When training for a good recall, operant training should be adopted using key word commands and signals and then the use of classically conditioning the dog that when it comes to you it will be rewarded. To start the recall training the pup/dog must have good recognition of its name, the word come or the whistle whichever is your preference. The dog should be positively rewarded with a marker word ‘yes’ so the dog knows it is doing the right things and then a training treat when it comes to you.
To start the training the distance should be short, so it is best to start within the house, firstly in the same room, proceeding to calling from within other areas of the house and then the garden if possible, marking the behaviour with a clicker or the words ‘yes’ ‘good dog’ and a treat on their return
When the recall is good inside, the training can then go to an outdoor area, it is best to start with a long training line which builds up your confidence and means your dog/pup does not initially fail and undo all the good work in the house and garden. There are far more distractions outside for the pup/dog and more appealing scents to pursue. Practice the recall with changing directions frequently; with this I would advise increasing the reward to something even tastier such as sausage, chicken or cheese. If your dog is not food orientated then you need to work out what the best reward is for your dog, possible a ball, toy, raggie or lots of praise and a game with yourself.
Manage the environments by varying the locations, the distance and treat value. The more enhancing the location, the tastier and more appealing the reward for returning should be. One point to remember is even when the recall is good it can be undone very quickly if the only time you recall is to put the lead on or to get into the car to leave an exciting place. The dog will quickly get inadvertently trained not to come back!
Quick Tip Guide – Recall
Recall can fail due to
- An overly excited dog
- If you shout or get angry on their return
- If they come back and you put the lead on after every recall
- If you fail to divert the urge to run before it happens – often happens in a prey driven dog, so work required in focus and attention diverting as well.
- Expecting too much too soon, require less distractions and more base line work with use of long lines.
Tips for good recall
- Start with short distances with little distraction; increase both gradually one at a time.
- Regularly whistle/call back and reward, touch the collar and then continue play, this way your dog does not known which recall will mean the end of play.
- Make life with you more exciting and fun using interactive games or favourite toy
- Walk/run in the opposite direction
- Look at something intently on the ground, when your dog arrives to look to, find a treat there.
- Always praise when your dog returns to you, even if it’s been a while
- Play hide and seek (but do not hide too well as this may cause anxiety to you dog)
- Play with something yourself, a ball or squeaky toy
- Use recall whenever possible in the home and garden
- Empty the energy glass by doing some ball games in the garden prior to the walk
- Remain calm even if recall fails, get closer to your dog and call from a shorter distance and use the above techniques, then still reward for coming back.