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How to Get Reliable Recall: A Step-by-Step Guide to Training Your Dog




Recall is one of the most important things you can teach your dog. To humans it seems easy "just come back" but to a dog this can be a challenging choice to make especially if there are exciting things around.

Here are a few things tp help improve your dogs recall:

1. Start with the Basics

Choose a Recall Command

Select a clear and consistent cue that you will use exclusively for recall. Common choices include "come," "here," or "let's go." Whatever word you choose, make sure everyone in your household uses the same command and make sure you do not use this same word for anything else (especially if afterwards you do something the dog doesn't like... example "come here i need to give you a bath" tends to undo many people's recall.


Gather High-Value Rewards

High-value rewards are treats or toys that your dog loves and doesn’t get frequently. The more appealing the reward, the more likely your dog will be motivated to come to you. Examples include small pieces of cooked chicken, cheese, or a favorite toy.


Begin in a Controlled Environment

Start training in a quiet, enclosed area with minimal distractions. This could be your living room, backyard, or a quiet park. The goal is to make it easy for your dog to succeed.


2. The Training Process

Step 1: The Foundation

  1. Longline: for your dogs safety and to help training, utilise a longline to manage their current behaviour.

  2. Condition your cue: condition your recall word as much as you can by saying the word (i use HERE) followed by a treat, toy or fun movement like running away.

  3. Engagement before recall: Along with training your recall cue, we also need to get engagement on you without having to ask... this involves engagement around other dogs, livestock, kids playing, people near by... LOADS of things. If we can get focus on you while around distractions then your recall will be so much easier to teach. For this simply reward every single time your dog chooses to look at you. When they are looking at a distraction, say their name, regain focus and reward heavily.

  4. Reward: ALWAYS reward recall, and sometimes jackpot your dog if they have recalled away from something difficult like another dog.

  5. Repeat: Practice this several times a day in short sessions, gradually increasing the distance between you and your dog.


Step 2: Adding Distance and Distractions

  1. Increase Distance Gradually: Once your dog reliably comes when called from a short distance, start increasing the distance gradually.

  2. Introduce Mild Distractions: Begin adding mild distractions, such as toys or other people in the background. Practice calling your dog and rewarding them for coming to you despite the distractions.

  3. Use a Long Line: To practice recall outdoors or in more open spaces, use a long line (a long, lightweight leash). This allows your dog some freedom while giving you control to reinforce the recall command.


Step 3: Proofing the Recall

  1. Vary Locations: Practice recall in different environments—your yard, a friend's house, the park. This helps your dog generalize the command and understand that it applies everywhere.

  2. Increase Distractions: Gradually increase the level of distractions. Practice recall at times when there are other dogs, people, or interesting smells around.

  3. Stay Positive: Always make coming to you a positive experience. Never call your dog to you for something they perceive as negative, like a bath or ending playtime.


3. Tips for Success

Be Consistent

Consistency is key in dog training. Use the same command, tone, and reward system each time. Ensure that everyone in your household is on the same page.

Never Punish Recall

Never punish your dog when they come to you, even if they were doing something wrong before. Punishment will only make them hesitant to come when called in the future.

Practice Regularly

Recall is a skill that needs regular practice. Incorporate recall training into your daily routine, and always reinforce it with positive experiences.

Use a Jackpot Reward Occasionally

Every now and then, give your dog a "jackpot" reward—several treats or a super fun play session—when they come to you. This keeps them guessing and makes them excited to come when called.



4. Troubleshooting Common Problems

Dog Ignores the Recall Command

  • Review Basics: Go back to a controlled environment and practice the basics.

  • Increase Value of Rewards: Use higher-value treats or toys that your dog finds irresistible.

  • Minimize Distractions: Practice in less distracting environments until your dog becomes more reliable.

Dog Comes Slowly or Reluctantly

  • Use Enthusiastic Body Language: Be more animated and exciting when calling your dog.

  • Shorten the Distance: Reduce the distance and gradually increase it as your dog gains confidence.

  • Make It Fun: Turn recall into a game. Hide and seek or recall races can make training more engaging.

Dog Stops Midway or Gets Distracted

  • Use a Long Line: A long line can help you gently guide your dog back to you if they get distracted.

  • Increase Reward Frequency: Reward your dog multiple times during the recall process to keep their focus on you.


Finally:

Training a reliable recall takes time, patience, and consistency and it also becomes more reliable as the dog gets older... teaching recall in the teenage stage is always challening..., but the payoff is well worth it. Not only does it enhance your dog’s safety, but it also strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend. Keep training sessions positive and fun, and celebrate every success, no matter how small. With dedication and the right approach, you’ll have a dog that comes running whenever you call.


Happy training!


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