A recall is a trained behavior that causes your dog to run to you when the recall cue is given. This behavior may be one of the most important that you will ever teach your dog. Some people choose to train their dog to come to their name, the word “Come” or “Here”, and some people choose to use a sound such as a whistle. Whatever you choose for your cue should be a cue that you don’t use frequently (this is why I don’t usually recommend using your dog’s name) and one that you never use to punish your dog. If you can whistle, a whistle works really well for 99% of dog breeds. 

This exercise is especially helpful when you want to call your dog back to you to interrupt play behavior that has gotten out of hand or if you want to let your dog run off-leash. In the beginning stages, it’s important to only practice in low distraction environments such as in your home. As your dog is successful, you can began proofing the behavior in other environments such as your backyard, at a park, etc. Remember, if there’s something more enticing than your treat such as a squirrel, another dog, or a familiar person, your recall may not be successful. Try to only use the recall behavior when you’re 90% sure your dog will respond as trained. If you’re practicing in a high distraction environment, bring high value treats! 

Random recalls:

Step 1: Keep your clicker with you at all times.

Step 2: Scatter little containers of treats in every room in the house.

Step 3: Anytime your dog comes to you when you call, click.

Step 4: Put your hand on his collar, ask him to sit, and give him a treat; always secure your dog before you give him his reward so that he does not learn to come when called, eat his treat, and take off again. 

Step 5: If you call your dog and he does not come, bend down, throw your arms wide, and call him enthusiastically. Click and feed him as he comes to you. Or try taking a couple of steps backward as an extra “enticement” cue. 

Step 6: Practice this exercise indoors as well as outdoors in a safe, enclosed space. 

Flying fronts:

Step 1: Work with your dog in a quiet room without distractions. 

Step 2: Hold the clicker and treats in your hand. 

Step 3: Show the dog the treat and throw it a couple of feet away from you. 

Step 4: As your dog goes to eat the treat, call him and take several steps backward. 

Step 5: Click as your dog happily comes to you. 

Step 6: Ask your dog to sit. 

Step 7: Hold the dog’s collar while you feed him his treat. 

Step 8: When your dog is coming to you reliably, start to throw the treat farther and farther away. 

Step 9: Change the environment that you are working, gradually increase the distractions. 

Traditional obedience recall:

Step 1: Work with your dog in a quiet room without distractions. 

Step 2: Hold the clicker and treats in your hand. 

Step 3: Ask your dog to sit and stay. 

Step 4: Walk a couple of feet away from your dog. 

Step 5: Turn and face him. (He should still be staying.) 

Step 6: Call your dog to you. 

Step 7: Click as he starts to move toward you. 

Step 8: Ask your dog to sit. 

Step 9: Hold the dog’s collar while you feed him his treat. (As your dog is coming toward you, you can either meet him halfway, ask for the sit, and give him his treat -- a good technique for beginner dogs -- or, you can wait until he comes all the way to you before asking for the sit and giving him his reward.) 

Step 10: When your dog is coming to you reliably, gradually increase the distance that you walk away from your dog. 

Step 11: Work in different environments, gradually increasing the distraction level. 

Hide and seek indoors

Step 1: Have someone hold the dog in one room of the house. 

Step 2: Hide in another room. 

Step 3: Call your dog. 

Step 4: When he finds you, click ask him to sit, hold his collar, and give him his treat. 

Step 5: As your dog becomes more experienced at this game, hide in harder-to-discover places. Then take the gear outside to a safe, enclosed environments. 

Ping pong recall:

Step 1: Arm two or three friends with clickers and your dog’s favorite treats. 

Step 2: One by one, take turns calling the dog, using whatever word you have chosen to be your recall cue. 

Step 3: When the dog comes to the person who called, have the person click, ask the dog to sit, hold the dog’s collar, and give a delicious treat. 

Step 4: As the dog gets more skilled, spread yourselves farther and farther apart. 

Step 5: Begin playing this game in the house and then move it to a quiet, safe area outside. 

Step 6: Gradually increase distance and distractions. 

Secrets of Success:

  • Always click and give the dog a reward for coming to you, regardless of whether or not you called him.

  • Mix and match the exercises above to teach a highly reliable recall. 

  • Practice the behavior using each of the following criteria: 

    • Come from across the room

    • Come from another room

    • Come no matter who calls

    • Come now

    • Come, even if engaged in another activity such as drinking water, eating a meal, or playing with another dog.

  • Vary your reinforcers; a favorite toy, a treat, a game, petting, or praise all work well here.

  • If the behavior is not yet reliable, attach a long line to your dog's collar for added safety.

  • Never call your dog to punish him.

  • Never call your dog to you to do an unpleasant task such as clipping his nails, or cleaning his ears; go and get him.

  • Practice the recall behavior in a variety of environments, gradually increasing the distraction level.

  • Do not allow your dog off-leash until his recall behavior is reliable.

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