Recall

What you are training

You’re training your dog to come back to you when called.

Why you should train this

  • Safety

How you will train this

Firstly you’ll form positive associations with the word you’re going to use to recall your dog, such as ‘here’ and then you’ll reward your dog for walking close to you.

Note that you should not use just your dog’s name for recall; the dog’s name gets you the dog’s attention, the word ‘here’ lets him know what you want him to do.

Step 1

We’ll use rewards to make a positive association with the word ‘here’.

Note that your dog does not have to do anything to get the treat, he doesn’t have to look at you, he doesn’t have to sit, he doesn’t even have to be facing you. 

  • Say ‘here’, in the same way as you would when calling your dog
  • Reward
  • Repeat multiple times daily until your dog looks at you each time you say ‘here’

Step 2

We’ll use rewards to make a positive association with a whistle.

Note that your dog does not have to do anything to get the treat, he doesn’t have to look at you, he doesn’t have to sit, he doesn’t even have to be facing you.

  • Whistle
  • Reward
  • Repeat multiple times daily until your dog looks at you each time you whistle

Step 3

Practice recall in the house.

  • Have your dog in another room and either call or whistle.  If your dog does not come running, go back to step 1 or 2.
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 4

Practice recall in the garden.

  • Call or whistle your dog when you’re in the garden.  If your dog does not come running, go back to step 1 or 2.
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 5

When your dog comes to you each time you call him in the garden you may practice recall in a more distracting environment such as on a walk. If you have any doubts as to whether your dog will return to when out, you should invest in a long line and practice.

  • Call or whistle your dog when you’re in the garden.  If your dog does not come running, try the exercise in a less distracting environment.
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Help

  • Your dog is much more likely to come back to you if you are the most exciting thing to him.  Play plenty of games with him, both on the walk and in the house.  Hide and seek with your dog finding different members of your family and if your dog is over 1 year old, dog parkour are both fun and will form a good bond with you and your dog.
  • Vary the rewards that you use when your dog come back to you; treats, game of ball, game of tuggy, and always make sure that the reward is something that your dog really enjoys.
  • Don’t just call your dog back at the end of the walk.  Call your dog back at regular intervals, put him on the lead, reward him and then let him off the lead.  That way you dog gets an extra reward most of the time, in that he’s allowed to go back to what he was doing. 
  • If your dog comes back to you of his own accord without being asked, intermittently reward this behaviour.
  • Gradually phase out the food reward, in favour of praise, but make sure that you reward with treats intermittently.
  • If you’ve called your dog back multiple times and he’s ignored you, you must not punish your dog when you do eventually get him back.  Your dog will not associate the punishment with the fact that he didn’t come back immediately, he will associate the punishment with having come back to you and he’ll be even less likely to come back next time. You’ll need to continue your recall training and ensure that your dog is heavily rewarded each time he comes back.

Homework

  • Play find games in the house.  Mum will have the dog with her, Joe will be in another room.  Mum says ‘Rover, where’s Joe?’.  Joe calls ‘Rover, here!’.  Rover gets lots of fuss from Joe for coming to him. 

More reading

We’re using ‘classical conditioning’ to help the dog make positive associations with words that he doesn’t yet know the meaning of, such as here.