Recall Training

Why is recall training important for dogs?

Is the perfect, flawless recall really a thing or is it the holy grail of dog training, something to be searched for but never found? Isn’t it possible that no matter how good your training your dog might just decide that whatever has caught their attention is more interesting and more important that responding to your command?

First of all let’s explore what recall really is. Recall is the ability for you to use a signal, of your choice, and for your dog to respond to that and come back to you – immediately. If trained correctly then you should be able break your dog’s attention away from something else and get them to return to you. The signal that you use could be a word, a noise or a whistle – anything that you are comfortable with and that you train your dog to recognise.

How do I train a strong recall?

Having a strong recall takes time and consistency with your training but is something that you should invest in with your new dog as a priority. It is never too early to start recall training.

A strong recall can help to keep both you and your dog safe. It can give you the confidence to take your dog out to new places and to also spend time exercising and playing with them off the lead. Before you get carried away though and decide to let your dog loose out in the countryside or even just at the local park you must nail the basics.

  • Start recall training from a young age
  • Start inside the house with very few distractions
  • If your garden is secure then practice your training in the garden
  • As your dog begins to get the hang of training add in more distractions – but stay home or in a secure field that you have sole use off
  • Use training aids like longlines when you start to venture out
  • Work out if you dog is driven by food or by something else like toys, and use that for positive reinforcement every time they respond the way you want them to
  • Avoid reacting negatively if your dog doesn’t listen, just go back a step, simplify things and start again
  • Don’t always make recall about being put back on the lead – reward your dog, give them another job to do when they come back to you, let them go and explore again etc
  • Bullet proof recall training is likely to take longer than you think but it is worth it in the long run

What are longlines?

Longlines are one of the best ways that you can give your dog more freedom and space to run around whilst keeping both them and you safe. Your dog can venture further away from you than they can when on a standard lead, you can let them explore to the ends of the line and then practice your recall knowing that if they don’t respond you are still in control and can quickly get your dog close again without them being able to run off. Most longlines come in a range of lengths, anywhere between 5 metres and 20 metres long, so you can really get in that practice at a good distance.

Distance and distractions will make it more of a challenge for your dog to respond the way you want them to, so build up over time to give your dog the best possible chance of success.

Why is recall so important?

A dog that doesn’t respond to you and doesn’t know what to do when you call them back to you is a dog that isn’t safe. Not every dog that you meet out on walks will be well behaved, some dogs could be aggressive or could become aggressive if they feel threatened. Even the most well behaved and soft natured dog could put yours at risk if the right, or rather wrong, set of circumstances should come together.

Dogs off lead with poor or no recall are also at risk from getting lost if you are out walking in unsecure areas, not to mention the potential risk to them if they were to run out into traffic. Of course, a bullet proof recall isn’t just about when you are out walking your dog. It can also be used in your own home when you have visitors round or if the doorbell sounds and you need you dog to come back to you so that you can secure them and not have them dash out of the door or worry your visitors.

A strong recall helps your dog to know what ‘job’ it is that you need them to be doing, it allows them to feel safe and when taught the correct way they know that coming back to you, when called, is a positive experience for them.

Every dog owner should take recall training seriously and until you and your dog master it, it is much safer for everyone for your dog to be kept on the lead.