Sound Recall

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Jun 9, 2014, 10.21 PM IST

One of the most useful skills to teach your dog is recall; it refers to the ability of a dog to come when called. Instinctively, we want our dog to come when called by name or when commanded to “come”. Teaching a dog his name is a good exercise in general. But there is another type of recall.

In this type, we train the dog to come to us, not in response to his name or any word, but a sound. The reason I suggest a sound and not a word is because words carry emotions. They betray us when we are in panic mode, irritated or angry. When our words betray us, our dog’s natural instinct is to run away from us, not towards us. I don’t suggest mechanical devices either because you might not have one on you when you need it the most.

You can pick any sound — kissing, clucking or even something like psst! Make a sound that you are comfortable with; make it loud and clear.
The next thing to do is to find the right incentive. Find some tasty treats. And when I say tasty, they really need to be tasty. Dry dog biscuits will just not cut it. I have used idlis, dosas, cheese, sausages and once even vegetable samosa. The size of the treats should be the size of the nail on your little finger.

Now comes the part where you sensitize your dog to the sound. Put your dog on a harness and leash and find a quiet place, preferably inside the house. Your dog is likely to be very excited assuming you are taking him for a walk. So pull up a chair, sit and wait out the excitement. After your dog has gotten past the excitement, the first instance at which he looks at you, is the opportunity to start training. Make your special sound and give the treat to the dog immediately. Repeat this about five times, then give the rest of the treats as a bonus for a session well done, praise and pet your dog and end your session.

The next session should focus on getting your dog to follow you. Start the same way as before — make the sound followed by a treat. Then make the sound, turn around, walk two steps, and then give him a treat. It’s a very precise process. Don’t walk more than two steps. Don’t create any delay in the process. And most importantly, don’t keep making the sound. Make the sound once, turn, walk, treat! Repeat a few times. Give a bonus treat and end the session on a happy note.

In subsequent sessions you can increase the number of steps you walk after turning — three, five, seven, nine or 10. Once you reach 10, then take the dog a little away and follow the process — sound, treat; sound,turn,walk, treat. Then head out to your balcony or terrace or just walk way outside your door. Start at the beginning again. Slowly increase the number of steps you walk.

Then you can start venturing onto the road during late or very early hours when there is no traffic. Do not try the process when your dog is completely distracted with a squirrel or another dog. Using the sound during distraction is the final exam. You don’t take final exams without preparation. Keep training sessions short, sweet and happy. Don’t do more than two sessions a day and let each session last less than five minutes. Learning should be fun for you and your dog. Happy training! 

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