==> "Come here! Come here now! Come here right NOW!!" - Sounds somewhat familiar?
How to make your dog come when YOU want
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For many dog owners in general (not just German Shepherd owners), the Recall is a challenging training objective. And that's mainly because they didn't first hone dog Leash Training.
Key point #1 for a successful Recall:
Of course it's only natural not to think of leash training when we get a dog: The first thing we do when we get a dog or puppy is to CALL it to us, isn't it?!
In fact, with a new puppy (where it would matter most to start the right way), we typically call it all the time, and give it affection all the time: "Ohh, look my darling, here." - "Ahh, my sweety, what do we have there?" - "Now, this is SPECIALLY for you!" - "Mmmh, isn't this yummy, yummy?!" etc etc. All our attention revolves around our new baby (ahem, puppy).
All this is natural, yes. - But is it helping the long-term relationship with our dog?
No. Clearly not. So much not, that Dan, the impressive online video dog trainer, even established one of his five "Golden Rules" just for this! - His Rule No 4: Everything on your terms.
To be frank, my own first thought when I studied his comprehensive dog training approach was: Huuh, that's a bit harsh, isn't it? Almost inhumane, not to allow your dog to start the attention, the affection, to decide where to go, etc. Never! Really? Yes, Dan recommends to stick to all 5 rules. Everyone in the family. All the time.
The reason why I was a bit skeptic at first: Because, a) GSDs in general are more attentive, sophisticated, and autonomous than most other dog breeds, and b) specifically, our own GSDs always got a lot of "freedom to decide" and they are treated rather like "partners" than "pets" or "servants", because that's imperative when you have GSDs as Protection Dogs (will feature in a future MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERODICAL).
However, when we then actually tried various aspects of his comprehensive dog training approach, we realized that indeed it does make the dogs calmer, more content, and seemingly happier too. It does further improve the relationship with our dogs!
I wouldn't often suggest that you try Dan's dog training too if I wasn't very happy with it myself. As often said, it's not GSD-specific but since GSDs are dogs as well after all, his dog training videos have been enormously helpful to us - and so it will be helpful to you too when you try it.
So, Key point #2 for a successful Recall:
Not in a mean, harsh way. But in the way already the mum does it with the litter pups.
Admittedly, this is the hardest bit of the training for all of us who love our dog! Not only that we actually like to get unsolicited attention and affection (for once! ), no, we may find it somewhat "cruel" not to give in, right?
However, no matter how much we are used to treat our GSDs almost like human beings, we must not forget that after all they are animals - with animal-typical traits and needs!
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And fact is, no matter how much socialized and how familiar and close our own GSD is to us, being an animal, dogs, the dog will indeed always try to get the upper hand, to dominate us when we show signs of weakness or indecisiveness. Remember the words: dogs dominate.
And, being a dog, (s)he will always get confused and stressed when we show inconsistency in our expectations, commands, and behavior.
I'd strongly suggest you read the above paragraph again, as I fear even my highlighting can't fully relay its significance.
Hence Key point #3 for a successful Recall:
Yes, all these three key points come before you even start with the Recall. Uuups!
If you don't keep this order of training the Recall, don't be surprised when your GSD may never come reliably when you call your dog. Meaning, sometimes (s)he'll come, but other times (s)he won't.
How to train your dog 100% successful Recalls
Now on to the actual steps of training the Recall in a way that almost guarantees you 100% success rate when you call your dog:
When (s)he say lays the head or a paw on your lap, huddles against your legs, or simply puts on that begging look, look away, walk away, or use the outside of your hand or arm to gently move your dog away. The first few times this may be hard for you and confusing for your dog (if not used to this), but the rewards for the relationship between you two go way beyond the pure Recall! You will be surprised!
Step 2: Likewise, start today, and over the entire week (and thereafter) only ever give your GSD a meal or treats(!) when you have called your dog to you. Conversely, when your dog shows that unambiguous look which you know means "I'd now like a treat please", then again ignore your dog completely.
Wait a while before you serve the meal (and of course don't forget the brief Gesture Eating when you finally do serve the meal), go in another room, do something else. Just wait until your dog is calm, not begging, and maybe not even thinking of the meal or treat, because your dog is distracted by something else.
Step 3: From now on, when you call your GSD (remember, for now we are still inside the house), and your dog doesn't immediately shoot towards you but then comes a bit later, ignore your dog - like (s)he just ignored you too! Same level, same length.
Because, your dog just decided to ignore you to demonstrate its dominance in the Pack structure, as considered by your dog. - Remember that all dog breeds will always consider themselves as the Pack Leader, every day anew, unless you always show them that you are the Pack Leader.
Exactly this you achieve here by giving your dog only one chance to come when called - and then to get whatever you intended to give. If your GSD decides not to make use of that one chance, then within a few times/days only (s)he will have completely understood that the chance is lost with the first call. Because thereafter (s)he is being ignored.
Step 4: Try to figure out what your dog LOVES. Initially, motivate your dog to come immediately when called by randomly giving just that. Not every time - then it would lose its high attraction - but sometimes.
Contrary to many dog trainers (including Doggy Dan), I don't believe in giving many food treats at all, and certainly NONE in training: It is the wrong incentive!
Besides, it is often very hard to wean a dog off the food treats once they got used to them. And if you actually take the "treats" from the meal (as generally suggested) then the "treats" of course don't have the attraction that treats should have. You get my point?
Nothing though speaks against the other common suggestion: training just before meal times.
Step 5: Only when you have mastered all of the above inside the house (where there are little to no distractions), start to practice the Recall outside the house.
Initially, go to the less crowded places, and after a while of successful leash walking, take off the leash, say "Go!" (or whatever command you use to release your dog in order to be free to do what it wants), and let your dog run around on its own account.
Then after 5 minutes or so, call your dog (once! - but make sure (s)he heard you) and while doing so even walk away from your dog, indicating you are "leaving". With all the inhouse-training before (see above), your GSD should now immediately speed towards you, whether or not you show a food treat. (If it doesn't, no problem, you have just tried your first Recall outside. Practice the same routine more often now.)
If you have a long leash (you should really, see GSD Leash Training), and of course particularly if you have reason to fear that your dog may not come when called, switch to the long leash first when you take of the short leash: Let your dog run around while you retain control through the long leash.
Step 6 (often forgotten!): Now continue to practice the Recall in lots of different environments and lots of different situations, and at different times of the day and night.
Key point #4 for a successful Recall:
Most of our own GSDs in the past, we trained this entire sequence of the Recall within no more than about one week. And then leisurely in different environments whenever there was an opportunity.
Success rate? Almost 100%! And when our GSDs don't come/came then this was because of some underlying issue that still affected that particular situation. - As you will know, generally GSDs can be quite stubborn and when you've done something wrong many will let you know just that. - And people say, dogs have no memory? Pah! They are just more forgiving than humans.
When you adopt the above 4 Key points, and you apply these 6 Steps of Training the Recall, I bet your GSD will very soon speed towards you everytime you call your dog! Just remember not to overdo it: The less you call your dog (the less restrictive and/or dominant you are, really) the more impact it will have when you do it!
More so: When you adopt the above 4 Key points, and you apply these 6 Steps of Training the Recall, the relationship with your GSD will be lifted onto another level of bonding and companionship! Like we did (and our neighbors and friends), you too will notice the vast difference a proper Recall makes to the quality of life, for your GSD as well as for you.
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