Games to Play: Recall 101
As with any dog training, you need to make it fun. If the dog is not having fun, neither will you. So why look at recall any different? We are going to introduce two games that, if used properly, will start you down the road to having a dog that always comes when called. I’m referring to ping pong and hide and seek. For now, I want you to focus on playing these games inside your house. We will expand the range and the amount of distraction in the next blog… Recall Anywhere: Recall 102.
The first game we are going to play is ping pong. This game is very reminiscent to “monkey in the middle”, and requires two people and the dog. The dog will be in the middle. If you don’t have another person, you can still make this game work. We will introduce this technique in the next blog when we go outdoors to practice. So if you are solo, work on Hide and Seek, or call a friend! Pick an area of your house with plenty of room. A hallway or large living room works great! Have each person start with 5 treats, stand at opposite ends of the room or hallway and take turns calling the dog back and forth till the treats are gone. The cue or command here is simply the dog’s name. I don’t use the word come. To me this is redundant, and just one more spoken word your dog has to master. Why not just build the understanding that when you call a dog’s name they should check in? This game does two things. It teaches the dog that every time they recall to their name they get a reward (the treat) and also that when they can see you and hear you use their name, they need to come to you. I recommend practicing this game one to two times a day with each person having five treats. As with all training, it is not the amount of training, it is the consistency in which you train. So it is better to have one good, short, positive session every day for a month than to have 10 really long sessions that your dog tunes out after 10-15 minutes.
The second game we are going to play is Hide and Seek, and yes it is basically the same game you played as a kid. The major difference for the dog is that this game adds the element that they can hear you but can not see you. However, the end result should still be the same as when playing Ping Pong…the dog needs to come when called. I know this will sound a little crazy, and it is not the first time I have been accused of being such, but you will need to have treat jars all over the house. I have 8 located throughout my house! Now that you have the positive reinforcement (the treats) located all over the house, you can begin playing the game. This game complements your everyday life, by adding times to practice each time you see a treat jar. For example, I keep one jar in the laundry room and when I am doing a load of laundry I call one of my dogs to me, and if they show up they get the treat. If I am upstairs in the bathroom brushing my teeth I call a dog, and if they show up they get a treat. Before too long, your dog realizes that even if they can not see you, but they can hear you, they need to find you. Guess what? They love this game too, since there is a reward when it’s done right.
To add a twist, incorporate another person into the game. Have one person hold the dog while the other goes and hides somewhere in the house with a Jackpot of treats (2 or 3) in their hand and then they call the dog. When the dog eventually finds you they get the Jackpot of treats! I will be completely honest; adults hide in really boring places! So if there are kids in the family, this is one of the best times involve them. My six year old will actually make his bed so that he can pretend to be a pillow under the covers to try and trick the dog. What an unexpected benefit of dog training…a six year old that makes his bed!
Practice these games for a couple of weeks, but be aware that just because they work in the house does not mean they will work in the big, wide world outside the house. In fact, that is exactly what we will tackle in the next blog…how to recall effectively with distractions like those found outside your front door: Recall Anywhere: Recall Part 2.
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