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  • Writer's pictureMatt Erlenbsch

Successful dog recall by Lilith Erlenbusch

Updated: Apr 19

In dog training recall means the capacity of your dog to come back to you when called. Common recall cue’s are COME - HERE - and TREAT. The recall is the most important cue your dog needs to know and follow. Most important because this cue keeps your dog safe and you out of trouble. Recall is especially important in our environment and community in which dogs tend to be off-leash, where owners desire a reliable hiking buddy, and with the natural distractions and dangers of getting lost by chasing deer or coyotes.

Reliable recall relies on the following three pillars.

  • A strong bond between you and your dog.

  • Basic exercises for reliable recall

  • Impuse control

Bonding with your dog

I think this element is often overlooked in training but it’s truly fundamental. Your dog needs to like you and associate good things with coming back to you. Your dog will like you when you provide his basic needs, when you communicate reliably with your dog, and when you provide love, joy and fun.

A basic need is playtime with other dogs and off-leash time. Make sure your dog has enough social time to play and interact with other dogs and people. Sometimes the motivation to not come back when called is simply because the dog is starved to interact with other dogs or people. A young dog needs at least 2 hours off-leash time a day and preferable daily social interactions with other dogs.

Good communication between you and your dog will create reliability and trust. Trust just feels good, right? If your dog learns early on that he will be leashed always when called then he might not want to come back. Also - training can be fun and recall games that enhance your connection inside and outside will create a stronger bond.

Basic Exercises

Teach your dog the following behaviors and cues early on:

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. We want our dog to check in with us frequently and voluntarily.

Reinforcing the eye contact is a basic exercise for every puppy and builds the connection you need with your dog. Start doing so at home and work on duration, in time additional work on eye contact outside on leash walks and during off-leash time. Simply praise and reinforce that your dog looks at you.

Name Recognition

For a good recall your dog needs to respond to his name. Name recognition is one of the most important cues for recall. When you say the name of your dog you want your dog to look at you and eventually run to you. Dog owners often forget that the name is a cue that has to be learned, just like any other cue! Avoid using the name of your dog unintentionally or in negative ways like yelling aggressively the name. The name should always have a positive association.

Palm Touch / Recall Cue

Additional to the name you should teach your dog a cue to come back. I recommend using a hand signal like palm touch and additional a verbal cue. Like this you will have 3 recall cue’s - the name, a hand signal and a verbal cue. I teach dogs additional the cue FIND IT to prompt them to search for treats on the floor. This can be used with sudden distractions that require an immediate disengagement from your dog. Recall cues should always be reinforced with high value treats that you know your dog loves.

Impulse Control

Impulse control cue’s are very handy when you are off-leash with your dog. Cue’s like LEAVE IT, WAIT or STAY can further help you to stop your dog from charging and approaching something. Start teaching those cue’s first without distractions and then slowly introduce tempting situations for the dog. Impulse control needs patient and frequent training to built up successfully.

Here some ideas for your 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.

Recall- Key to Success

  • never call when you will fail like your dog is sniffing or in the middle of playing

  • if your dog does not come back when called, knee down on the ground and behave like you found something.

  • have a squeaky in your pocket and use it if your dog doesn’t move in your direction

  • move away from your dog when your dog is not coming to you.

  • work on recall consistently and always with high value treats.

  • never play chase with your dog.

  • when outside on-leash or off-leash. always mark and reinforce your dog checking in with you!

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