Having introduced the Emergency Recall in the previous blog post, now it’s time to practice it in a variety of real-life situations, so your dog will come back to you even if he spots a squirrel or slips from his collar. Click "Read More" to see the video of Beans learning Emergency Recall. The more you practice this, the more ingrained the “kiss-and-treat” sequence becomes in your dog’s mind, and the more easily he will be able to come back to you, no matter what.
When you start practicing Emergency Recall outside, choose a relatively quiet location. Make your kissy (or other unique) noise, and reach down to give your dog a treat regardless of what he’s doing. Once your dog clearly understands this sequence, you can start to add other elements.
The first element I add is motion. I kiss, then back a few steps away from my dog so he has to follow me. Once my dog reaches me, I give the treat. I repeat this in many different directions, so the dog gets comfortable spinning around and following me in whatever direction I choose. Make it a fun game for your dog. It’s important for the act of following to be a part of the response, because in an emergency, your dog will need to stop what he’s doing and follow you.
From there, I occasionally do Emergency Recalls in the presence of distractions, such as other dogs nearby, garbage on the sidewalk, or skateboards whizzing past. This teaches the dog that it’s super rewarding to follow me, rather than go towards any of these other distractions. (After all, following me gets cheese. Following a skateboard does not.) At the same time, continue practicing it when no distractions are present, so your dog doesn’t associate the kissy noise with the trigger. I also practice it using a long line rather than a regular 6-foot leash, to give the dog the feeling of being off-leash. Thoroughly practicing Emergency Recall in this way, you can easily transition to more advanced behaviors like Leave It, as you are already teaching your pup to turn his attention to you when faced with a temptation.
This video with me and Beans shows you how to use the Emergency Recall in a variety of situations. It has helped me avoid a doggie emergency with Beans more than once!
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, MS, is an author and dog trainer with Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY.