What is a reliable Recall?
“Reliable recall” means that when you call your dog to come, you are 99.99% sure it is going to enthusiastically respond and obey.
Having a reliable recall is a potential life saving behaviour and is especially important if you want to allow your dog to run around off-leash outside of a fenced yard or in the dog park. Reliable recall is also important in the event of an emergency.
Basic Pre-Training preparation
Name Recognition Training
Teaching a dog its name sounds like an oxymoron. Of course, my dog knows its name you might say. But did you condition it the right way?
Educating your dog to listen to its name is the crucial first step in every obedience class and it’s not an easy but an important one. Once your dog reacts to its name, it will allow you to have much better communication and control of your dog, so you can guide it safely on your life journey together.
Calling the dog by its name is not a command. The moment your dog hears its name, it should stop whatever it is doing, look and focus on you, because your dog knows that being called by its leader is the best thing in the world.
Once your dog listen to its name and looks at you, it is ready to be taught the reliable Recall.
Grab my Collar!
What is the perfect Recall for you? Everyone has a different view and preference how his/her dog should return to them when called.
When I call back my dogs, I want them to return to me immediately, sit down in front of me calmly, so that I am able to grab their collar and if necessary leash them. Only after they are completely calm and I have been able to secure them, then there will be a great reward and lots of praise.
As it is utterly important to set up your dog’s training in a way which allows your dog to be successful every time it repeats a trained behaviour or skill, it is crucial not to overload it with too many things at the same time.
This is why I recommend to train „Grab my collar“ already before you even begin reliable Recall training.
Training your dog the skill to remain calm and allow you to touch its collar is not difficult after your furry friend has learned how to sit.
Instead of rewarding him immediately with a tasty treat, wait a moment and slowly move your hand towards its collar and touch it, even for just a second only. Do not hold your dog or try to leash it, until it has become comfortable with you touching its collar.
After the touch, praise and reward your dog until it’s natural for your dog that it only gets its treat after you touched its collar. Later practise the same by putting on a leash.
It is of utter importance that you don’t make the mistake to recall your dog, have it sit down, leash it and then drag it away from the fun at the dog park to go home immediately. If your dog learns to associate that calling it back would mean that it gets leashed and all the fun it just had chasing the cat will stop, be sure, it will not listen any longer to you.
Instead of leading your dog away, after having rewarded it for coming back and leashed it, enjoy with your furry buddy a few more minutes of playtime. Maybe a quick Chase me! game while your dog is on the leash, or a few minutes of rough play-fighting. Whatever your dog loves. Because of this, the reliable Recall has ended on a very positive note for the dog who is the next time even more eager to return to you.
Setting up clear communications
A clear line of communication between you and your dog is crucial for fast training progress.
The first part of the actual Recall consists of calling out your dog’s name with a clear and steady voice, even when you shout at it from a distance to get heard. Don’t use any of the many cute and sweet nicknames you gave him. When you recall your dog, even you can predict a possible dangerous situation coming up, try to have the calm-assertive energy in your voice, without fear or any other emotions, so that your dog feels that its leader is calling its name. Your dog knows, this is the best possible thing for me and I know now good things will happen.
Only because of this conditioned response, hearing the alphas voice, had enabled him to find his place in the structure of your integral relationship. Your dog knows that whatever it is, it can trust its leader completely and out of the trust which had strengthened overtime between your dog and you, respect had grown. Because of this clear and strong hierarchical structure where you and your dogs position are clearly defined, your dog’s highest pleasure is to follow its leader and be near him.
If you have built up this integral relationship with your dog, any behaviour can be trained, even the perfect Recall.
Once you have called your dog by its name and it has stopped in its tracks, turned its head around and looks at you, you issue a command to call your dog back to you.
This command could be any word, but in the case of Recall it should be a short, one syllable word, which can also be shouted and which can be easily identified by your dog, even it is far away and surrounded by distracting noises.
I recommend you to use either „Come!“ or „Here!“ as they are both short and fits the criteria for a dog to understand it very well. Personally I prefer to recall my dogs with „Come!“ As dogs perceive sounds differently than humans, a sharp, short and hard sounds is more easy identifiable in dogs ears than any other sound. Thats why I use „Come!“ as the phonetic „K“ in come is very easy for a dog to understand and react instantly to it.
Only should out the Recall clue after a brief pause after you have called your dog by its name. „Benny!“ – pause – „Come!“
If you have visual contact with your dog, wait after calling its name until your dog turned its head in direction of your voice, and only then call him back. „Come!“
Choosing the right environment
Start the reliable Recall training in a slow, low-distraction environment, like inside your house.
If your house has large corridor, thats even more perfect as it limits your dogs options. Especially with puppies and their ultra short attention span its important that you train them in the beginning in an as distraction free environment as possible. Only once they have learned to come back to you, increase the difficulty by moving to a fenced garden or if not available, train your dog with a preferable long leash on.
Get your best treats ready!
I use oven dried thin chicken slices which is easy to make and they are my dog’s favourite treats in the world. Alternatively you can use any kind of meat or buy Fluffy’s preferred treat as the speed of success in training perfect Recall depends very much on how highly your dog values the food lure.
After I took the dried chicken slices out of the oven, I cut them into tiny pea sizes pieces and fill them into a box which I carry with me or ideally you can use a pouch strapped onto your belt.
Even your dog might disagree with you, but for rewarding size doesn’t matter, it’s the intensity of smell and taste which makes a treat a super high value one for your dog.
Before I start any training session I have my dogs sit and calm down their excitement, so that they are focusses on the training ahead. This is when I show them and reward them the super high value treats which I am carrying on me, so they know what’s in for them during this training session.
In terms of sense perception it is nose, eyes and only then ears for dogs, so smelling my super tasty oven baked chicken, is what keeps them going!
If your dog tends to be a bit on the chubby side, some sources recommend using low calorie treats like carrots or a dry biscuit as food lure for your dogs. I don’t recommend it for reliable Recall training as this is a potential life saving behaviour modification and not a simple skill to be learned.
No low value treat like a carrot or a dry biscuit will some close to tasty meat, sorry vegans out there to break it to you, but your dog is still a carnivore.
When I take out a chicken treat my dogs’ eyes follow my hands holding it, my dog’s nose soaks up the amazing smell of roasted chicken. In their evolutionary mind I, the alpha has the right to eat it first and have the best bites from the hunted prey, which is now in my treatsbox dangling from my belt.
The leader decides who eats next after him/her and when, so this might be your lucky chance Fluffy, to show your pet parent the perfect Recall and get this mouth watering, yummy chicken. Good boy!
But not only chicken treat ranks high on the all-times-favorite menu. There is also space for cheese bites, beef or liver and also those turkey infused cookies. Yummy!
“Special” treats like cheese or dog biscuits are good to use in the first few days of training to get your furry friend interested in the exercises. Once it has progressed on the way you can downtune the value of the treats a bit and replace then with regular dog cookies, so that you reserve those extra high value treats for new skills or behaviour modification like the perfect Recall.
The highest reward: Giving yourself!
Dog training is not much different than educating human children. You always have to respond 120% to every positive thing they did with excitement and enthusiasm. Same as a football mum or dad accompanying their child to a school soccer match and watching it scoring a goal will not respond and show to their happy child a simple thumbs up, on the contrary, they jump up and down on their seats, radiating from afar how proud and happy they are of their child and shower it with an outburst of love and enthusiasm for the great achievement of their child.
Even if the Recall is still far from perfect, Fluffy stopped a few times, then decided to eventually come back but with a very low speed…it doesn’t matter!
Using the Integral Dog Evolution Approach, we always reward success and even a very tiny step towards achieving the goal is already a success and „Fluffy, well done!“
Forget all human thinking and our idea of perfection and linear success. Dogs, fortunately, are not like us and their thinking and behaviour is very different.
Sometimes dogs need a very long time to learn a new skill or new behaviour but then suddenly they seem to make a gigantic leap forward and solve at one point a few issues in their behaviour.
Evolution doesn’t progress in a linear way, but rather that progress seems to stagnate as force and pressure build up to a certain level before it jumps onto a new level by absorbing and integrating knowledge into one’s being.
Our impatience and tendency to punish failures has no place in a dog’s world, impatience because Fluffy still screws up in his Recall and venting anger and frustration disqualify you as a leader in your dog’s eyes.
So why should Fluffy come back to such a weak human, instead of continuing to chase the cat?
…and finally after a long introduction, here’s how to
HOW TO TRAIN THE PERFECT RECALL
In brief, for your dog to learn a reliable recall, you will need to follow these steps:
- Teach your dog the behavior.
- Make your dog think that coming when called is the best thing that happens in its life.
- Increase distractions gradually.
- Practice, reward, practice, reward, practice…
- Continue to reinforcing for life.
The Integral Recall Approach
Remember what I wrote in Part 1 of this Blog about „How to learn the perfect Recall“, about the two different camps, the „Leadership approach“ and the, as I call the „Bribery people“ or „Positive Only people“.
We have established already that both views are valid in their own right, both having still downsides, which we will look at in detail below.
The Integral Dog Evolution Approach leads both end of the line together and combines different approaches into one powerful and straightforward to teach the perfect Recall to any dog.
Let’s look first at the
Recall: Leadership Relationship Approach
We know already that Recall is not just a simple skill but a behaviour modification, so a few tasty treats are not enough to get a 100% perfect Recall overtime.
The Leadership Relationship Approach relies on your power as alpha and the admiration of your dog, just because it has accepted and trusts you as their leader because you display all the characteristics of a calm assertive leader and is happy to follow whatever you tell it to do.
I recommend you to use the following leadership based method in combination with several other bribery methods and also games to train your dog for a reliable Recall. It will take a lot of time, patience and energy, but being able to potentially save your dog’s life and have always perfect control over him, is worth the effort. Don’t think of days or even weeks to train your dog the perfect Recall, think of months and a life long of reinforcing this most important behaviour.
The method looks very simple and easy but it requires that you are able to emanate perfect assertive calmness and your dog trusts you as boss.
- Put a leash and collar on your dog.
- Stand a few feet away from it.
- Crouch to their level and say in a commanding clear and calm tone: “Come!” while gently pulling on the leash.
- When they get to you, reward your dog with affection and a treat.
Once your dog gets the hang of it, you can practice this exercise with a longer leash and eventually if you are in a safe, enclosed environment also without leash.
Recall: Bribery Treat based Conditioning
How does the perfect Recall look like?
Every dog parent has their own idea of how they want their little sweetheart to behave after it has been called back.
While for some it’s okay that Fluffy runs back towards them and excitedly greets their owner by jumping up and down, I prefer to put a system in place, which allows me to be able to put my dog back on the leash if a situation requires it.
The perfect recall for meconsists of a series of small steps.
My dog should
- Listen to its name and
- Stop doing whatever interesting thing it was just pursuing
- Look at me
- Listen for my command.
- Upon hearing „Come!“
- Instantly return to me.
- Sit down in front and
- Wait in a calm manner until
- I touch its collar or
- Leash it
- Rewarding it with a super tasty snack and
- Lots of praise for having executed a perfect Recall.
Charging up the Word Game
Pick the word you’d like to use. “Come!” is a good choice, but you could use any
word. If you have already tried to teach “come!” before, but failed, you may want to change to a different word. “Here!“ or “back!” are alternatives.
- Say the word “come!” like you would when asking your dog to come.
- Give to your puppy or dog a really high value treat, best of the best!
- Your dog doesn’t have to do anything.
- Repeat this 5 to 10 times.
- If possible practise twice a day for a whole week.
Through this for your dog super rewarding game you are turbo charing the command clue „come!“ and condition it into your dogs brain by associating it with top best treats.
Integrate training into your daily routines
If your dog is resistant to traditional training or easily distracted, try working recall training into your everyday’s lives!
It saves time and it always keeps your dog on alert that something cool and great will be happening, even when you seem to be distracted by doing some boring human things. So your dog never knows when suddenly 5 minutes of fun-time is coming up.
When you are ready to serve your dog’s lunch or dinner,
- Call its name,
- Say “come!“ and after it has approached, have it
- Sit down and patiently
- Wait for the biggest reward in the day: Their food bowl, full with yummy stuff.
- Place the food bowl a few meters away from your dog, then
- Say: „Okay!“, or „Go!“ to
- Signal your dog that now its allowed to approach the food and enjoy its dinner.
Puppy ready for a Walk?
When you grab your puppy’s leash to get ready for a walk, and
- It comes running to meet you at the door,
- Say “come!“ and
- Reward it with praise or a tiny treat, then
- Get ready to go for a walk.
With this your puppy will learn to associate that calling it always leads to a lot of fun walks with you.
Fetch! for Recall
While playing fetch, as your dog is running back with the frisbee or toy, say “come!“ and reward with praise and another toss of their toy.
This method is also helpful for dogs who are already Grade A students.
If you have multiple family members who take care of your dog, Fluffy needs to listen to every one of you. As you are training your dog to come, get everyone in your household and your friends involved. Take turns calling its name and command it to „come!“
Just don’t overwhelm your dog with too many voices! Introduce new “trainers” slowly and steadily.
Have your dog sit or down and stay while you prepare his dinner.
Continue to have your dog stay calmly while you take the dinner into another room.
Call your dog’s name and command it to „come!“
Dinner is the big reward!
The „Best Leader in the World“ Recall
- Say your dog’s name and call it to you.
- Reward it by getting down on the ground and
- Play, play, play and then cuddle with it for a while!
Nothing better than your dog getting rewarded with yourself!
Now as you have got a lot of methods and different approaches how to teach your dog a reliable Recall, it’s time for you to practice, practice, practice until Recall becomes second nature for your dog.
Recall Training is part of what I call “Yoga of the Dog”, which allows you to practise patience and self control. Always, remember that humans and dogs have evolved together the last 15.000 years and evolution has not stopped. Every day the evolutive bond and a relationship based on understanding, trust and respect between you and your dog(s) is getting stronger and deeper until you form an integral unity, being connected on levels we can’t put into words. This is the magic and the wonder of growing together in life with dogs around.
Trying to train your puppy the Perfect Recall? It’s not an easy task but an important one and it’s possible. Find in Part 3 of the “How to Recall my dog perfectly” Training, all you need and want to know how to teach your little friend to come back to you. Lots of games and fun can be found here.
Part 4 of this detailed program of “How to train the perfect Recall!” will contain lots of tips and tricks to supercharge your training and increase the speed and deepen the level of understanding. It will make you aware of common training issues and mistakes. You can find Part 4 of the reliant Recall Training here.
And least but not least Part 5 will teach you the perfect Recall based on visual clues only and also the use of a dog whistle in Recalling your dog back to you every time.