One of the most common problems that my training customers ask for help with is recall. We all want our dogs to have a strong recall response so that we can enjoy off-leash time with them and know that our dog will come back when called, no matter what is going on around them.
The key to achieving reliable recall is to make sure your dog always finds it rewarding to come back to you. You are competing against the environment and you need your dog to choose to return to you when called, rather than continuing to do what they were doing.
As such, it’s important to work to build positive associations. Your dog needs to think that good things will happen when they return. Avoid recalling and then immediately doing something negative when they return, such as putting the lead on or closing the back door so they can’t go outside again.
As with all steps in dog training, we need to start teaching and practising new behaviours in a low distraction environment. Initially practise recall inside and then in the garden before heading to more distracting environments.
A long lead can be useful to stop the dog practising unwanted behaviours (such as not returning) and to gently give the dog a nudge on the lead to remind them when needed to come towards you when called. Remember that a long lead must always be attached to a harness and not the dog’s collar for safety reasons.
While the quality of a food-based reward is a factor you can experiment with (most dogs are more likely to work harder for a tasty piece of chicken rather than a boring piece of kibble), consider the breed characteristics to give other rewards that your dog may value.
Some play with their favourite toy, while a game of tug or a tennis ball being thrown can all be used as rewards for successful recall.
It is good to start early with your puppy to build a recall response and there are a number of training exercises to achieve this, which I use with new puppy owners who purchase one of my puppy training packages.
I also have a special Improving Recall package for adolescent or adult dogs who have a poor or unreliable recall, in which I guide on strategies and exercises to employ which, if consistently applied, will improve the dogs recall.
So, while there are a couple of top tips included here, if you need any further help or advice, take a look at my dog training packages outlined on the Training page of my website.
You can also book a free no obligation 15 minute consultation with me to obtain some further initial advice, find out more about my training methods, or obtain help selecting the right training package.