Tag Archives: DogSmith

Life is So Much Better with a Well Trained Dog

by Niki Tudge

Isn’t it amazing how we expect puppies to arrive in our home fully trained and perfectly fluent in the English language?  And then we are amazed when our new dog doesn’t understand the simplest instructions we give them.  Like a tourist in a foreign country, we think that if we just talk louder and slower somehow our new puppy will miraculously understand what we want it to do.  But in our modern world, the ability to communicate with and understand man’s best friend is as fundamental as driving, using the internet and doing taxes every April.  But there is so much conflicting and confusing information about dog behavior and dog training that it can be overwhelming trying to decide what is best for our canine family members.

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Learning to communicate with your family pet should be fun for you and your dog but it should also be effective without causing any damage or unexpected side effects.  More importantly, the methods you use to communicate with your dog should not be based on outdated myths or debunked theories. It is critical that any training methods you use with your beloved pet should be well-founded in science and not rely on fads, gimmicks, the latest electronic push-button gizmo or the edited smoke and mirrors used on television reality shows.   And force and pain should never be used.


The DogSmith Dog Dog Training is what you need for all of your training needs.  All DogSmith services are rooted in the most robust scientific research and the DogSmith is committed to always using only force-free training techniques that will be fun and stimulating for you and your dog.  Force-free methods are safe, incredibly effective and help ensure that real learning takes place.  Using force-free techniques your pet will never be subjected to negative side effects.  Read more about our Private Training Programs, Board & Train Services, Group Classes and much more.

Coercion in Pet Dog Training Leads to a “Life of Quiet Desperation” for Dogs

Coercion in Pet Dog Training Leads to a “Life of Quiet Desperation” for Dogs

by Niki Tudge

Scientifically we all acknowledge that negative and positive reinforcement in the scientific sense can develop and strengthen behaviors.  The question is, at what cost? I make this statement very loosely as one must consider the meaning of “teach.” As Murray Sidman states in his book, “Coercion and Its Fallout,” if you want to do studies on escape or avoidance behaviors then present negative reinforcers (Sidman 2000).

When training your pet dog, if you want to turn them into a creature devoid of personality then approach the teaching through the application of negative reinforcement. Yes, the use of negative reinforcement will strengthen or make the behavior more likely but it certainly is not necessary, humane or enjoyable for the pet. The application of negative reinforcement does not, like positive reinforcement, empower the pet to explore its environment sufficiently, learning from new and exciting experiences. Negative reinforcement coerces the pet to perform behaviors to escape or avoid the level of shock, pain or fear that are present or anticipated.

Whereas positive reinforcement “leaves us free to indulge our curiosity, to try new options, negative reinforcement instills a narrow behavioral repertoire, leaving us fearful of novelty, afraid to explore” (Sidman 2000 p 96).

In the context of dog training when shock collars or other aversives are used, the pet dog performs the behavior to stop, remove, escape or avoid the painful or unpleasant stimulus (the electrical shock). With the continued application of negative reinforcement the context where the negative reinforcement is delivered begins to broaden and other conditions in the dogs environment begin to predict “the impending necessity for escape” (Sidman 2000 p 96).  Even the dog’s home or the dog’s owner can move from being the setting of these unpleasant events to actually becoming negative reinforcers themselves causing the pet to escape or attempt to avoid these areas or people.

Using coercion to train our pet dogs is absolutely unnecessary. Why would we want our pet dogs to lead lives of “quiet desperation,” afraid to move outside predictable patterns and routines, devoid of experimental and exploratory behaviors? Why would pet dog owners want to become a stimulus (a scary, unpredictable presence in their lives) that their family pet seeks to avoid or escape?  Pet dogs learn to completely avoid punishment if the punishment is preceded by a conditioned stimulus to fear.  When an animal is punished and the punishment is inescapable the animal cannot exhibit operant escape learning, they exhibit a phenomenon called learned helplessness. The inescapable punishment teaches the animal to do nothing, thus they are helpless.  “It is not the exposure to the aversive that teaches learned helplessness but their lack of ability to escape or avoid it” (Chance 2008).

My greatest fear and concern for our pet dogs, as a pet professional and pet dog owner, is that the acceptance of punishment and negative reinforcement in pet dog training will become more entrenched as pet dog owners attempt to emulate or conform to standards presented through many of our “reality” television shows.  The stakes here are high.  There are ethical concerns regarding the use of coercion in pet dog training not only for the welfare of our pets but the safety and wellbeing of our dog owning community. I don’t know about you, but I would rather perform behaviors to gain something pleasant than live my life in fear of, or escaping something scary or dangerous. As a pet owner and pet industry professional I must advocate for humane, effective, efficient and enjoyable dog training methods and implore you all to do the same.


Chance, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior, Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Sidman, M. (2000) Coercion and Its Fallout. Boston, Authors Cooperative, Inc

The Shocking Truth


The Shocking Truth by Jan Casey Copyright 2013

Courteous Canine Inc and The DogSmith Tampa

When we consider modern dog training methods, there are three areas which should be considered: the effect on the dog’s physical well-being, the impact on the dog’s mental health, and the ethics of using shock on an animal that must depend upon and trust us to fulfill its needs. The use of a shock collar is detrimental to the animal on all three levels.

Shock collars are marketed to pet owners and trainers for specific purposes including: “training” for obedience, recall, and hunting.  Shock collars are also used for containment (electronic fences) both inside and outside, and to correct “problematic behavior such as barking as seen in the use of “bark-collars.”  Due to the physical and psychological problems resulting from the use of shock collars, they cannot be recommended for any of these applications.

How They Work

Mechanically, a shock collar is designed to deliver varying levels of electrical shock to a dog. Jim Casey, a mechanical engineer with more than 35 years of experience, describes how they work:

“In the collars, there are two terminals that contact the animal’s skin. When the circuit is activated, one terminal is energized. The ‘load’ is the animal’s flesh and the other terminal provides the ground return path. Note that even though the two terminals on the collar are only a few centimeters apart, the electricity follows the path of least-resistance. If the skin is dry and non-conductive, the voltage in the collar is high enough so that the electricity can spark through the skin into moist, conductive tissue underneath that is full of nerve endings.  If the unit fails to work when the remote button is pushed, the operator may increase the intensity and the dog receives a highly-intense shock rather than a gradual increase. The effect of the shock on the dog will vary. There is no way to determine how intense the shock will feel  because of variables such as the individual’s skin thickness  and coat, moisture on the skin, whether the skin is broken or split and the level of electrolytes in  bodily fluids.”


How They Are Marketed


Marketers like to use neutral euphemisms to disguise the harsh reality of shock collars. They are often called “e-collars,” “remote collars,” “training collars” and other benign terms. In a similar way, the painful shock delivered to the dog is referred to as a “tap,” a “tingle,” “stimulation,” “e-touch” or  anything to obscure the fact that an electrical shock is being sent  through the skin and nerves of the body.

Physical Concerns

It is also possible for a shock collar to cause  burns on a dog’s neck. If the electrodes of the shock collar do not fully contact  the skin, a spark may be produced and vaporize a small portion of tissue. In addition, the electrodes themselves are problematic — they may cause pressure necrosis and are often made of metal that is not hypoallergenic, causing contact dermatitis, or allergic reactions.

Note the pointed style of the electrodes on the model pictured (below right). Having these push into a dog’s soft neck produces discomfort, especially when worn for long periods of time.

Download our free handout here

10 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a Pet Sitter or Dog Walker

The world of dog walking and pet sitting is unregulated in most areas so anyone can potentially call themselves a professional Dog Walker or Pet Sitter.

But, much like choosing the best care-givers for your children, it is essential that you make every effort to ensure you find a qualified, trustworthy and professional pet sitter and dog walker. You are entrusting the health and well-being of your pet family members to their care so ask the following 10 questions about Pet Sitting/Dog Walking professionals before you hire them:


  1. Can you check their background and do they do background checks on all of their employees? Some Pet Sitters/Dog Walkers may seem great when you meet them and say all of the right things but you are entrusting them with your pets and sometimes access to your home. You should confirm that the Pet Sitting/Dog Walking Company does background checks on their workers and you should look into the background of the company. You can use the internet or get more detailed information by using a background check service. Reputable Pet Sitting/Dog Walking companies will be happy to have you check their background.

How to Travel Safely With Your Pet

We are all accustomed to car safety rules and devices for ourselves and our children.  Seatbelt laws are commonplace and air bags are found in virtually every production vehicle in the US.  Sometimes however, we forget to apply the same principles and safeguards when we are traveling with or transporting our pets.  An unrestrained pet in a moving vehicle can distract you, preventing you from driving safely and greatly increasing the likelihood of an accident.  In an emergency situation an unrestrained pet can not only be seriously injured but can also cause injuries to you and other passengers.  The American Automobile Association estimates that unrestrained pets inside vehicles cause 30,000 car accidents every year.   Even if an accident doesn’t result, many thousands of injuries are suffered by unrestrained pets in vehicles thrown around or from the car in a sudden stop or turn. Read here to know how motorcycle accident attorneys miami fl help victims to claim for accidental injuries. 

More and more states are recognizing the hazards caused by distracted driving and are implementing stricter laws concerning cell phone use and unrestrained pets.  Although there is no perfect system for keeping your pet safe while riding in your vehicle there are many steps you can take to minimize the chance your pet will be injured in an accident or be the cause of one.

Read this guide to pet friendly vacations.


  • Don’t’ let your dog hang its head out the car window.
    • Just think of the debris that hits your windshield as you drive down the road so that you call for help from Ready AutoGlass & Windshield repair when back home.  Dust, bugs, stones, leaves and other objects can make it into your pets’ eyes and cause a major injury. You wouldn’t let your children do this and the same risks exist.
    • If you need to make a defensive maneuver your dog it is more likely to fall or be thrown from the vehicle if it is hanging out the car window.
    • Dogs often jump from vehicles when stopped in traffic creating a potentially deadly situation for you, other drivers and your pet. 
  • Don’t let your dog ride unrestrained inside the vehicle
    • This is simple physics.  Objects in motion stay in motion.  If your car is traveling at 55 miles per hour, then your pet is as well.  Should you need to stop suddenly, your pet will continue to stay in motion.  This could result in a 55 mile per hour impact with a window, another passenger or  the driver.
  • Don’t let your pet ride in your lap
    • Just as riding with a human child in your lap is unsafe, so is riding with your furry friend in your lap. 
    • Should your pet panic or if you brake suddenly, your pet could be thrown around causing damage to itself or others.
  • Don’t leave your pet unattended in your vehicle
    • It is illegal in many cities and states to leave your dog unattended in a vehicle.  This is true even if you left your dog with water and the windows down. 
    • The temperature inside your vehicle can become much hotter than the outside temperature risking your pet’s life.
  • Don’t let your pet ride in the back of a pickup truck
    • This is the primary cause of animal deaths in vehicle accidents. It doesn’t matter if they are tethered or loose.
    • A dog tethered in a pickup bed can easily hang itself if it jumps out of the truck. 
    • You could be liable for injury should someone be bitten by your animal while they are in the back of your truck.  This could result in a costly lawsuit that is not covered by your auto insurance (find more information at https://www.ladanlaw.com/).
  • Don’t smoke in the car 
    • Smoking inside vehicles can increase feelings of nausea in humans and it does the same for our animals.  Please smoke outside of the vehicle away from your pet.
  • Don’t let your pet ride in the front seat
    • The guidelines on Blue Buffalo about this say that front seats are ok if you can disable the airbags but otherwise airbags are very powerful and can injure or kill even a restrained pet in the front seat.  Just like child car seats, pets should be kept away from airbags.
  • Don’t rely on vehicle barrier systems
    • Barrier systems that prevent your dog from moving to the front of the car don’t secure the pet enough to prevent injury in the event of an emergency.  Barriers may keep you safer by preventing your pet from distracting you while driving, but your pet could still be injured from being thrown around behind the barrier in the event of an accident.
  • Don’t rely on a tether that clips to a collar
    • A tether secured to a dog’s collar will not prevent your dog from injury and may potentiall break your pet’s neck in a sudden stop.


  • Get a safety harness designed and tested as a restraint for your pet
    • Safety harnesses for your pet should be designed and constructed of the same materials required for human seatbelts. 
    •  Ideally the harness should be certified by a qualified testing facility (at this time we are aware of only one harness that has been thus tested –  http://www.ruffrider.com/).
    • Use your best judgment and select a restraint harness that is well constructed, fits your pet and allows some freedom of movement so your pet can sit up and lie down but not so much freedom of movement that it risks injury.
    • Do not have your pet restrained in the front seat but if you do deactivate the air bag to that seat.
    • A standard harness used for walking your dog is normally not of sufficient strength for use as a restraint harness.
    • Get a crate for your car
      • If you have room you can use a crate to restrain your pet.  Make sure it is of good construction and tied down to your vehicle.  Most pets also feel safer while in a crate because they won’t be sliding around as much.
      • Keep in mind that if you choose to use a crate to restrain your pet that the tie-down method you use may not meet ‘crash’ standards and may not protect your pet in the event of a serious accident or a roll over.
      • Crates may serve to keep your pet confined should emergency personnel need to care for you.  It makes it easier for them to concentrate on caring for you first in the case of injury.
      • Always attach information to your crate with your name, address, phone number, veterinarian’s contact details and your pets’ information.  You should keep a form on file with your vet allowing your pet to receive medical care in the case of emergency when you are unable to release it.


  • Keep control of your animal getting into and out of the car
    • Teach your dog to only get into or out of the car when released by you and always on a leash.  Getting into and out of the car is a privilege and should be treated like a life reward.

Please restrain your pet while traveling.  It is safer for humans and for our pets!


Happy training and safe traveling.

Angelica Steinker and Niki Tudge

www.CourteousCanine.com and www.DogSmith.com

Written January 2013 The DogSmith Tampa FL and Oxford MS

Help Us Give You the Best Service Possible…

Help Us Give You the Best Service Possible…
By Niki Tudge

DogSmith Pet Professionals have committed their professional lives to providing you with the absolute best, most informed, force-free, ‘state of the industry’ pet care and dog training available. Not only is each DogSmith fully insured and bonded but the rigorous training and continuing education each DogSmith accomplishes each year sets the standard in our industry. DogSmiths are fully accredited in pet care and pet first-aid and every DogSmith business owner is a certified dog trainer using only force-free training and pet care techniques.

As part of our effort to provide you with the “best care anywhere” we ask that you consider the following when requesting any of our services for your furry family member:

1. Make Your Reservation as Early as Possible:

This assures you won’t be left without the services you require and will give your DogSmith plenty of time to prepare for any special requirements. The last thing we want to do is disappoint you when you need pet care services and we take pride in providing you the services you need, when you need them.
Likewise, if you need to cancel your reservations cancel them as soon as you can. This will minimize any cancellation fees (especially around the holidays) and it will give your DogSmith a better chance to fill the time reserved for you with another client.

2. Give Us the Most Accurate Information You Can:

We know this can sometimes be hard. You may not even notice some of your pet’s characteristics anymore or you may be hesitant to mention certain problems or behaviors. This is natural. But for your DogSmith to provide your beloved pet the best care possible we need the most accurate information on your pet’s health, behavior, fears, chronic conditions, past illnesses/injuries, likes, dislikes, phobias and preferences. Your DogSmith also needs accurate information to access your home. This can be especially critical if you are a regular DogSmith client. Some details concerning your home or pet may change between scheduled DogSmith services that you may forget to update with us.
Having complete and accurate information will help your DogSmith identify any changes in behavior or demeanor should they arise while you are away. Remember, DogSmiths are pet care professionals who are trained and experienced in every aspect of pet care so they will either be equipped to respond to any specific issues with your pet or they will be able to suggest suitable alternatives. So always complete our registration forms making sure that the following is provided in detail:

Pet Information –
1. Complete vaccination history
2. Contact details for your vet
3. Contact details for friends or family in case of emergency
4. Complete contact details for you while you are away including phone number, cell phone number, email address etc.
5. Comprehensive description of your pets behavior, fears, chronic conditions
6. Food and feeding schedule.

For In-Home Pet Care –
1. Complete instructions on how your house works
2. Schedules for any in-home services you may have such as; maid/cleaning, pool,
yard, pest control etc.
3. Any scheduled contractor work or service to be done in your absence
4. Information on any potential houseguests
5. Information on any friends or neighbors who may have access to your house.
6. Keys, alarm codes, community gate/access codes, combinations or little tricks for problematic locks.

3. Keep Your DogSmith informed

Always confirm your travel plans before your DogSmith services are scheduled to begin and keep your DogSmith apprised of any changes, especially your return dates. As mentioned above, update any information concerning your pet or your home with your DogSmith. Do you have a new alarm code, changed your pet’s feeding schedule or has anything else changed that your DogSmith should be aware of?

4. Try to be Flexible

DogSmith Pet Professionals do everything they can to completely satisfy every customer’s request but DogSmiths are in such demand that they may have to adjust their schedule slightly too properly meet the needs of their clients. If you have requested a specific service at a specific time the DogSmith Pet Professional will make every effort to accommodate your request exactly but there may be an occasion where the service may be a few minutes earlier or later than that requested due to other commitments.

Your DogSmith will always attempt to accommodate your every need while you are away but please remember that if you ask for extra services it may not be possible for your DogSmith to always perform these if their schedule won’t allow it.

5. Let Us Know
When you return to your home and pets after being away, if there is anything you are concerned about please contact your DogSmith immediately. We will be much more able to address you concerns when your service has been recent.

If you can think of anything else that we can do to provide you and your pets with the best care possible please contact us. The DogSmith is helping pets become family!

Teach Your Dog To Like Praise.

Aussie pup 2Praise must be rewarding to your dog in order for you to use it. To understand what type of praise is valued by your dog experiment with the following:

1. What tone of voice does your dog like? High pitch? Low pitch? Both low and high pitch? When praising your dog, make sure you are smiling. Dogs are truth detectors; your praise must be sincere. Experiment with verbal praise and write below what kind of verbal praise your dog likes:

2. What type of physical touch does your dog like? Does your dog like to be touched softly? Does your dog like it when you rough up its fur? Does your dog like you rough housing with it, or does it prefer gentle physical touch. Write how your dog likes to be physically touched:

3. Now experiment with combining the two types of praise you have listed above. Does the dog like this? Record what you learned below:

4. If your dog did not like any of the forms of verbal and physical praise that you experimented with, you can teach the dog to like praise. Here is how you do it. You praise your dog verbally and physically and then give it a delicious food treat. You do this for a month, praise, ‘click’ and then treat. After a month, your dog will likely become happy when you praise it even if you don’t always give it a treat.

Knowing what your dog likes is the key to gaining excellent communication with your dog. Know your dog’s joy buttons and you can train it to do whatever it is physically and mentally capable of doing.

by Angelica Steinker. Copyright 2012

Download your personal worksheet and record your findings to the questions above

Teach Your Dog To Enjoy Praise

The DogSmith, Teaching a Really Reliable ‘Coming’ When Called

‘Coming’ When Called Rules

Rule 1: NEVER call your dog to you and then do something to him that he does not like. For example, do not call your dog to you and give him a bath if he hates having a bath. Avoid calling your dog to you and then clipping his nails. Do not call your dog to you and then take him to the vet. Avoid calling your dog to you and then giving him yucky medication.

Rule 2: Generously ‘click’ and reinforce your dog when he comes to you. Even if it takes your dog an hour to ‘come’ to you, reinforce the ‘come’. Don’t throw him a ‘party’ or give him steak, but reward him in some way.

Rule 3: Do not stare at your dog when you want him to ‘come’ to you. Staring is rude behavior in dog culture and may actually keep your dog from coming to you.

Rule 4: Use your body to help your dog be successful: stand sideways or turn your back toward the dog to invite him to play a game of chasing you.


Why does it matter if your dog looks at you? Why teach attention? Attention, when your dog is actively looking at you and waiting for a cue, is the single most important behavior to train.

You can’t give your dog a life saving cue if he is not paying attention. You can’t get your dog to sit when the doorbell is ringing if he is not paying attention. Without attention we have no control over our dogs.

Attention is key to all dog training

Attention Guidelines

Never give your dog a cue until you have its attention. Simply do not say anything to your dog until you first have its attention. This will teach the dog to watch you carefully since he can only get rewards if he looks at you first.

If you lose your dog’s attention, immediately go back to working on attention before training anything else.

Make attention a game for you and your dog. Who wants to just stare at you if it’s not fun? Look for intensity, tail wagging, and click it!

Attention Games

  • First, the dog looks at you, then the games start!
  • Handler counts 1-2-3 then calls the dog. The handler should build excitement for the run to the handler and reinforce eye contact.
  • Handler counts 1-2-3 and then cues “get it” to play a game of tug.
  • Eye contact starts any form of retrieving such as playing fetch.
  • Eye contact and then a game of ‘catch me if you can’ where the dog chases you.
  • Be creative. Invent as many games as you can!

Name game

You want fast responses when your dog hears her name. Teach your dog to respond to her name by pairing her name with a ‘click’ (or say yes) and a reward, ideally food or a tug toy, so that she moves to you. Say her name with excitement in your voice. As she snaps her head toward you, ‘click’ (or say yes) and reinforce with food or a tug toy. Finally, add distance to the game and ask your dog to run toward you when you say her name.

Hand Targeting

Most dog bites occur on human hands. To help prevent this we want our dogs to understand that hands are good. Human hands should always indicate something pleasurable to your dog. If your dog is fearful of human hands, please tell your instructor so your dog can be evaluated and we can let you know if you might need private instruction to prevent your dog from possibly biting a human hand.

One way for your dog to learn that hands are good is to teach hand targeting. You can prompt hand targeting by hiding your closed hand behind your back and then quickly opening your hand and flashing it in front of your dog’s nose. Most dogs will sniff your hand or move toward your hand. ‘Click’ and reinforce this. Gradually require that your dog touch her nose to your hand. Once you consistently get the dog to touch her nose to your hand, begin presenting your hand from a variety of angles. When your dog is consistently successful from a variety of angles, you can name the behavior “nose.”

If you are not successful with this, speak to your instructor. Your dog may be afraid of hands which is a potentially serious issue.


Mini recalls
Place your dog in a small room or small fenced yard. If your dog is overly distracted by being outside, do not begin working on the mini recall exercise until he notices you and is done exploring. Put a leash on your dog. In an excited happy tone, say your dog’s name and “come”. When your dog responds, ‘click’ and reinforce. Do this three times.

Now wait until your dog is momentarily distracted, like sniffing a blade of grass and then call him to “come” to you. As you call your dog, turn your back to it and run away from your dog, inviting it to chase you. Use high-pitched tones and smile! You are playing a game with your dog. When your dog comes to you, ‘click’, reinforce and tell him he is a genius.

If he does not ‘come’, find a way to set the dog up for success—make it easier. Continue to make it easier until the dog can succeed. Build on success. Add distractions like toys and food in enclosed Tupperware container. Use these to call your dog away from. Start out with very easy distractions, like a rock, and gradually build up to more tempting distractions.

At least 50% of the time, withhold your ‘click’ and reinforcement until you are holding the dog’s collar in your hand. This avoids accidentally training a “drive-by” when your dog comes to you but then zooms past you not allowing you to make contact with his body.

Restrained recall
Person ‘A’ holds the dog back as person ‘B’ runs away from the dog. The dog will strain to get to person ‘B’, as picrestrained recalltured at left, and when the dog is straining, person ‘A’ releases the dog so that it runs full speed to catch up to person ‘B’. When the dog gets to person ‘B’ the partying begins!

Ping pong

Played with two people and one dog. Person A and person B both have treats. Person A and person B stand 50-feet apart. Person A calls the dog, clicks and reinforces, then Person B calls the dog, clicks and reinforces. A variation of this game is when one person starts hiding while the other person is reinforcing the dog. Increase distance and level of difficulty as your dog progresses, building on success. The most important thing is for both you and the dog to have FUN!!!!

Hide and seek

The beginner version is played with two people and your dog. A helper holds on to the dog while you hide. Then after a few seconds your helper releases the dog while telling the dog “find (insert your name)”! When the dog finds you, ‘click’ and reinforce with food or a toy. The advanced version is played with only one person and your dog. Ask your dog to stay. Then you hide. When you are hidden, release the dog with “okay,” and ‘click’ and play when he finds you. It may be necessary to give the dog some help by sporadically calling its name.

Emergency recall

‘Coming’ when called is potentially life-saving. No cue is more important. It is a great idea to teach an emergency recall. To train an emergency recall, give your emergency cue and give the dog a handful of her favorite treats. Sporadically repeat this throughout the week. Slowly build up to giving the emergency recall cue in more challenging situations, always setting up the dog for success. Training your emergency recall is a life- long commitment. If you want the cue to be effective, you will need to practice it at least once a month for the life of the dog. Some trainers use the word “emergency” as an emergency recall while others use a whistle and still others use a certain tone and volume of their regular ‘come’ cue. We recommend you use a word rather than a whistle.

Retrieving Games

If your dog knows how to retrieve you can use playing ‘fetch’ as a means for practicing your recalls. Toss the toy away from you and when the dog begins to bring the toy back to you, run away from your dog as fast as you can. This will make coming to you fun and encourage the dog to run after you at full speed.

Proofing Games

Proofing is the art of teaching a dog to perform a behavior regardless of what is happening in the environment. Proofing always sets up a dog for success. If the dog fails, you cut what you just attempted in half and try again. Good training avoids failures and sets up the dog for success.

Recall Past a Toy

Ask the dog to ‘sit-stay’ and then walk away from the dog placing a toy far away from the dog. The dog, you and the toy should form a triangle. Call the dog to you, and ‘click’ (or say yes), when the dog passes the toy. When the dog reaches you throw a ‘party’. Gradually build up to more toys and, as the dog is successful; you can start placing the toys in the dog’s path. The toys represent distractions and you are teaching your dog to come to you despite them!

Recall Past a Food Bowl

Same game as ‘Recall Past a Toy’ but instead you’re using food. Place the food in Tupperware containers that have holes in them so the dog can smell the food but not eat it. Alternately, have an assistant hover over the food so a foot can be placed over the food, covering it, preventing the dog from eating it.

Set up your dog for success. If your dog doesn’t care about toys, start with the toy game above and build up to the food game. If your dog is crazed for toys, start with the food games. Throw a party when your dog makes the choice you want!

Handler Body Position Game

Teach your dog to ‘come’ when called regardless of your body position. Start with the easiest body position and build up to the more difficult ones:

  • back turned, running away from dog
  • back turned, standing still
  • side of body facing dog, running away
  • side of body facing dog, standing still
  • facing dog, running backward
  • facing dog, standing still
  • sitting in a chair
  • laying on the ground

Parallel to Other Dog

Recall your dog to you as another handler with another dog does the same thing. Both dogs are moving in the same direction. Start with more distance between dogs and build up to less.

Opposite Direction as Other Dog

Same game as above, but this time the dogs are moving in opposite directions. To set up for success, start with a lot of distance between the dogs. Gradually build up to closer distances.

Come Over or Through an Agility Obstacle

Dog recalls to handler over a jump or through a tunnel. This is a fun way to practice “coming when called” and to make things look different to the dog.

Recall set ups (Leslie Nelson’s game)

This is an advanced game only for dogs that know how to ‘recall’. Leslie Nelson developed this game. Play this game only if the dogs understand the cue “come”. Dog ‘A’ will be asked to recall and she will be dragging a leash on the ground during this game. Dog ‘B’ is on a leash next to the anticipated area of reinforcement (where the handler will run to or be standing after calling the dog). The handler of dog ‘A’ has highly desirable food treats. Instructor has dry and less desirable food treats. Instructor allows dog ‘A’ to sniff the treats she has and immediately after, handler of dog ‘A’ calls dog to “come”. The moment the dog is called, the instructor breaks eye contact and stops feeding dog ‘A’. Dog ‘A’ now has a choice to recall to her handler or to stay with the instructor. If the dog recalls, ‘click’ (or say yes) and jackpot treat the dog. If the dog does not recall, the instructor steps on leash and the handler of dog ‘A’ goes and feeds the highly desirable treat to dog ‘B’, while lavishly loving on dog ‘B’. If it is possible to see a dog’s jaw drop, this game can prompt that behavior. After one failed recall, some of our clients’ Jack Russell Terriers must have vowed to never let that happen again and their recalls have been perfect since (with proper maintenance training).

Happy Clicker Training From Angelica Steinker.