Teaching your pit bull to come to you when you call them can really be the difference between life and death. If your pit bull gets loose, and is about to run into the street, can you call them back to you? If not, here’s a few pointers, and how to teach a reliable recall.
The Number One Rule for teaching a recall: coming when you call should always be MASSIVELY rewarding. Break out your dogs favorite treats or toys when you practice. Never, never, never call your dog to punish him or do something he doesn’t like – nail trims, baths, etc.
- Mark and reward your dog every time he looks at you
- When your dog is fully focused on you, drop a treat, and then (after she eats it) call her name. She should look right back at you – mark and reward, then repeat 10+ times. *If she doesn’t look when you call, go back to step 1 for five more repetitions.*
- Drop a treat, and step backwards. Call his name, and mark and reward excitedly if he steps forward. If he doesn’t step forward, you can encourage him happily the first few times. Repeat 10+ times.
- Start adding a word you want to assign to this behavior: come, here, front, return – whatever sounds good. After you drop a treat and step back, say, “Puppy come!” instead of just her name. Mark and reward heavily.
- Instead of dropping the treat, toss it a foot or two away from you so the dog has to go get it. Call “Puppy come!” once they eat it, and mark and reward heavily. If they don’t come right away, you can encourage them cheerfully. If they are still unable to come, go back to step 5, or toss the treat closer to you.
You can practice this around the house with different people, hiding in different rooms and playing “hide and seek”. You can also practice outside either in a fenced area or on a long line (you can buy nylon leashes that are 10-50 feet long). Remember, ALWAYS reward heavily for coming, and NEVER punish or do something unpleasant.
If your pit bull plays well with other dogs, being released to play can be a great way to reward coming when called. Start by having your dog drag a leash or a long line (10+ foot leash), say, “puppy come!” and gently reel them in. As soon as they get to you, praise, give a treat, then say “ok!!” and release them to play again. After a few repetitions, they should come bounding out of play to get their cookie and then resume playing.
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