A Strong Recall is Critical During Your Dog’s Water Play


No matter how strong your dog’s recall may be (and we recommend it be quite strong if you’re considering letting your dog off-leash at the beach, lake, or river), it’s important to remember that the excitement of being in the water, coupled with the potential desire to swim out for a toy or chase a flock of ducks, could result in his recall falling on deaf ears. Prior to fun water play, consider brushing up on your dog’s recall with the following:

Remember that coming when called is a skill that requires maintenance for the life of your dog. It’s easy to find yourself feeling “too busy” to train, but designating just 10 minutes a day to recall training can go a long way toward bolstering the skill.

Make sure your training includes teaching your dog to purposefully turn away from distractions in favor of coming to you. Avoid static recalls where the dog sits and waits as you leave, then call him to you. A “real life” recall rarely looks like that.

Reward generously every time your dog comes to you. Really invest quality time in the process of rewarding your dog. Combine genuine praise with the types of petting, play, and treats your dog loves best. Imagine that the process of rewarding your dog is the like making a deposit in the bank. You want to make hefty deposits because challenging recalls (especially away from distractions) are expensive. Make sure you can afford it!

Consider working your dog on a long line when you first get to the water and aren’t sure how your land training will carry over. Long lines are also a good alternative when local laws prohibit off-leash dogs.

If you’re struggling with teaching a reliable recall, consult a qualified trainer who can help you use positive reinforcement methods to strengthen your dog’s ability to come when called.

Previous articleA Good Recall
Next articleDownload the Full August 2012 Issue PDF
Stephanie Colman has been a contributor to Whole Dog Journal since January 2010, with multiple articles recognized by the Dog Writers Association of America.  Colman has an extensive background in positive-reinforcement dog training, having spent more than 15 years teaching group and private training classes focused on basic manners, problem solving, sport-dog training, therapy dog prep, and more.  She’s also competed at high levels in a variety of dog sports including obedience, agility, Rally, hunt tests, lure coursing, and working trials.  She currently serves as the puppy program coordinator at Guide Dogs of America, where she leverages her dog training and journalism/PR backgrounds to recruit and support the organization’s volunteer puppy raisers.  In addition to Whole Dog Journal, her work has also been published in APDT Chronicle of the Dog, Off-Lead Animal Behavior, and the book Magical Dogs: Love and Lessons from our Canine Companions.  She holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Mass Communication from California State University, Northridge.  Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @caninestein, or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-colman/.