The K9 Companion class began as an entry level training course for dogs that are 6 months or older. The concepts, however, can be used for all ages of dogs including puppies. The class introduces you to reward-based training techniques that will help you communicate to your dog a basic vocabulary of commands and will strengthen the bond you have with your dog to help make him or her a better house companion. Please review all the weeks because information in latter weeks make be useful immediately. Certainly there are various sequences in which the exercises may be taught and you should do what works best for you and your K9 Companion.

Reliable Recalls

When do you really want your dog to come to you? In my mind, he should come to save his life. How do you feel when all you see are rear legs flying towards the street to get to the squirrel on the other side? That’s the best reason I know for teaching recalls. However, you don’t see a great recall often because the secret of teaching a great recall seems elusive. But the truth is that there is no secret – it simply takes hard work, dedication, love, and mutual respect to create a great recall.

To get a dog to stop doing anything and everything he’s doing and run back to you as if it can’t get there fast enough is the goal you should have. Once you get a recall like this, you’ll never again have a dog that isn’t trained to that level.

Sound impossible? It’s not, but don’t lie to yourself about how well you trained your dog to come. It’s your dog’s life you are gambling with. Be safe – be honest with yourself. If you haven’t put in daily time teaching your dog COME from the first day you brought him home, you haven’t trained enough.

To begin with, you must have a good relationship with your dog so he enjoys being with you. It’s not what YOU think is enjoyable, but what your dog thinks is enjoyable. He should feel completely safe and at ease when you are around. After all, you are the supreme bearer of all good doggie things.

So, have you ever:

  • Called your dog to discipline, bathe, or do toenails?

  • Said COME in a cranky tone of voice because he was tearing around the house with your underwear?

  • Called your dog to you and then ignored him?

  • Called your dog to LEAVE the dog park or other exciting place and without a reward when he does come?

If you can answer yes to any of these or similar questions, you have lots of work to do.

On the other side, if your dog thinks you are the supreme bearer of all great doggie things you will be on your way to having a reliable recall! You have everything at your disposal – food, water, treats, petting, games, toys, playing with other dogs or people, shade, warmth, swimming, being silly, etc., etc. Use them all to show your dog he is wonderful, he is right, and he needs to depend on you for everything. A strong bond of communication as well can be created with these tools – not just a one-way person-to-dog bond, but a dog-to-person bond as well.

So, let’s get started with these guidelines:

  • Be consistent: This means when you call your dog to come, he MUST come even if you have to go and get him and firmly and patiently back up saying “come, come, come”. This may require that he has a 15’ (inside) or 30’ (outside) line on him. If your dog is allowed to NOT come, he will consistently not come until he is ready.

  • Call your dog for everything GOOD; For dinner, for kisses, for a game of catch, for brushing, for a walk, or a silly game. Call your dog ten minutes after you let him loose to play with other dogs, praise him for coming and immediately let him go back to playing. (Doing this two or three time during each park outing will convince the dog that "come" doesn't mean the fun's over.)

  • GO GET YOUR DOG for negative things; Trimming nails; going in crate; etc.

  • Play games with your dog (you may have to have someone hold your dog to do some of these exercises):

    • Crouch and call; Several times a day crouch (not bend over) and call your dog and when he comes to you be really excited and give him lots of kisses and then quickly let him go.

    • Run and call; Get your dog’s attention with a squeaky toy or use a high pitched sound and when he turns to you, run away while calling him to you. Be excited and quickly let him go. Have someone hold him getting him excited about coming to you. (restrained recall)

    • Hide and call; Hide in your closet, behind the couch or shower curtain and whistle or call your dog to come. Once should be enough. Now, simply wait. When he finds you, fall down laughing, act crazy and praise! This game adds speed and motivation to the recall. It's fun too.

    • Come and sit; As your recall gets more reliable, you can add a more formal recall to your game plan. After you’ve taught him to sit and stay, then teach him to come from the sit position. Now praise! You can also do a "come and sit" without the initial sit/stay, but, of course, your dog should learn the sit command before you begin this.

  • And finally, be a LEADER. Leadership is crucial for a reliable recall. To a dog, his leader is not only the person who can and will make him obey a command, but, is the person who is the most attractive thing on earth.

The Chase Recall

  • Start by getting your dog sitting next to you and tell him to stay as you move out a few feet.

  • Turn to face left continuing to hold on to the leash in your left hand.

  • Leave your dog and run a few steps forward continuing to hold on to the leash.

  • Turn toward your dog and have him come into front position.

  • Quickly take some half steps back to get and keep your dog in a nice close front.

  • As you take these steps back, tell your dog to "Come-Sit".

  • Each time your dog sits in front position say GOOD until you are ready to finish the exercise and then mark the right behavior with a YES and give your dog lots of treats!