2dogsrunning...and the dog salivates... We all know that story of the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov  who discovered that the sound of a bell could cause dogs to get excited and even salivate in anticipation to feeding time.  So why not use sound

2dogsrunning…and the dog salivates.

Many of us know the story of the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov  who discovered that by ringing a bell then immediately giving a dog food, the dog would then respond to the bell by getting excited and drooling. We don’t pay much attention to the drooling part these days, but you can use sound to teach other behaviors , like coming when called. In this lesson, I will explain step by step how to use “sound” to teach the perfect recall!

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Rest of Ring the bell

Using a “sound cue” helps the dog learn faster. Because; The sound cue (when taught correctly) is associated with receiving food vs your voice isn’t always. So during the training “cheating” (pretending) you have a taste treat is never recommended. if you can’t follow up after giving a command/cue with a treat then don’t give the command.

If you ever tried calling your cat off the couch, they probably didn’t go so well, But once you press on the electric can opener , even the most stubborn cat will now come when they hear that sound. Your cat was consistently conditioned the can opener sound or drawer opening or whatever, means food is on the way.

First you need a sound cue, this is anything different from a word command: a tongue clicking sound, clapping your hands, a silent whistle, bell, etc.  The silent whistle or ref whistle is best because the sound travels further than your voice.
Now, you need the reinforcement, what does your dog likes the most? a ball? food? stuffed Toy? For most dogs— it’s food. If your dog is food crazy, usually dog kibble is enough, if your dog isn’t food crazy you’ll need to provide “high value” food like raw mince or anything else your dog really really wants. Remember that when you’re outside amongst distractions, things that might have had “value” in your house, like patting and a dry biscuit, now have no value with all the distractions around. For most dogs, small soft smelly “healthy” treats are best.
When you practice, keep sessions short, only 1 minute a few times a day is sufficient.  If you’re out on a 30 minute walk, you can practice a few 30 second sessions during your walk. Just do many repetitions in that short period.

Step 1. At home, distraction free, on or off leash: 2-3 training sessions; As your dog is close to you and facing you, make the sound cue, right away give them the high value reward. Repeat sound & reward. Many reps, short period of time —30 seconds to 1 minute (at the most)

Step 2. At home, distraction free and off leash: 2-3 training sessions per day; Start to increase the distance you are from them when you make the sound, you can also make the sound while using other visual cues i.e., using your hands in a sweeping motion (come here) and you can crouch down to their level, clapping your hands, bent over slightly while tapping your legs, etc. Be careful not to teach them that running full speed into you is a good thing. If you’re clicker training your dog, just click when they just have turned and are heading back to you. (If you use the clicker as the “sound cue” you won’t be able to use it as a “reward marker” as it was intended). By now your dog is catching on, so you can start increasing your distance from them and slowly adding distractions i.e., friends, a toy, another dog, etc.
As you add distractions, you may have to be close to your dog at first — before increasing the distance.

Step 3. At home: Throughout the day, try to find opportunities when your dog is distracted or in another room (never sleeping). What I do is sneak to another part of the home or backyard to make the sound, and then of course reward them for coming, like they won the lotto, then repeat. I will also make it part of the feeding ritual, so instead of putting the bowl on the ground and practicing their “stays”, I will use the sound (as I back away) then put the bowl on the floor (for a few bites) then repeat. If your dog is food possessive (aggressive), don’t put the bowl on the floor and only have enough in the bowl for one bite, then keep repeating this step. Over a short period of time your dog will be more tolerant of your hand being near the food.

Step 4. The next step is to practice in the back and front yards, around the neighbourhood and eventually around people and other dogs. Remember to slowly increase the distance you are from them, we want this to be a positive experience and you want them coming in all situations. IF your dog gets distracted easily by other things and is ignoring the sound, practice with them on a leash or have the distractions at more of a distance.
The bigger the distraction is, the bigger the reward may need to be. Don’t be afraid to use turkey slices to get Fido to “come” during those high distracted times. Use a release command (“OK”) once the treat and praise is given. This releases them from your expectation and they can go back and play. In the near future, I will be making a video on this.
By practicing, in no time at all they will be running to you as if their life depends on it, which could happen someday. Teaching sound cues is just one of several things you can do to help your dog understand the importance of coming when called.
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10 thoughts on “Ring the bell…

  1. Hi Angie,

    11 wk old Great Dane, how cute!

    I’m just getting back home from the States, I was there on business. IF you’re on Facebook, Look for Malibu Dog Training there. I blog more there , then I do on here. I may even give out free training advice. Oh! and make sure you browse through the dog pictures.

    Let me know how the training goes with your little one (big one by now)

  2. 4 & 5 year old Border Collie mixes. Using a sound for ecall would be great with sound since they’re sometimes off in the woods. They are both trained to ring the bell to go outside. (Although sometimes one will ring it to get the other outside.)

    Recall is great on our property, but we need to feel more secure in other places.
    -My husband usually walks them off leash in a conservation land area near our house. They run/chase/swim & generally have a good time. There was a time when their recall to my husband was inconsistent. Now he uses hot dog pieces & treats only 1 out of 3 times. Could probably be better, but he’s concerned because there’re other people & dogs on the trails.
    -They behave overall, but: 1) Max has a tendency to run at the other dogs and sometimes nip at the owners clothes (4 yr. submissive but has a strong protection and herding drive); 2) Maggie often lays down in wait, ready to pounce on owner/dog when they’re close. She’s 5 and a heavy pull/tugger.

    Someone is home most of the time. There may be changes in behavior due to my chronic health probvlems over the last year. I’ve recently stepped up the obedience and agility training, hoping to create more energy with the dogs.

  3. I have 2 female (spayed) dogs from rescue – a 2 y.o. Belgian (pretty reliable on her recall) and an 8 y.o. rat terrier/pug mix (not so reliable). I take them off leash to the conservation area near me. We rarely run across people out there. The rat terrier will come on a recall unless something (and it doesn’t take much) has her interest. Then she seems to say, “Just a minute mom. I’ve got this here to do. Then I’ll be there. Promise”. I don’t want the other dog picking up this behavior. How can I nip this behavior altogether? Thanks for your help!

  4. Hi Michelle,

    Practice separately on a reliable recall before expecting them to listen together. A local trainer can help with the specifics of your situation.

    Kind Regards

  5. Hi Robert,
    My husband has two Dobermans 3 & 12 yrs.
    Both have unreliable recall. I decided to use the dogs name followed by ‘come’ and included a hand signal and began rewarding with a treat.
    I asked all the family members to comply and explained the benefit of using the same command but to no avail…Everyone still does their own thing and its never the same. Sometimes ‘come’, ‘here’, ‘good girl’ or just screaming the dogs name. The rest of the time they love wearing the dogs name out. Coco when she does something good, bad or indifferent or just singing out her name because they can see her in the yard and want her to look up.
    I have given up on the family but not on the dogs. I need the girls to recall at least to me. Should I choose a word none of the other family members use?
    My preference is using a word but I did see the word ‘whistle’ mentioned in a previous paragraph but couldn’t see if there was particular method with it. Such a thing would be handy at times when my voice is weak, also being on acreage, sometimes I can’t even see where the dogs are when I want to summons them. I shall have a look into your facebook page too. Kind Regards, Margy

  6. Hi Margy,

    Welcome to my world…

    you need more than a visual cue, try a sound cue like clapping, or the whistle. Your tone is different and your dogs will learn to listen to your tone & clapping. If your family starts clapping or using the whistle too much without providing a consistent reward, well, then it’s not the dogs that need the training.;-)

    Kindest regards


  7. Hi, Robert!

    Tell you a little about my dog? Seems there is no such thing as ‘just a little’ to tell about any of the dogs who have brightened my life! The first dog who chose me was a wonderful GSD named Puff the Magic Dragon. I was 5 – but no, I did NOT name her that! Imagine my humiliation as a “cool” teenager when I had to admit that my fearless protector was named Puff. ;> Anyway, she adored me and therefore humored my training methods for 12 years – she set the standard for what is possible in a human/dog relationship.

    Over the years, I’ve worked with many animals – grew up on a farm and when we moved to the suburbs (yuck!) my house was the neighborhood zoo and drop-off center I was involved in the hunter/jumper equestrian scene early on – jumping will always be one of my true passions, but I hated the politics and finally moved on. Still love to ride! just not into the competition scene. Also, I have PCS (Post Concussion Syndrome) after many horse training crashes/falls. Many dogs seem to tune into this and show their desire to take care of me. – i am so grateful. Many stories about that, but … I read and write slowly, so it takes a real nudge to get me to write a story because like it said – hard to say just a little about any of my amazing friends.

    So let’s see – i think i’ve said more than a little about my dog. ^..^
    What else is important? thinking …
    was a vet tech years ago …
    i’ve been rescuing/rehabbing/releasing since i was very small
    also rescuing/training, socializing/rehoming
    Eventually I got too overwhelmed with rescue work to do any real training – it’s been awhile now. I kinda lost my enthusiasm …

    BUT! seeing Catmantoo re-inspired me! I LOVE that video! it’s a wonderful of the stuff i used to do! :>
    I have PCS (Post Concussion Syndrome) after many horse training crashes/falls … my dogs seem to tune into this rather quickly and show their desire to take care of me. So special – i am so grateful. Many stories about that. I read and write slowly, so it takes a real nudge to get me to write a story because like it said – hard to say just a little about any of my amazing friends.

    I would love to work with you one of these days – in any capacity – carry your equipment, set up the tripod and catch some pics of you & your ‘students’, just hang out at the pub and talk animals – whatever.

    Ha! I just saw you’re on facebook – will look for you there and invite you to ‘friend’ me on one of my pages with lots of dog pics.

    Cheers ~ Dana

  8. Harry is our rescued lab/collie mix. One of the most terrified dogs you could meet, hates being touched so no cuddles (I really miss that!), but has the most lovely gentle temperament. Lots of excuses to be hostile, but never is. We always allow him space to get away from what has scared him and shovel lots of tasty treats in his mouth once he’s reached his comfort distance. A work in progress, but getting there slowly. He is scared of new sounds/noises, so conditioning him to them is also being worked on. Enjoy your posts and look forward to receiving the rest of the lesson

  9. Hi Carol, thanks for your story.
    I just added the rest of the lesson here in this post. Hope it helps

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