Establishing a good recall bond with new dogs is your first order of business when house sitting.

Ask the homeowner how they recall the dog and get a demonstration.  If you can recreate that recall, bonus!  Walk with the homeowner and the dog(s) before they leave (if possible) and closely observe the interaction between the owner and the dog(s).  This is a great time to ask questions about obedience and behaviour, and to learn the key commands.

But, I don’t know you…. You want me to bond with you?

To establish recall with new dogs, use smelly treats – without the homeowner present.  This is a task for you to make life a bit less stressful during your sit.  Additionally, it’s really important if the owner wants you to walk the dog(s) off-leash.  We suggest you begin indoors and move outdoors after some success.

  1. Use a long line and separate yourself from the dog (2 or 3 meters to begin). Call them by name and recall command (here, come, whistle etc.).  If they don’t come right away,  apply gentle but firm tension on the leash.  Whistle or recall again maintaining gentle tension on the lead.  Repeat as required until they come to you.  Then give them a smelly treat as a reward.  The reward MUST be instant.

Continue this exercise until you no longer have to pull on the lead.

  1. If you are a couple, you can work the same method between you. Both would have treats and call or whistle for the dog.  Once you have the dog consistently running back and forth between you, you can do it without the lead.

In our experience, this is the quickest and easiest method.

  1. When holding a treat, you should palm it or hold it between your fingers so it is flat on your hand. Initially, let the dog have the treat when their nose touches your hand.  Think of a slot machine in Las Vegas, they touch your hand with their nose and get rewarded.

Once they’re committed to the program, you can have them sit and wait for it.  Then open your hand and present the treat to the dog with your palm flat.  This should prevent an excited dog from nibbling on your fingers (no guarantee but generally successful).

Tasty Treats Talk

Talk to your homeowners about what treats you can use or if their dog has any sensitivities.  We like to use elk, venison or bison treats as they have strong scents.  Alternatively, you can also use their kibble, but be mindful of not overfeeding them.

You can cut or break most treats into much smaller pieces and give it to them more frequently whilst staying within the parameters of their treat or feeding allotments.  It’s not that you feed them treats, but that they get a tasty morsel – even a tiny crumb has scent and taste – which makes you their new best friend.

You could also use bits of sliced ham or cheese if the owner is amenable, but keep these to a minimum to avoid tummy upsets or weight gain.   Only use treats that the homeowner approves of.


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