Dog recall training is probably the most important kind of training you can do and in many cases, the most difficult one to master.
The average person doesn’t spend anywhere near enough time teaching their pooch the ‘come’ command.
We generally use it in situations when we actually need our dog to respond and end up getting upset or angry when they don’t listen, which (and you’ll find out why later) is the worst thing that can happen.
OK, OK we admit it,
The training methods we write about on Pet Checkers aren’t our own.
They are the positive re-enforcement methods of world renowned dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell.
Why is Dog Recall Training So Important?
Think about the times in which you ask your dog to come back to you.
It’s generally when they’re doing something you don’t want them to be doing, like;
- Approaching an unfamiliar dog
- Chasing the deer in the fields
- Eating horse poo
- Leaping into the water as your walking up the river bank
- Rolling around on a smelly dead squirrel
To your dog, all these things are much more fun than coming back to you – after all, you’re stopping him having fun and you’re probably only going to take him home anyway.
This is why your dog often ignores you when you ask him to come back.
But from a safety point of view a good recall is vitally important.
- That unfamiliar dog is reactive or aggressive and attacks him?
- He gets lost chasing that deer and you can’t find him?
- He eats something poisonous?
- He gets caught in something and can’t get out of the water?
- He rolls around on broken glass and cuts himself?
These are very real threats which many of us don’t even think about but they can result in your dog getting ill or injured and big vet bills and pet insurance claims – not to mention the upset and the heart break of having to go through it.
So in this article we’re going to show you how to train your dog to come. It’s a 4 step process and for each step we’ve included a video for you to watch so you can see it in action.
Also, make sure you read the training tips and mistakes at the end. They contain some vital information!
How to Teach Your Dog to Come When Called, Step-by-Step
The recall is something that you should start to teach your dog the day you bring him into your life.
The purpose of this exercise is to teach your dog or puppy that coming to you is a really good thing. Coming to you should always be exciting and should ALWAYS be rewarded – not matter how long it takes for him to respond.
Step One: Getting Familiar With the ‘Come’ Cue
Step Two: ‘Anchoring’ the Cue with Back and Forth Play
Step Three: Combining the Vocal Cue with Hand Signals
Now your dog or puppy is reliably coming to you it’s time to introduce a hand signal. We always recommend that you add a hand signal to all vocal cues, that way your dog can still understand you even if they can’t hear you.
Step Four: Taking it Outside
Once your dog has mastered the recall indoors, it’s time to make things harder and take it outside where there are more distractions.
Remember, when their are more distractions, the reward needs to be greater.
Our Top Tips for Dog Recall Training
Tip #1: Don’t be Boring
Dogs – especially puppies love to have fun.
If you’re boring when he comes back to you and just say ‘good boy’ in a flat boring voice, the next time you call him back he might not listen because what he’s currently doing is more fun than coming back to you.
So when he gets back to you, shower him with praise and fuss, give him his favourite toy and play a little game or give him a piece of his favourite treat.
Be excited and be a part of his game and he will be excited to come back to you.
Tip #2: ALWAYS Touch His Colar and Neck Area When He Comes to You
Many dogs only come within a few feet of you when they’re called, not close enough so you can touch them. So right from the very start of your dog’s recall training, always touch his collar and fuss around his neck area.
Dogs like praise and fuss so doing this will ensure that he will always come all the way back to you. This will make it easy to get a hold of his collar without him feeling uncomfortable if you ever find yourself outside in a situation where you need to get a hold of him.
Tip #3: Use a Variety of Rewards
You don’t just have to use treats to praise your puppy when you’re training him. In fact, we recommend that you mix it up so he doesn’t only come back for food.
Toys, fuss, praise, a game – they’re all things that dogs like so mix it up. Every time he comes back to you, do something different and something fun.
Remember this is all about fun, for you as well as your dog.
Tip #4: Keep Training Sessions Short
Dogs have short attention spans – especially puppies so keep these training session fun but keep them short.
If they get bored they’ll likely not want to do it again and that’s the worst thing that can happen so we recommend you do this recall training little and often.
Dog Recall Problems: Frequently Asked Questions
My Dog Won’t Come All the Way Back to Me, How Do I Get Him to Come Close Enough For Me to Get Hold of Him?
This could be for a couple of reasons;
So firstly make sure that when he does come back he gets showered with praise and/or treat/toy.
Secondly, always make contact with his collar and neck area so he’s not doesn’t feel uncomfortable when you do try to get hold of him.
And lastly, call him back regularly during your walk, when he comes back praise him, play with him and send him off again. This way he’ll never know which recall is for home time, he’s more interest in getting all your love and praise.
My Dog Just Ignores Me When I Call Him Back – Especially When Other Dogs Are Around
There are a few things that might be contributing to your dogs lack of co-operation. Here are a few things to consider;
Don’t wait for there to be other dogs around before you call him back. Instead, call him back often while you’re out walking and give him lots of praise for doing so and send him off again. So he’ll always return to you.
Instead, wait for a lull in activity when he’s not so engaged and call him back enthusiastically. When he comes back give him lots of fuss and praise.
If he just doesn’t listen you might want to consider starting his recall training again using a different command, like ‘Here’ or ‘Back’.
Dog recall training is actually quite a simple process but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy!
Like with any kind of training, some dogs need more time than others to pick things up.
The key is to remain calm (as getting angry will have the exact opposite affect) and be as enthusiastic and excited as you can because you need to be more exciting than anything else.
If you can do that, you’ll have no problem with teaching your dog to come back to you.
Give it a try, and please leave a comment – we’d love to know how you get on!