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Train a Strong Recall by Rewarding Focus

Train a Strong Recall by Rewarding Focus

Unleashing the Power of Focused Attention

Ah, the elusive recall – that moment when your furry companion comes bounding back to you, no matter the temptation. As a proud dog parent, I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I remember the days when my lab, Rufus, would take off chasing a squirrel, leaving me frantically calling his name to no avail. But with a little creativity and persistence, I was able to transform Rufus into a recall rockstar. And let me tell you, the secret lies in rewarding his focus.

Building a Solid Foundation

When it comes to training a reliable recall, the first step is to establish a strong connection between you and your pup. I started by rewarding Rufus every time he glanced my way, even if I hadn’t given a command. This “rubber band” effect ensured that he was constantly scanning for me, eager to see what exciting adventure was in store.

As Rufus became more attuned to my movements, I began incorporating simple training sessions into our walks. I’d occasionally stop and hold a treat in my closed fist, waiting for him to lose interest in the temptation and look up at me instead. The moment his eyes met mine, I’d click and reward. This not only reinforced his focus but also laid the groundwork for our recall training.

Dialing Up the Difficulty

Once Rufus had the hang of focusing on me, even with a tasty treat in my hand, I started to up the ante. I’d have a friend or family member hold the treat, standing a few feet away, and repeat the process. Rufus quickly learned that the real reward wasn’t the food, but the opportunity to earn it by keeping his attention on me.

This “poisoned cue” technique helped me avoid the common pitfall of a dog associating the recall command with losing access to something they enjoy. Instead, Rufus came to see “come” as the gateway to all sorts of fun and excitement.

Mastering the Art of Recall

With a solid foundation of focus training, I was ready to tackle the recall itself. I started by calling Rufus to me from short distances, rewarding him lavishly with treats, praise, and playtime. As he mastered the behavior, I gradually increased the distance and introduced more distractions.

The key, I found, was to never ask for a recall I wasn’t confident Rufus could perform. If I sensed he might be too distracted to listen, I’d simply go and retrieve him instead of risking a failed attempt that could undermine our progress.

Putting it All Together

Nowadays, Rufus is the talk of the dog park. His recall is impeccable, whether we’re playing fetch or navigating a bustling city street. And it all comes down to that initial investment in building his focus and attention.

Sure, there were times when I wanted to tear my hair out, watching him bound off after a squirrel or ignore my calls. But by staying patient, creative, and committed to our training, I was able to transform Rufus into a dog who comes running the moment I need him, no matter the distraction.

If you’re struggling to achieve that same level of reliability with your pup, I encourage you to give this focus-based approach a try. Head over to for more tips and resources on mastering the art of the recall. With a little time and a lot of rewards, you too can have a canine companion who comes when called, no questions asked.

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