The Recall

Training your dog to come when it’s called is one of the most important things you can do for her, and for your peace of mind, but arguably one of the most difficult to achieve properly. It’s one thing reinforcing a command when your dog is next to you, but competing with the exciting smells and distractions of the wider world is quite another matter, especially when you are out walking.

Having a dog that will always come to your side when you call, has so many benefits that it is clearly worth making an effort to get it right. Your dog will be able to expore off lead when you are out and enjoy her walks fully without you worrying about whether or not you will ever see her again so her safey will be assured and she will enjoy so much more freedom.

Before I describe the methods I use, here and some important points to keep in mind:

Start training your pup as soon as possible. The younger she is when you sat, the easier the task will be.

Always make the recall a positive experience. Don’t ever reprimand her when she arrives, After all, you have to compete with the rest of the world and she needs to believe that being with you is better than anything else she can find to do.

Slowly build up the distraction level you expect her to cope with. Start inside your kitchen, then from room to room in your house, then take her into the garden and after that try recalling her out in the world.

Practice in different types of places as well. Streets, fields, rooms, etc. to get her used to obeying you everywhere.

Always, always reward the recall, even if it’s only a pat or a ‘Good’ and even when your dog is 13 year old. She needs to know that coming to you is a good experience and always will be.

Don’t call your dog to you when you know you are going to do something she won’t like, like having a bath. Go to her instead,to maintain the positive feel about coming to you.

Never let your odg off a long line until you are sure that she has learned the recall really well.

Method for Puppies:

If your dog is a puppy she will want to be near you and the younger you start teaching her the ‘Come’ command the easier it will be.

With your puppy in front of you, call her name to gain her attention, give the command ‘Come’, and run backwards. She should run towards you and then you can congratulate her hugely, give her a treat or play with a favourite toy as a reward.

Repeat this until she recognises the command, and slowly give up running backwards, still congratulating her when she obeys. Try this with the puppy further and further away from you and in different places. She is likely to do well at this exercise unless something more interesting is around so the more you train her to come to you straight away, the easier it will become.

It’s a good idea to use a hand signal as well as a verbal command so your dog will learn to come to you when she can’t hear you.

As she reaches adolescence the chances are she will completely ignore you on occasion. Always be prepared to go and get her from wherever she is if this happens and to bring her back to where you want her to be. It’s worth remembering that this might be necessary before you actually call her, as she might be somewhere you would find impossible to get to quickly!

In order to enforce this, put a long line on her. Lines of up to approximately 50 feet in length are easily available from pet shops. Allow your dog to run freely wearing the line. When you need her to come to you ensure that you pick up the end of the line and give it a brief tug if you need to after you give the command ‘Come!’ As your dog comes towards you, gather up the line but do not pull on it unless she stops coming towards you. As she comes to you, give her lots of encouragement and praise her hugely when he arrives. Don’t forget that a dog will always do what motivates it most at any point in time, so make it worth your dog’s while to come to you.

Always use the line until you are sure that your dog will obey your commands, remembering that the principle of training is that a command should only be issued once and then enforced.

Be consistent and don’t let her learn that she doesn’t have to come until you’ve said ‘Come’ several times or that she doesn’t have to come at all.

Older and more stubborn dogs:

With your dog on a lead moving freely, call her name to gain her attention, give the command ‘Come’, move backwards, and gently tug on the lead until the dog starts to move towards you. Do not keep pulling on the lead, only put on a little pressure if the dog stops moving in the right direction.

Praise her hugely when she reaches you, even if she didn’t come to you freely at first.

Repeat this exercise until you see that the dog is becoming bored.

Repeat the exercise with a longer and longer length of lead, as you will be creating a strong habit and you must be in a position to enforce it.

When she is coming to you reliably, try calling her name and saying ‘Come’ when she is off the lead. If she does not come, go towards her repeating the command in the same tone of voice and bring her back to where you wanted her to be, where you can congratulate her as if she had come initially. Return to lead enforced training for a while longer.

Once she’s coming to you reasonably reliably you can let her run freely but with a long line attached to her collar so that you are always within striking distance of grabbing the line to encourage her to come when you call, if she doesn’t respond straight away. This will give you added security and make her realise that you can influence her behaviour from a distance. Always congratulate her when she returns to you.

Once she returns to you reliably you can start to shorten the lead bit by bit over time so she doesn’t recognise that it is disappearing. Once the line is gone you will have a dog well trained in the recall.

It’s a good idea to use a hand signal as well as a verbal command so your dog will learn to come to you when she can’t hear you.

Even when your dog is reliably recall trained it’s a good idea to call her to you every now and then when you are out with her. This will help to make her response reliable and keeps her focus more on you when you are out.