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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

Emergency Recall: The Life Saving Cue

You're enjoying a delightful walk with your pup when, all of a sudden, they catch sight of a bunny across the street. Before you can react, your dog dashes after it at lightning speed, and you lose your grip on the leash. You call your dog, but their focus remains solely on that bunny, determined to catch it. What should you do in this situation?

You embark on the journey of training your dog for an emergency recall, a potent cue tailored for urgent situations. Here's your guide to mastering this essential skill.

Choosing the Audible Signal: The first step is to select an audible signal that your dog has never heard before. This could be a unique sound you make with your voice such as a high pitched "YIP" or something like a whistle. The key is to make it distinct and reserved exclusively for emergency situations.

Selecting High-Value Treats: Next, select a high-value treat, which should be a unique reward exclusively reserved for emergency recalls. It's crucial that this treat isn't a dull, stale biscuit but rather a delectable, real meat option – without exceptions. Keep in mind that it's your dog who determines their favorite treat, not you!

Conditioning the Signal: Begin by conditioning the emergency recall signal. Stand still and give your chosen sound then immediately feed your dog a high-value treat. This initial phase is about creating a positive association with the emergency recall signal, you are not practicing an actual recall at this time. Repeat this for one minute, at least five times a day for a few weeks.

Testing the Signal: After a few weeks, begin testing the signal when your dog is elsewhere in your house. If your dog comes to you excitedly celebrate with an extravagant treat party. If they don't respond, it's okay; continue conditioning the signal until your dog eagerly runs to you each time.

Maintenance and Reinforcement: Consistently reinforce the behavior by rewarding your dog for coming when called. Reinforce this cue more than any other, as it's the most critical cue they'll ever learn. An emergency recall is designed to prevent accidents and save lives, so never skimp on the reinforcement.

"Reinforcement is the bridge that connects learning to action, making understanding come alive"

Limit Its Use: Reserve the emergency recall for genuine emergencies when your regular recall cue has failed. Avoid using it unnecessarily to ensure your dog associates it with critical situations. Remember, it's a cue that can potentially save your dog's life, so pay your dog heavily when they respond!

An emergency recall is an essential cue that every dog owner should teach their pet. It's a life-saving cue that can prevent accidents and keep your dog safe. By carefully selecting an audible signal, conditioning it, and consistently reinforcing the behavior, you can instill this crucial command in your dog's training. With an emergency recall in place, you'll have peace of mind knowing your dog will respond swiftly when it matters most.

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