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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

5 Really Reliable Recall Tips

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

We've all seen it, that dog owner screaming at the top of their lungs trying to get their dog to come back to no avail. Frankly, if I were that dog I would much rather continue to sniff and play than return to my angry yelling human.

Frustration and yelling come so natural for us when our dogs don't "listen", however it will do nothing to actually get your dog to come back to you. The problem is we set ourselves and our dogs up for failure when we expect to be more interesting than that squirrel they are chasing without any training or preparation. Then when they finally do come back we punish them... What do you think your dog will choose to do next time?

Your dogs recall is arguably the most important cue you will teach your dog, and possibly the hardest.

So what should you do? Follow these tips below and you will be sure to have a reliable recall in a matter of weeks.

1. Find your dogs favorite treat

This is one of the most important steps, before every beginning to teach your dog a recall you have to take the time to find out what your dogs favorite treat is. We typically recommend using a real meal such as boiled chicken, steak, ground turkey, or turkey bacon. Gather some different treats and see which one really gets your dog excited, this will be your recall treat. You want the recall treat to be special, meaning the only time you would give your dog this treat would be for coming when called. This will make your dog more likely to come when called if he knows he is getting his favorite treat on his arrival back to you.

2. Teach your dog what "Here" Means

You first need to teach your dog what the recall word means, in order to do this you must begin by conditioning the recall word. To condition the word you are going to need that very high value real meat treat. To start you will fill your treat pouch with the recall treat, set a 1 minute timer and for the entire minute you are going to say your recall word “here" then feed your dog a treat. We are creating an association with the word and the high value treat so at this time they do not have to do anything except hear the word and eat the treat. Your hands should be empty of any treats, you will say the recall word "here" first then grab a treat from your treat pouch and feed your dog. Repeat this for the entire timer, twice a day for one week.

3. Inside Recall Practice

A lot of times we jump the gun and automatically expect our dogs to be able to respond to cues outside without ever taking the time to train inside of the house. This sets us and our dogs up for failure, outside is incredibly distracting for dogs so you always want to begin inside of your home. Distractions such as being outside will make it very difficult if not impossible to teach your dog anything especially a recall.

To start practicing inside of your house you will need a treat pouch with that high value meat treat along with a low value treat such as your dogs kibble, a clicker and a timer. To begin you will set a 3 minute timer, toss a piece of the low value food away from you, the moment your dog turns to back towards you say the cue "here" when your dog returns to your front click your clicker and feed your dog a couple of pieces of the high value meat treat. Repeat this for the entire timer twice a day for one week and practice in different rooms in your house.

4. Begin Practicing Outside In Your Yard

Now it is time to put all your practice to work and begin outside, you will need a 30 ft leach, your treat pouch with a low and high value treat, your timer and a clicker. To start you will set a 3 minute timer, then toss a piece of the low value treat away from you, as soon as your dog eats the treat cue your recall word "here". When your dog comes back to you click your clicker and deliver 3-5 pieces of that high value treat. Repeat this for the entire 3 minutes twice a day for one whole week and practice in different areas in your yard.

5. Take It Out in Public

Once your dog is reliable with the recall in and around the outside of your home it is time to take it on the road. Find a nice quiet park where you can give you and your dog plenty of space and don't forget your 30 foot leash, clicker and those high value treats. Give your dog 10-15 minutes to sniff and explore their new environment first, giving your dog the chance to sniff first will allow them to focus better once your start training. When your dog is finished sniffing you will begin practicing your recall, while your dog is on the long leash toss a low value treat away from you. Once your dog finds and eats the treat use your recall word to call them to you, when your dog arrives click and feed them 3-5 pieces of the high value treat. Repeat this 2x per day, when your dog is doing well in that location find a new area to practice in. This step is important as this is how we generalize behavior, by training in a variety of places we teach our dogs that no matter where we are "here" still means I would like you to come to me.

And remember never punish your dog when they do finally come to you, even if you are frustrated at how long they took, ALWAYS reward a recall!!!

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