Like young children, dogs often learn best when playing games and having fun. Playing is not only fun for you both, but you can also use games for training and reinforcing important behaviors, like “Come.” Remember to keep your recall command happy and light, not an authoritative tone.
Here are a few games to help strengthen your dog’s recall while bonding and playing with you.
Go & Come: A great game for speedy recalls is the “Go & Come” game. For this, you will need two types of treats, a low value treat like kibble, and a high value treat like small bits of cheese or meat. Toss a low value treat away from you and tell your dog to go get it. When he has nearly finished the treat, call him to “Come” in an excited voice and reward him with praise and a high value treat when he returns to you.
Hide & Seek: This is a great game for children to get involved in training the family dog. Have your dog sit/stay in one room or have someone hold your dog. Go hide somewhere obvious (or ask your child to hide somewhere obvious), like partially behind furniture or around a corner. Call your dog to come find you. When he finds you, reward with petting, praise and a treat. As your dog learns the game, the hiding spots can become more challenging.
Catch Me If You Can: Dogs love to play chase and a great way to get your dog excited about running to you is let them chase you. BUT NEVER CHASE YOUR DOG, not even for this game. To play “Catch Me If You Can,” get your dog’s attention and then run in the opposite direction making fun sounds and excited gestures to get your dog to chase you. When he “catches” you, make a big party with petting, praise, treats and toys.
Relay Races: Get the family involved by having some relay races. This is easy to do in a hall way or in a fenced in yard. One person holds the puppy. The other person goes a few feet away and calls the puppy, rewarding them with several treats when the pup comes. Then the other person calls, also rewarding with several treats. Slowly increase the distance between you and the other person as your dog gets faster.
Recall Retrieve: If your dog loves fetch, this is a perfect opportunity to practice! Just throw the ball or other retrieve object, as your dog is running toward you to return the ball, say “Come.” Have him give you the ball and repeat. If your dog is reluctant to give you the ball or toy, switch him off for a treat or second toy. The next retrieve is often the best reward in itself!
For individualized training advice for your dog, enroll in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline. Our knowledgeable trainers are available seven days a week via the telephone support service: www.akcgooddoghelpline.org.