding behind objects.
3. Ping Pong Pup
This is a game you can play with two (or more) people. Have two people standing separately with your dog in the middle. Try practicing in an enclosed area first. Take turns calling your dog's name and then rewarding with high-value treats or playtime with a toy when they come to you.
Repeat the game until your dog comes enthusiastically each time they're called, and then gradually increase the distance.
Here's a tip: When the other person calls your dog, stand up and don't interact with your dog. In other words, make yourself more boring so the other person who's using your dog's recall cue seems more interesting!
4. The Get It Game
You can play the Get It game by yourself, and it's especially good if your dog is treat motivated. Grab several Kono's Kitchen single-ingredient freeze-dried raw treats. The key to this game is having a marker system built up. Your dog should understand what "Get it" (get your reward away from me) and "Yes" (get your reward from me) means before playing this game. It's a simple game, and here are the rules below:
- Start by tossing one treat (or a lower-value food item, such as their kibble) away from you and say Get it.
- After they get the one treat, say Come and then Yes as they come to you, and then reward with several treats. You can also take a few steps back as they come back towards you to make it even more exciting!
The idea of the game is that they can get a smaller reward away from you, but the larger and more enticing reward happens when they come to you.
When you're playing these recall games, pay attention to how committed your dog is to the game. If it looks like they're over it, end the game before they do. Keep the games exciting and fun, even if that means only playing in short spurts each time.
Now go and do some recall training—I mean, play with your pup!
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