7 Tips for Improving your Dog’s Recall

Recall problems are not just related to puppies. Even the best-trained older dogs can develop recall issues or ‘selective hearing’!  Here are some tips to get that control back and have them returning to you again.

1.    Use a long training lead
When you first start recall training, start on a long lead in an enclosed space.  This gives the dog enough freedom to learn, but keeps you in control. Start off by wrapping it round your hand to make it shorter, but s your pup starts to understand what you’re asking, you can gradually allow them more freedom. Rewards and cues help - details of each are listed below.

2.    Choose a word or sound to use specifically when you want your dog to return
Try to avoid using your pup’s name as an instruction to return to you. This is because we say their names so many times during the day and usually when we want their attention, but we might not always mean for them to come to us. Choose a short, snappy word like “come” or “here”. The key is to make sure everyone in your household knows which word you’re using or the dog might get confused. 

3.    Use loud hearing cues
Alternatively, there are some obvious benefits to using a dog whistle for dog recall. Whistle sounds travel further than the human voice, especially on windy days. They also don’t show emotion or panic, which the human voice can do. Best of all, it provides consistency when helping your dog to learn.

4.    Reward good behaviour
We all know the best way to a dog’s heart is through its stomach. Giving them food-based treats shows them that they’ve done a good job. Remember though, that not all dogs are the same and whilst most would take a food treat as a reward, others might prefer to be rewarded in another way, like by playing with a ball.

5.    Don’t punish bad behaviour
It can be very frustrating when you lose control of your pup, but punishing them when they (eventually) return can be very confusing. You don’t want to give you dog fewer reasons to return, so always reward them when they recall successfully. Keep enforcing that positive behaviour.

6.    Gradually increase distance and distractions
Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog, plus the level of distractions you call them away from. To help both you and the dog gain confidence, use a harness with a long training lead to walk them on during training. Let them move away from you before using your recall cue. If they ignore you, very gently guide them back to you with the long lead and reward them once they come back. This will stop them getting rewarded by the environment for ignoring you!
Make a fuss of them and reward them with their preferred treat when they return without this extra guidance. This way, they build up a positive association with coming back to you when you call them. You want your dog to learn that coming back to you straight away is much more rewarding than ignoring you and continuing running around!

7.    What to do if your dog doesn’t respond to you
Use your preferred recall cue sparingly. Give your dog at least five seconds to respond to your first recall and don’t call again if you think they’re unlikely to return. This can have the opposite effect, by confirming it’s OK to not come back. If they ignore you, stay calm. Getting angry or shouting will only discourage your pup from returning to you. Instead, gently guide them in with the long lead, or go and collect them. Encourage your dog to stay aware and focused on you. If they run off ahead of you, try changing direction or hiding behind a tree and waiting for them to find you (if it’s safe to do so).

All in all, training can seem arduous, but can actually be a very rewarding bonding experience between you and your dog. If you need any help or advice with training (or re-training!) your dog, please do get in touch with us.