How to teach your dog recall

Updated on February 20, 2023

How to teach your dog recall

When you take your dog for a walk, does he or she frequently run away, ignoring your frantic screams for them to return? Practicing your dog’s recall is essential if this sounds similar. If your dog has reliable recall, they will always return to you when called.

Recall is a must if you ever want to take your four-legged pal off the leash and let them run wild. It can be a difficult skill to learn, though. When you take your dog on a walk, they get the chance to sniff about and investigate all kinds of new things, including grass, animals, puddles, sticks, and more.

It means you’re asking a lot of your dog when you call it back. You want them to abandon all the wonderful things they’ve seen and smelled to return to the person they spend every waking moment with. The reasons why they wouldn’t be doing that are easy to see. You’ll have mastered recall in no time if we show our dogs that being near us is even more thrilling and entertaining than all these other things.

Read on to find out more about recall, including its significance, our detailed instructions for teaching it, and several enjoyable activities you can play with your dog to strengthen his or her recall.

What is recall?

To recall your dog means that he or she returns to you when called. If your dog has reliable recall, you can let them off leash in the park and know they’ll come running back to you when you call them.

Why should I train recall?

There are many situations in which the ability to have your dog come when called would be invaluable.

Running around is a great way for dogs to release their boundless energy and enjoy some independence from their leash. The physical and emotional well-being of your dog can benefit greatly from being allowed to run wild for a short period of time every day, regardless of how often you take it out for walks.

Recall training your dog

Our canine companions are capable of putting themselves in perilous situations, so before allowing them this freedom, you must ensure they will return to you when called. Sometimes, the ability to recall information can save your life. It can keep your dog from wandering off, from running into the street, and from rushing up to another dog, which may not be welcome if the other dog is in a sour mood and doesn’t want to play.

A dog needs to have reliable recall if you want to let them run around off leash in an unsafe area. It’s fine to keep your dog on a leash or use an extra-long one if you’re not sure of your dog’s recall skills. But, if you can get your dog’s recall training nailed on, it’s excellent to allow your dog that little of more independence.

Step by step guide to recall training

Recall training is straightforward in terms of what you need to accomplish, but difficult for your dog to master. It’s no big secret that when our dogs are in the park, they sometimes develop selective hearing.

Here, we’ll give you the lowdown on how to approach recall training from the ground up.

Whether you’re beginning from scratch with an unresponsive adult dog or a brand new puppy, training is training. Recall training is accessible to people of all ages and skill levels.

What’s your name?

We’re getting back to the basics, as promised!

Your dog needs to know their name in order to be recalled. You might be thinking, “Well, obviously my dog knows their name,” making this seem like an unnecessary step. However, does your dog pay attention to you whenever you call its name? Do they look at you expectantly awaiting your next instruction? To what extent do you find yourself completely lost on them?

Training your dog recallIf your dog never pays you any attention, try calling its name and praising it when it comes over to you. If your dog has a tendency to run off at the park, calling its name first can be just the thing to stop it in its tracks so you can apply the recall cue later.

Keep it casual

Proper training may begin after your dog has learned your name. It’s important to start your training in a low-key setting, away from any exciting distractions. You’ll need to become used to speaking when a lot of interesting things are occurring, but for now, just keep things relaxed.

To get your dog to come to you, you can call its name and then use a treat or toy as bait. Acknowledge their efforts aloud and reward them after they’ve made amends. After a few repetitions, you may use a command word like “come” or “here” as they start to walk towards you.

Keep your distance from one another to a minimum throughout these preliminary training sessions. In all seriousness, you should to stand about a metre away from your dog; at first, you only want them to be taking very little steps forward. Your starting distances will gradually increase as your training progresses.

Repeat the sequence of calling your dog’s name, showing him or her the treat, giving the command, and then giving the treat. In time, your dog should be trotting towards you even before you’ve presented the treat.

Positive reinforcement

You already know that the key to success in this training is lots and plenty of repetition. With a lot of patience and positivity. However it may be simplified by learning to use common situations as practise opportunities.

You can bet your last dollar that if you called your dog, they would rush to your side for their meal or a stroll. But if you were calling them and they knew it was bathtime on the other end, they’d be doing everything in their way to avoid coming to you.

Hence, if you want to do anything enjoyable with your dog, such as feed it, take it for a walk, pet it, or play with it, you should always call it to come to you instead of bringing the fun item to it. Every single event that may be a beneficial occurrence for your dog, call them to come to you for it. This helps to build that strong association between coming to you and really cool, positive things happening.

During your recall training, don’t ever call them to you and give them bathtime, nail clipping, medication or anything else they’d hate in return. This way, they’ll start to think of recall as a punishment when it should be something they want to do.

Distance and distractions

If you’re training your dog at home, gradually increase the distance between you when you call them. Try practising in the garden or with friends who they would otherwise want to avoid, or in a room with a lot of noise or a lot of people who they would prefer to be around.

You don’t have to wait until your dog is right at your feet before praising him or her; instead, you can start praising them as they get closer to you in an excited, silly voice. When you reassure them that what they’re doing is correct, they’ll be more likely to keep going until they reach you. When you get down on your dog’s level, they’re more likely to follow your lead.

When you’re sure they’ll come back to you at home, it’s time to take things outside. Now comes the difficult part.

Out and about

Hooray! We left the home and entered the real world at last. There will be many novel stimuli for your dog to take in at this point, including new people, new dogs, new environments, and new scents.

At this point, it would be wise to invest in a very long lead; these days, you can get ones that are more than 15 metres in length! In this way, your dog will be able to exercise some independence, while still providing you with the security you need. You may even take them to a fenced-in dog park where they can run about unleashed while you put in some practise time.

It’s the same procedure inside the home as when using the long lead: let the dog go some distance and then call it back. It’s fantastic news if they get back to you. They’ve already shown they can prove their memory in a brand new, perhaps chaotic setting. Give them a lot of their favourite goodies as a reward; you’ll need a strong incentive to get them to return. Whatever motivates your dog to return to you, be it a treat, a toy, or the promise of a tennis ball, go for it!

Don’t be upset if they chose to ignore you instead of coming back to you; if they didn’t return to your cheerful, excited voice, there’s no reason to think they would return to your furious, irritated voice. Use the long rope to gently herd them in, or better yet, go and collect them personally. Avoid yanking them back, since this may cause them to resist your grasp and pull away instead.

Repeatedly exercising with a long lead until they reliably return is essential.

Get someone to help you

You may feel prepared to begin releasing the lengthy lead after many training sessions. If you’re still not sure, though, the large lead is a safe bet.

At this stage of your training, having a friend or family member assist you may be a huge assistance. Take your helper to a park, fenced-in dog field, or just the backyard, load up with enticing food, and then stand far away from one another. Take turns calling your dog back and forth between the two of you, rewarding it with a treat each time it returns.

Practice, practice, practice

All that’s left to do now is to keep practising! Even if you’re still using a long lead, you should feel confident enough in your dog’s abilities to let them run free at some point.

Be sure to put in your practise time in a variety of environments with a wide range of potential interruptions. One of the primary distractions for a young dog is likely to be other dogs. As a young dog, your job is to teach him or her that not every dog wants to play and that it’s best to leave them alone if they don’t want to play with you. Now more than ever is the time to practise your dog’s recall, and if you go on every walk with a steady supply of yummy goodies and a confident, optimistic outlook, you’ll succeed.

Treats are an important part of recall training, but you may gradually reduce their frequency so that your dog doesn’t come running every time you call his name. It’s important to teach them that treats aren’t guaranteed, but if they come back, it’s a bonus, so you shouldn’t ever stop giving them any. This is a good incentive for them to return, since they never know if they’ll win a treat or not.

Recall games

Games may be a great way to spice up recall training and make it more enjoyable for both you and the dog. Of course, you’ll still need to conduct some of the fundamental training techniques at the outset, but sprinkling in a few games here and there as your dog gets the feel of things may really help make things more enjoyable—for both of you.

Catch me

You and your dog may play this game anywhere you choose, and your dog can be on a leash or off it, depending on your level of trust in his or her recall skills. To get your dog’s attention, you should yell his name, then run away and use his recall cue while yelling it. Pay them back if they suddenly appear at your side.

If you run while clapping your hands and talking in a high-pitched, funny voice, people will think you’re a lot of fun and want to run with you. Be careful to get their attention before you try to steal the lead away from them by running.

Hide and seek

Hide-and-seek is a great game to play with your dog since it promotes connection between you and your pet as well as helps your dog practise being recalled. The cerebral stimulation your dog receives from having to use its nose to find your hiding place makes this a terrific method to wear him out.

The rules of this game are simple: hide in another room (behind a door works) and then yell for your friends to come and locate you. When they finally find your hiding place, shower them with compliments and a prize to ramp up the excitement level.

Hold me back

Depending on how well your dog can be recalled, you may play this game with or without the long lead; you’ll only need a second person to assist you out. Get your dog excited by playing with it, talking to it in a silly manner, clapping and jumping, and then having your assistant restrain it by the collar or harness.

If you’re being chased by your dog, go down on your knees and call it over. Don’t just walk away slowly; that’s not exciting at all. Your dog should be excited and begging to be let out. Your assistance can let go of your dog’s leash as soon as they feel him or her tugging against them, desperate to be near you. When your dog finally approaches you, be ready to shower them with treats, adulation, and playtime. Everyone of you can have a turn.

Why is my dog not listening to me anymore?

You may believe your dog has perfected recall, but then they chase after another dog and you can’t bring him back to you. You then apologise profusely to the other dog’s owner, saying, “he’s never done this before, he always comes back!”

There are several possible explanations if this describes you.

Teenager phase

If your dog is still young, it may just be going through the stages of development. When you think you’ve got your young puppy’s recall down pat and you’re ready to let them off the leash, you might be taken aback to find that it doesn’t actually go far from your side. Puppies, being more sensitive and fearful of the wide, strange world they haven’t had much experience with, would gladly stay by your side or return to you at the sound of your voice, especially if they know a tasty reward awaits them.

Yet as kids mature, they acquire self-assurance, become more self-reliant, and yearn to discover the world for themselves. Which is why they cease communicating with you. It’s possible that you’ll need to go back to practise with a lengthy lead at this point.

Dogs approaching the ‘teenager’ period, which typically occurs between the ages of 6 and 18 months, sometimes exhibit selective hearing and disobedience. You might have thought you had your dog trained to perfection, but now they’ve gone backwards and discovered that disobeying you isn’t nearly as entertaining as getting into mischief on their own. The only thing abnormal about this regression is how annoying it may be. You can win back your submissive puppy with time and effort.

Poisoned cue

One possible explanation for your dog’s lack of response is that the cue has been “poisoned.” When your dog associates a cue with something unpleasant, you have effectively “poisoned” that cue. This occurs entirely inadvertently, and it may take some time for the owners to discover out what caused it.

Just patting someone on the head might be a form of cue poisoning. Nevertheless, contrary to what many owners may think, many dogs really dislike receiving pats on the head. If your dog responds to your cue by expecting a head pat, it may learn to stop responding to the order in the future.

Overusing a term might “poison” a cue if your dog stops responding to it. Consequently, if you insist on calling “come” over and over again, but your dog still refuses to come, they will eventually learn that they are under no obligation to respond to your command. You may reinforce the negative connotation by constantly putting the lead on when they come to you, teaching them that recall means the game is finished and they have to go.

In this case, it’s advisable to go back to square one and try to remember the information using a new term as a recall cue. Despite repeating the same behavior—in this example, returning to you—they will no longer associate you with the distress they felt at your first cue.

Never use the recall command to coerce your dog into an undesirable behaviour, such as wearing a leash. Someday you’ll have to call them over to clip the lead on, so always reward them with a really desirable snack before doing so.

Important tips and tricks

Dogs should be praised for doing even the simplest things, like staying by your side or making eye contact, whether they are on a short or long leash. As a result, I am convinced that whenever I am in your company, wonderful things will occur.

Get in a little bit of practise every day, and gradually increasing the difficulty, distractions, and distance. You shouldn’t do everything at once.

If you only think of them when it’s time to put the lead on and head home, they may conclude they only need to remember you when it’s that time. Call them over to you when you’re out and about, then reward them and send them on their way. Your dog benefits in two ways: it receives a treat and gets to keep playing.

Do not pursue after your dog if you need to use recall in an emergency, such as if it got loose and ran away. Dogs are more inclined to approach you if you go down on one knee, act excited, or even run away. Of course, if your dog suddenly takes off, it’s difficult to remain calm.

Keep your dog’s microchip information current and always wear a tag with your contact information in case they become lost.

Recap

Recall training is one of the most critical abilities you can teach a puppy or adult dog, right up there with potty training, sit, lie down, stay, and the rest. Teaching your dog to swim is not only a great way to let off steam and give them some space to run about, but it might save their life in an emergency.

You won’t ever be sorry you started recall training, even if it takes you a few months to perfect it. You may enjoy worry-free lengthy walks with your dog as soon as you begin with the basics and build on that foundation.

 

 

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