Recall training is one of the most important skills that you can teach. Though there are a lot of different dog breeds to choose from, teaching them to come when called is an essential part of responsible pet ownership, and can help keep them safe in potentially dangerous situations. It’s also a great way to bond with your pet and improve their ability to respond to your commands.
It’s important to keep in mind that dogs have different personalities and preferences when it comes to learning new behaviours like recall training. Some may pick up on commands quickly while others may take longer; finding what works best for your specific dog is key in having successful recall training sessions. If one method isn’t getting through, try something else until you find something that clicks with them.
Recall Training for Your Dog
Choose a Word or Phrase
The first step in teaching your dog recall is to choose a word or phrase that will become their “come” command. Many people use the word “come”, but any word or phrase will work as long as you remain consistent with it. Whatever word you choose, make sure it is short, easy to pronounce and not easily confused with other commands. Some trainers advocate for commands in a different language from what is commonly spoken in your country, which reduces the risk that your dog will get confused by normal conversations.
Practise at Home
Start practising recall training in the safety of your own home before taking it outside. Have someone hold your dog while you stand across the room and call them using their “come” command. When they arrive at your side, reward them with a special, high-value treat and verbal praise. Repeat this until they understand what you are asking them to do. It can take a couple of sessions before they begin to consistently return to you.
Take it Outside
Once your dog has mastered the recall command in the house, take it outside for further practice. Before taking your pup out to new environments, make sure he has had plenty of practice in familiar places where he already knows how to respond to the recall command. Your backyard or a dog park you frequent are good options, so long as your dog is already comfortable and relaxed in the location. Try to make sure there are no distractions (such as other dogs) present in order to avoid confusion or frustration for both of you in this step. Keep your dog on a leash at all times, then call their name loudly and clearly and give them their special reward when they reach you.
Once your dog has mastered recall up close, start adding distance. A long training lead is useful during this step – a 10 to 15-metre lead is a versatile option. You may also choose to use a lunge line of the same length for especially strong dogs. Practise while still inside the house or yard before taking it out into more open areas. Start small by standing just outside the front door while calling their name; reward them with the special treat when they reach you, no matter how long it takes. As they get better at this task, slowly increase the distance and reduce the time goal until they can reliably return on command immediately from further away.
Increase Distractions Slowly
Gradually increase distractions during the training sessions as your dog masters the command. Practise with different types of distractions – noises, toys, treats, other family members – until they can reliably respond even when there are other exciting things happening around them. Doing this slowly helps them build confidence and trust so they don’t become too overwhelmed. Continue to reward them with their special recall training treat when they perform the command successfully.
Use Treats Strategically
Using treats strategically during recall training helps reinforce good behaviour by rewarding successful returns with tasty rewards – just make sure not to overdo it so that treats don’t become expected every time. It’s fine to offer treats regularly as they are starting to learn the command, but eventually you will begin to taper off the rewards. Once your dog has mastered each level of difficulty, start offering treats intermittently as positive reinforcement for successful recalls rather than every single time. This ensures that coming back because of obedience rather than food remains the top priority.
Make Sure Everyone Is Involved
Everyone who interacts with your pup should use the same recall command so there is no confusion about what they are expected to do when called. This also helps reinforce that everyone in their family should be obeyed equally.
Following these steps can help create an obedient pup who responds quickly and accurately whenever recalled – a lifesaving skill which all responsible pet owners should prioritise. With patience and dedication, teaching recall can be simple and easy.