“Recall” is dog trainer lingo for “coming when called.” I am hugely invested in good recalls. Why?
- I’m a dog trainer. We’re all fanatical about recalls. They can save a dog’s life.
- I’ve had dogs with fantastic and utterly reliable recalls and dogs with mediocre, unreliable recalls. The difference in my quality of life and stress level was vast!
- I live in the country, where almost nobody uses leashes. I love to go for off-leash walks with my dogs, and I want to make sure they’ll come when I call (not chase a porcupine or wild turkey).
Here is my first post of recall tips. Look for more in the future!
The Golden Rules of Recall — Build a Foundation for Coming when Called
Training your dog to come when called is one of the most challenging – and rewarding – skills for most owners. To get the best possible start on your dog’s recall, follow these rules.
The Most Important Rules
- Always reward your dog WELL for coming. Use REALLY GREAT rewards: pieces of hot dog, roast beef, stinky cheese. Smellier is better. If you don’t have treats on hand, use lots of praise, a beloved toy, a butt scratch, a chance to play. Use what your dog loves.
- Never punish your dog for coming. NEVER scold or punish your dog when he comes to you – even if he takes too long to get to you or jumps on you when he arrives. Punishment will poison your recall; it will never be as fast or reliable in the future.
- Never call your dog for things he dislikes. Before a bath, ear drops, or leaving for work, don’t call. Go get him. Or call, reward well, then wait 10 minutes before the unpleasantness.
Other Important Rules
- Only call your dog when you know she’ll come. If you call and she doesn’t come, you’re training her to ignore your cue. Call her when she’s looking at you, not at the squirrel!
- Set yourself up for success! First train recall indoors! Get in lots of repetitions when things are boring. Play hide and seek. Don’t start at the dog park, when she’s unlikely to come.
- Say the cue once. Don’t repeat it. If he doesn’t come, get him to you with these: kissy noises, run in the opposite direction (away from him), clap, laugh, kneel and pretend there’s something fascinating on the ground. Learn from this to call when you’re sure he will come.
Additional Recall Training Secrets!
TIP: Praise Your Dog to All the Way to You
After you call your dog, the second he looks at you, start praising him. Let him know that he’s on the right track. Praise him all the way to you, and then give him great rewards. Good dog! Good owner!
TIP: Use Real-Life Opportunities to Call Your Dog
Does your dog come running when you pick up her bowl or leash or when you head to the car? Use these times to train her recall cue. Say, “Lucy, come!” Then, pick up the leash and take her for a walk, feed her, or take her for a drive.
TIP: Use a Long Line to Prevent Your Dog from Learning the Wrong Thing!
If your dog is off leash in the yard or on walks, and he doesn’t comes when you call, he’s getting lots of training NOT coming when called. Instead, use a 30-foot line he drags behind him. That way, if you need to get a hold of him, you can step on it – much easier than trying to catch him! (This is my favorite long line.)