Q&A: When should I reward my dog?

When starting reward training for recall if your dog doesn’t come on the first call but does come after a couple of calls, should you reward this? I understand that we shouldn’t growl for not coming straight away but to reward him/her for coming after a couple of calls to me. I’d be very grateful for any tips. Thanks, Lana

Hi Lana.

It is great that you have started to work on off lead recall with your dog, and treats for coming to you is certainly the best way to start.

The biggest thing is that you do not call her more then once. If you are going to use the ‘come’ command, you say it one time only, and if she does not come to you, you need to go and get her. You would then praise her when you get hold of her, so that it is a positive experience for her. If you have to go get her though, I would not give her the treat, just verbal praise.

If you are finding that she is not coming the first time, you need to return to practicing recalls on a long lead. You can buy a long training lead, or simply get a long piece of rope to attach to her collar. You can begin with having her sit and stay and then back away from her. Then in a clear and excited voice, call her name and say ‘come’. You can also crouch down to encourage her to come to you. If she is running toward you, you can encourage her to continue by praising her as she is coming in.

If she does not respond though, or even if she comes part way but get distracted, tell her no and give her a jerk and release collar correction. Do not reel her in like a fish, just indicate to her through the lead and collar to make the motion herself. When she gets to you, have her sit at your feet and give her a treat and calm praise. Call her to you frequently, and then release her with an ‘ok’ command. If it is fun, and she gets praised/rewarded, she should like the game!

Remember, though you do not want to be repeating yourself on this command, or else she will learn to ignore you. Like many aspects of training, if you are finding she is not reliably coming to you the first time, you have probably progressed too quickly and need to go back to working on a lead and/or at shorter distances.


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Beth Jeffery

Beth Jeffery is a Dog Trainer and Behaviorist with over 15 years experience in the field. She spent years in the Service Dog field, training both Guide Dogs for the Blind and Assistance Dogs for the Disabled, as well as many years working with pet dogs. Beth current runs her Dog Training business in San Diego, working with dogs of all breeds, all ages, and with all issues, from puppy training through to aggressive dogs.

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