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Mastering Dog Recall Training

Dog recall training, also known as the “come” command, is one of the most important skills you can teach your dog. A reliable recall not only ensures your dog’s safety but also strengthens the bond between you. In this blog post, we’ll delve into effective recall training techniques that promote responsiveness and trust in your furry friend.

A man with a dog on a leash in a park.
Photo credit: Pexels.

The significance of recall

A strong recall command empowers you to call your dog back to you in potentially risky situations, such as around traffic or unfamiliar environments. We’ve all had that moment when our dog runs after something suddenly when we don’t want them to.

A dog properly trained on recall can not only save their life but also helps to avoid severe injury.

Building a positive association

The first step to building reliable recall is through positive reinforcement paired with clicker training. Assuming you have conditioned your dog to a clicker, this step is easy.

Every time your dog approaches you, click and mark the behavior then immediately offer a treat. Using food as a reward in the beginning versus toys is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Food allows for numerous repetitions whereas a toy reward may end up in a game of keep away if you haven’t built a solid playful relationship with your dog and their toy.

Also, if your dog is toy driven he may not want to leave your side because you’re holding the toy, thus making recall training difficult. It’s best to start by pairing the command “come” once the dog makes eye contact and is heading in your direction.

It’s also helpful to give a visual cue to the dog by extending your arm straight out and waving it towards your shoulder as you say “come.” By consistently marking the “come” command with rewards like treats, praise and play, you create a strong motivation for your dog to respond promptly.

One mistake people often make is when their dog is disobedient and doesn’t return to them. They chase after the dog, grab the collar and reprimand the dog. This creates a negative association with your dog being by your side or you grabbing their collar and should be avoided.

The way around this is to start with a long leash such as a thirty to fifty foot leash — you don’t have to use the whole length at once. Walk around and let the dog forget you’re there. As the dog begins to leave your immediate area say the command and apply gentle leash pressure towards yourself.

As soon as the dog heads in your direction, let go of the leash pressure, click to mark the behavior and then reward with food which reinforces the recall behavior. 

A girl teaching recall training to a dog in a park.
Photo credit: Pexels.

Control your environment

It is important to start recall training in a controlled and distraction-free environment. Always start on a leash to control the distance the dog can stray which creates a skinner box. Once the dog figures out that the command and behavior gives them a reward, you may gradually increase the distance away from yourself.

When this behavior is consistent, you can begin to work off leash. It’s still optimal to control the environment so using either a small fenced in area or an e-collar is helpful. E-collars, if trained properly, can provide a safety net while allowing your dog some freedom to explore under controlled conditions.

Remember to keep the sessions short. A study published in ScienceDirect illustrated how short duration training sessions in canines are better than longer drawn out sessions. 

Consistency is key

Consistency is the backbone of successful dog recall training. Use the same command words, tone of voice and rewards every time to ensure clarity for your dog.

Once the command is trained, avoid saying the command more than once to the dog. Tell the dog the command then make him comply to keep your relationship fair and conflict free.

Proofing recall in different environments

Once your companion has learned the command, begin to expose your dog to different environments and levels of distractions. Gradually introduce distractions during training and practice recall when your dog’s attention is divided to reinforce their responsiveness.

Practicing recall in various settings helps your dog generalize the command. Distance is your friend for this. For example, if training a dog not to run after cars, don’t start on the shoulder of a highway. The same goes for distractions. Start a couple hundred yards away from other dogs or people at first and slowly work your way towards them.

A brown and white dog is standing in the grass.
Photo credit: Pexels.

Avoid punishment

It’s important to understand why punishment is counterproductive in recall training. Calling your dog to you should always result in a positive experience to ensure they eagerly respond each time. This was touched on above and needs to be remembered as we often get frustrated when training dogs.

Don’t get frustrated, have patience and just have a plan in place like making sure you have a long leash to make sure your dog successfully completes the command.

Can you recall your pet consistently?

Recall training is a gateway to a deeper level of communication and trust with your dog. By investing time, patience and positive reinforcement, you’ll not only achieve a reliable recall but also enhance the safety and joy of your adventures together.

Remember, the journey of training is just as rewarding as the destination of a well-trained and responsive canine companion.