How to Teach an Emergency Recall – CattleDog Publishing

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emergent reminder of snow.jpg

Border Collie in the snow responding to recall

Photo courtesy of Pat Koven LVT, KPA-CTP, LSHC-S, FFCP Elite

Emergency recall is an important skill for teaching your dog how to deal with other dogs, people and places. This behavior can even save their lives by preventing them from darting into traffic or escaping the yard to chase a deer.

When teaching this behavior, always start in a quiet, distraction-free environment, such as a quiet room or the garden. Choose a word or phrase that will become the signal, such as “this way” or “let’s go.” Pair a unique, high-value treat or toy to establish a positive association with your chosen cue.

The training process begins by randomly saying the signal when your dog is nearby and giving him the treat (or giving him the toy) before walking away. Repeat this process five to ten times a day for two weeks.

After two weeks, test the emergency signal when your dog is elsewhere in the house. Make sure you have treats or the toy on hand, and when your dog arrives, give them several special treats or start a game. If they don’t arrive quickly, start again and continue the cue association. and treats five to ten times a day for another two weeks.

border collie on grass responding to recall

border collie on grass responding to recall

Image courtesy of Pat Koven LVT, KPA-CTP, LSHC-S, FFCP Elite

Over time, gradually increase the difficulty level. Place your dog in a long line and move the cabinet outside. Give your dog an opportunity to sniff and venture a short distance before using the recall signal. When they return, reinforce them well. Slowly expose them to more distracting environments, including parks or other places. Repeat the process on the long line and continue to reinforce the recall.

Once learned, continue practicing the behavior once or twice a week. Always offer that special treat or toy, making sure your dog gets paid for choosing to come back. If you follow this process and a true emergency arises, your dog should still come back even if you don’t have that special treat on hand, because you’re used to paying him well. Praise them immediately, but still reinforce them with a special treat or toy whenever you can.

Never use the emergency signal to call your dog to something he may not like, such as a bath or nail trimming. This can poison the signal, create distrust and teach the dog to avoid returning in the future. Remember to be positive. Teaching an emergency recall takes time, consistency and patience.


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