In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, the author delves into what it takes to become an expert - an outlier - at something. It could be a sport, playing an instrument, or computer programming, but in any discipline, there are people who are outstanding in their field. Gladwell wanted to determine what factors set these "outliers" apart from the rest. Adjusting for things such as fortuitous connections, birthplace, or access to resources, Gladwell claimed to have found one consistent similarity among highly skilled people in any field: they had devoted over 10,000 hours of practice to their discipline.
Come when called, or "recall," as trainers refer to it, is considered by most dog owners to be a fundamentally important behavior for their dog to learn. Even If you never plan to have your dog off-leash in public, there may be many times where you need your dog to come back to you when requested - perhaps they slipped out the front door, someone left a gate open, or you'd like for them to come in from your yard. Whatever the reason, teaching your dog to come when called is a useful skill that can keep them safe in unforeseen circumstances. And while it's easy to train your dog to recall, there are some common mistakes you should avoid in order to produce a solid, reliable behavior.
As trainers and behavior consultants, we are often asked "at what age can you begin training a dog?" We love it most when we are asked by prospective puppy owners, because the answer is: as soon as you bring them home!
Puppies begin learning before their eyes and ears are open. Smells and sensations provide important information about the world, and begin to shape behavior: moving towards warmth is rewarded with comfort. Moving towards the smell of "mom" results in feeling safe. From that point forward, puppies are never not learning about the world.
This means that dogs are learning every waking moment from birth, whether we are teaching them or not. So, what do we want them to learn?