Recall - everyone wants a good one. How do you get it? By teaching it in baby steps until you have a polished final product and continuing to practice for the duration of your dog’s life.

Begin with rewarding "automatic check ins".

What are they? Any time your dog voluntarily looks your way without prompting - indoors, then outdoors.

Next - choose a word other than "come" - which you can say in a happy voice (gentlemen, take note, discover your inner soft spot and try to avoid harsh tones). It can be any word you like, as nonsensical as you like - as long as it's used properly and consistently and doesn’t sound like any of the other cues you use.

Next - begin to pair the word with goodness - high value treats. Make sure it's something your dog likes a lot!! 

Begin with saying your chosen cue – feed a treat – repeat/repeat/repeat. In the beginning stage you are not expecting anything from your dog. You are simply pairing the cue with goodness.

After many, many repetitions your dog’s eyes should light up when he hears your cue.

Do not use the cue in a real situation just yet.

Dogs are attracted to fast moving objects. Take advantage of this a make yourself a moving target. 

Begin with ensuring your dog is looking at you. Start moving away from your dog. As he follows you, say the chosen recall cue. Praise as he runs towards you. Reward when he arrives with a high value treat or opportunity to play if that’s what he loves. Do not use the cue if your dog is standing still. 

If your dog is not looking at you, say his name once (only once), then move away from him and repeat the process as above.

If your dog does not respond to his name the first time you say it, you need to go back to square one of teaching your dog his name before continuing.

It’s important to remember – it takes many, many repetitions and tons of practice before your dog will stop what he is doing and run to you. You need success in your house (low distractions) before moving to a more distracting environment such as your backyard or the park. A good response in distracting environments such as the park, is a PhD level behaviour and takes time and lots of successful practice to master.

Never take for granted the times he chooses to run happily to you!

Some important rules to remember if you want success.

  • Always use high value rewards when working on recalls.
  • Always reward your dog when he arrives in front of you – even if it wasn’t as fast as you wanted.
  • Never chant your cue over and over. This teaches your dog the recall cue is irrelevant. 
  • Never call your dog to you for something he doesn’t like (he considers it a punishment) – ex: the end of play, leaving for work, going into the crate, bath time, nail trims, etc.
  • Use a long line when working outdoors to prevent your dog from running away. You can step on the line to prevent him from darting off. Then use your creative ways to encourage him to return to you – without pulling on the line.  
  • Acting silly, lying on the ground and running away from your dog are a few of the ways your dog may be enticed to come and see what’s happening at your end.     Party at your end when he arrives!                                                                                                     

Only use the recall cue if you are willing to bet $50.00 he will run to you. Not willing to lose $50.00? Don’t use the cue. Go get your dog.

If your dog is not responding ask yourself the following:

Am I using high value rewards?
Am I practicing daily?
Am I using my recall cue only when I know he will respond?
Am I repeating the cue?
Am I doing something my dog doesn’t like when he gets to me?
Am I using it in an environment I haven’t yet practiced in (the park, while he’s sniffing another dog, while he’s chasing a squirrel)?

The end result of lots of practice.