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  • Writer's pictureMatt Erlenbsch

Basic Recall Training

Updated: Apr 19

by Lilith Erlenbusch - Reliable recall relies on the following 3 pillars

  • A strong bond between you and your dog. You and your dog need to be good companions and trust each other. Your dog needs to like to be with you!

  • Basic exercises for reliable recall include: name recognition, eye contact, hand targeting / recall cue

  • Impuse Control

Bonding with your dog

Building up a good recall from basic behaviors and having fun training will be key for successful recall. What do I mean with ‘having fun’?

If you call your dog to come back to you only when then the consequence is that you leash your dog, then this is no fun for your dog and your dog will avoid coming back to you. We are all pleasure seeking creatures!

Play, running, hunting, exploring, sniffing - all that is very important for the mental and physical health of your dog. Therefore, you have to find really high motivation to come back to you, either for great treats (have a diversity of high value treats) or for play and praise.

An easy way to establish a positive relation and a good bond with your dog is through positive reinforcement and training. Dogs love to interact with you but they don’t like to be screamed at, yanked on the leash or punished. Yes, dogs also need to know their boundaries and clarity in your expectations is highly appreciated from dogs. Communication really is the key! Non violent - and I recommend a mix of 80% positive reinforcement and 20% boundaries setting, negative reinforcement or an unpleasant consequence to a certain unwanted behavior.

Make sure your dog has enough social time to play and interact with other dog’s. Sometimes the motivation to not come back when called is simply because the dog is starved to interact with other dogs or people. The off-leash time

Basic Exercises

Eye Contact

Eye contact is key for a reliable recall and for the connection between you and your dog when enjoying off-leash time outside. If your dog looks for eye contact with you, your dog is connected with you. When you are outside with your dog and your dog isn’t looking at you, then you can predict that recalling your dog will fail.

Reinforcing the eye contact is a basic exercise for you and your dog. Start doing so at home and work on duration. Slowly increase the criteria of time. In the beginning you might mark every glimpse then in time you mark only eye contact that lasts 1 second. And so on. Additional work on eye contact outside on leash walks. Here you might start with marking just a half head turn. You can create a little sound to prompt your dog to look at you. Like this you can shape the behavior to a full head turn.

Name Recognition Name recognition is one of the most important cue’s for recall. Most often people do not realize that the name of a dog is a cue. Your dog doesn’t speak English. So, just like any other cue we need to teach the dog what to do when we say the name.

When you say the name of your dog, you want your dog to look at you and eventually run to you. While walking on leash you can frequently say the name, and then mark and reinforce the head turn and moving towards you. In case your dog isn’t responding - I advice to use a squeaker to prompt the behavior.

Palm Touch The palm touch is will be another helper to initiate the coming when called using a hand signal. Start with the palm touch, mark the behavior and throw the treat away from you. In the moment when your dog is taking the treat say his name, when your dog turns his head to you say YES and put down your palm. When your dog runs towards you and touches your palm say YES and reward away from you. Repeat.

Slowly increase the distance! Practice on a long leash.

here you have the recall without saying Come!

start adding Come when you have several days good repetition and really good high value treats in the pocket. Then say COME instead of your dogs name. But you might have established already a cue, no problem.

Here are video to watch

OFF-Leash Practice

  • When you let your dog off-leash make it a point to mark every eye contact with YES and if your dog runs up to you for a treat please reward him.

  • Reward or praise your dog always when he comes back to you voluntarily.

  • Hide behind tree trunks and call the name of your dog. Eventually say COME when you see your dog running for you. Let him find you. Praise and reward.

  • Change directions without informing your dog. This is a good teaching for your dog to stay connected to you and check where you are going. Praise and reward for him following.

Happy Training!

Please schedule an assessment if you like to work with me!

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