See you later, baby! – Or how to train a great recall

Puppy Preschool & Dog training class dates northern beaches
Recall Workshop graduates

How to train a great recall is not as hard as it seems. Goodog owner Barbara takes you through the steps below. Or, join a Goodog Recall Workshop and learn how to train a great recall from Barbara herself.

Gee we were lucky. We did a great recall workshop this afternoon and we did not get wet! In the last exercise the dog runs past an open food container with BBQ chicken in it and their human students looked at me as if I was from Mars and they would never ignore the chicken. And then, they all did it, ignored the chicken and performed a fantastic recall.

For some dogs come means to run as far away as you possibly can, and if possible migrate to the next country, well maybe just the next dog park. These dogs have learned coming back means we are going home and the end of the fun.

Of all the basic cues to teach your dog coming back is probably the most important and sometimes the most difficult one. Coming back under all circumstances and has many benefits and can avoid real problems, such as being run over by a car, a confrontation with another dog, meeting a snake or just a kid that is scared of dogs.

Dogs do not come back because the world out there is very rewarding and the off leash time is often the best part of the day!

But it is possible and very rewarding to teach your dog to come back if you stick to some basic rules:

  • Teach the dog what come means
  • Make it worthwhile for your dog
  • Manage the environment and prevent self reinforcing
  • If you are in the dog park, release them after they return
  • Never ever punish or rouse on a dog that came back (even after 2 hours)
Teach the dog what come means
  • Take a piece of food or a toy, show it to the dog and move backwards saying come, as soon as the dog catches up to you give them the treat/toy. You are associating the word come with moving towards you and in a position close enough for the reward.
  • At the same time hold your dog gently on the collar. This is a safety measure to get your hands on your dog in an emergency. You also don’t want a ‘drive by dog’ – a dog that comes, takes the treat and takes off again.
  • Once the dog understands this, call the dog between family members in the house or the backyard and make it a really great game. You then take this game to a slightly more distracting environment like a fenced dog park at low traffic times.
Make it worthwhile for your dog
  • You have to figure out what is most rewarding for your dog, a specific squeaky toy, some really nice treat, a play with you, or a cuddle? Once you have figured this out reserve this special reward for coming back and the dog only gets it when they come back.
  • Do not phase out the reward and don’t be stingy, a pat on the head will not cut it. A jackpot improves motivation.
  • Manage the environment and prevent self reinforcing.
  • In the early stages you will have to manage the environment very carefully. Work with long leashes or in fenced off areas. Then gradually make it more difficult.
If you are in the dog park let them go again, after the recall

If you are in the dog park, call your dog every 4 or 7 minutes with a happy voice, give them a really nice treat or have a quick play, but then let them go again. Coming back should not signal to them that it is the end of the fun. Also reward when your dog is checking in with you.

Never ever punish or rouse on a dog who came back

Even if it took 2 hours to get your dog to come back to you, you have to reward them for coming back. If you punish, it will only set back the progress you’re making with training. Your dog just showed you that you both need to improve your training.

If you’d like to know how to train a great recall in-person, find out when the next Recall Workshop is scheduled here: Recall Workshop.