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Come when Called (Recall) Training

by Anne-Marie Mayes

Training your dog to come when called, a.k.a. recall training, is one of the main reasons people come to see a trainer. I want to quickly give you a run down on how to train a successful recall but I would like to further discuss the location that you want to recall your dog as well as where you practice.

For the first step, start indoors with your dog on leash. When you call their name, take a few steps backward and when they move toward you, reward with a high value treat. Repeat this step several times until they are instantly turning and moving toward you when you call their name. Next, repeat the same exercise outdoors in the yard or another familiar environment that will not be too overstimulating for your dog.

When practising recall, many people want to focus on how far away they can be from their dog but the true challenge for most dogs is the amount of distraction. Instead of getting farther away from your dog, I recommend staying close to your dog on leash at first and changing the environment and distraction level. Practice on walks and in a variety of different locations before moving to the next step.

Once your dog can come to you on their regular leash in a distracting spot, we can start to build distance so the dog will come when called from farther away. I recommend using a long line or two leashes clipped together and again starting in an easy environment such as in your home or yard.

It is important to practice for the situations where your dog struggles as well. I recently met with a client who was having issues getting their dog to come in the house after being out in the yard. They had practised recall before but not for this particular situation. I recommended that they start with recall on a long line in the back yard and once the dog comes, releasing them back to go play. This way the dog learns that being caught in the yard doesn't mean the fun is ending.The owners had also made coming when called into a fun game by calling the dog back and forth between them and rewarding. They report that the dog is now doing much better with recall in the yard.

I myself had a realization when I was trying to get Tulip to come to me from down the driveway in my front yard. Tulip's recall is good while we are walking on my trails as I have treats with me and am always interacting with the dogs (we practice parkour, walking skills or tricks).  When we are in the front yard I do not recall or interact with the dogs as much as they like to sniff.  My advice to myself is to interact and reward more behaviours with Tulip in the front yard.

If I am unable to keep Tulip's attention as much as I like, I will have her drag a long line so I can catch her more efficiently.

The conclusion from my examples, is that recall (or training in general) needs to be practised many times and in many locations in order to be reliable when you need it


For more on this topic, check out our Podcast Episode all about recall training on YouTube, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

dogs coming to owner when called

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