Do's and Don'ts of Recall Training

Do’s and Don’ts of Recall Training

A solid recall with your dog does not happen by accident – it takes time, patience, and a strategy to teach the dog that coming to you when called = AMAZING things. Oftentimes, people poison their recall (aka spoiling the cue) by inadvertently teaching the dog that coming when called results in bad things).

We’ve all seen the owner yelling at their dog, getting more and more angry as they cue their dog to “come!” over ad over. And hey, we’ve all likely been that owner at one point or another, perhaps we were having a terrible day or our patience was at a 0 on a 1-10 scale.

Why teach a recall? SAFETY is my number one reason. A solid recall can help keep a dog safe but also has practical applications. This cue helps with getting a dog to come in from the yard, away from a busy street, and other scary situations.

Do’s and Don’ts for training a great recall:


·        make coming when called a great thing for the dog

·        you want to pair coming when called with things the dog loves like yummy treats, toys, physical affection and so on.

·        When it safe to do so, release the dog back to what it was doing when you cued it to come to you. This helps prevent the dog association that coming when called = the fun ends

·        Start in the house with little distractions, using a distance of 3-5 feet. You will build on this. You may want to have the dog on leash. Only say your cue word once – one time only rule!

·        Keep sessions short and sweet; pick one word or phrase for the cue and stick with it

·        Back up when teaching this cue, and even later on when it is solid. A dog is much more likely to come to you if you are moving away from it rather than going to it.

·        Have a smile on your face and a happy face! What dog wants to go to someone with a scowl on their face and anger in their voice?

·        If you have a pup that is always following you, you may want to toss a treat away from you, let the dog get it and then cue the “come!” cue OR simply wait for the dog to look away and take a few steps then cue the dog to come

·        Outdoors, practice in a safe area. If off leash, only do this in a contained area. You may want to use a 15-30 foot long line. Out door recall is taking it up a few notches, so be sure to adjust for Distance, Duration and Distraction to set the dog up to succeed. Outdoors you are competing with a lot of distractions, we may not be as interesting as that dead animal carcass or the cat on the fence

·        Practice this cue on walks and throughout all interactions with your dog

·        Play games like “Hide and Seek” and “Puppy Ping Pong” with your dog

Follow these simple Do’s and you’ll be well on your way to a solid recall!

Now, for the Don’ts of training a solid recall:


·        call the dog to you to punish it or do anything that it does not like. You will poison your recall or at best you will train the dog to have a lagging recall because it associates coming when called = bad things: ex. Using your recall cue for bath time, to administer medications, nail trims, etc.

·        Call your dog to you to always end the fun; this is crucial especially at the start of training a recall

·        Pull the dog to you; you do not want to use force to teach a dog to come when called

·        Don’t repeat the cue – if the dog is not responding, simply go over to the dog and get its attention

·        Never scold a dog for being slow when coming when called – this will only make your recall slower. If this is the case, this means you need to go back a few steps and retrain the dog to have a very positive association with coming when called


Quick tips for the start of training a solid recall:

1.      Pick a cue word and stick with it so you don’t confuse the dog

2.      Be mindful of your body language – move backwards as you cue the dog to “come!” or stand sideways. Do not move towards the dog. This takes a little practice and mindfulness.

3.      Make initial recall session like playtime – it must be FUN!

4.      Keep sessions short and sweet – aim for a total of 10-20 times throughout the day

5.      Be mindful of when you sue this cue – set the dog up to succeed and only use your recall cue when you are 90% sure the dog will comply

These are just a few tips for training a recall, call today to learn more about what force-free, positive reinforcement training can do for you and your dog.