How to train reliable Recall to a puppy
Every puppy is an individual with its own personality, character and preferred way of learning new skills and behaviours. While some puppies need a bit of a stronger leadership approach, others learn best during playtime with a lot of educational fun games.
Puppies are well known for their sometimes ultra short attention span and it’s hard for them to focus on a training exercise which requires a lot of repetitions until a skill or new behaviour is learned and ingrained into their being.
But when it comes to playing, puppies seem to have an infinite source of energy and concentration, so using games to teach reliable Recall is sometimes the best way to train them. It also applies for older dogs, who are playful and excited, why not teach them using cool fun games?
A reminder: No puppy or any other dog will listen to you if you don’t show any leader qualities, which means being calm and assertive even while playing educational games with them. Lets have a look together at some fun games to teach and reinforce the perfect Recall
But before we look at special games to teach your puppy reliable Recall, begin to train it using the following method.
– Call your puppy’s name.
– If it looks at you, entice your dog to come towards you.
– If your puppy ignores you, you might start to run around like a crazy human, pat your legs or the ground in front of you, squish a squeaky toy or make funny noises, all while you continue to keep your energy on a calm-assertive level.
– Say “come!“ just as the puppy is about to reach you.
Press your clicker or reconfirm with the marker word „yes!“
– Then gently grasp your puppy’s collar.
– Treat! Reward! Praise!
– Next, drop a treat on the floor near you.
– As soon as your puppy finishes eating the treat on the ground
– Say its name followed by a short break
– Say very clear: „Come!“
– And hope puppy understands if it returns to you there is a big chance for another treat toss.
– Repeat this a couple of times until you can begin tossing the treat a little further away,
– Toss a treat on the ground and
– Take a few quick steps away while
– Calling your puppy’s name followed by a short break and the command „Come!“
– Puppies should run after you because playing Chase me! is fun.
– When they catch you, give them a lot of praise, treats or play with a tug toy. Coming to you should always be fun!
Continue building on this game with longer distances and play in different environments.
Center of the Universe
This game is excellent for the initial step to train or refresh recall practice and is helpful to recondition name recognition.
You are the center of the universe where your dog always has to return to, so switch your Superhero mode on, assert a calm and assertive attitude and let the game begin!
Either have a clicker or, as I prefer, use an affirmative word: Yes!
Get the best and tastiest treats you have ready
Train it in an environment which is quiet, safe and as distraction free as possible.
Your dog can be on or off leash.
Ideally have name recognition trained already. You can find information how to train it HERE
– Toss a treat away from you in any direction. Your puppy should be happy to move toward it to eat it.
– Once it has eaten that first treat, speak out clearly its name.
– If it looks at you or moves towards you, reaffirm with an enthusiastic YES! or press the clicker and
– Toss another treat away from you in a different direction than the first.
Use their name to ask them to look at you or come towards you after each toss of the treat, until it becomes automatic for the puppy to look at you after you have called its name.
To increase the difficulty of this game, start tossing your treats further and further away or play on leash around outdoors where the distraction level is amplified.
While walking your puppy or dog on the leash, get its attention by calling its name, then turn around and run a few steps. As your pup moves with you, say in a clear way “come!” if this is your recall word. Make sure you pronounce hard on the first syllable (k-).
After a few steps, stop and reward your puppy with a treat, praise or short play.
Step 1 Beginner Level
– Get your puppy’s attention by calling its name.
– Then run away 10 to 15 steps from your dog.
– When your dog is chasing you, use an affirmative Yes! or press the clicker.
– Stop and face your dog.
– When it has caught up with you and reward it with a tasty treat.
Tip: If your puppy has no clue what to do when you are running away, use the tasty treat as a food lure— a sure way to get your puppy running after it.
Step 2 Intermediate Level
– Once your puppy or dog will easily follow the treat, add the command “come!”
– Reward, praise and repeat!
Now we hopefully have supercharged the command clue „Come!“ enough that we can jump to the next level.
Step 3 Advanced Level
If you have already trained your puppy to „Sit!“ and „Stay!“, now it is the perfect time to put it to use.
– Have your puppy or dog sit down in front of you and command it to „Stay!“.
– When your puppy is calm, slowly move a few meters away from your dog.
– Say your dogs name „Fluffy“ – wait one second, then the command clue „Come!“ If your dog is focussing on you the whole time, then there is no need to call it by its name again.
– If your dog starts to move towards your direction, start praising it with „Good job!“ or „Good boy!,“ encouraging it to continue to run towards you.
– If puppy has no clue what you want from it, try to play it with having a leash on.
– Give it a gentle tuck with the leash, but never pull it towards you.
– If it starts moving towards you, immediately start praising it.
– If your dog still remain immovable like a statue, back to Step 1 of this game and continue charging up the „Come!“ clue. It is important to set up your dog for constant success and not failure. Baby steps forward!
Pro Tip: I always use a long 5 meter leash with my client’s furry friends, when I introduce this game to them.
Once your puppy dog has gotten the hang of recall, you can reaffirm it and build speed by calling it from another room. When your dog finds you, offer lots of praise and rewards.
Not only when Benny was a puppy he loved to play hide-and-seek, and even now, as a senior dog, he still sometimes asks me to play his favourite game.
Puppy Ping Pong
Why not train your puppy together with your partner and family members and friends? It’s a fun game for everyone.
– Hand out to every player a stash of training treats and spread out around the room or in a fenced yard.
– Stand still
– Start with one person calling the dog by its name, wait an instant, and then say the recall cue „Come!“ just once.
– Everyone else stays still which any puppy finds very boring.
TIP: If the puppy is too overly focussed on some players, it is wise to turn their back to the puppy.
– The person who called the dog needs to emit complete calm-assertive energy to reinforce its status as leader. But puppies are still puppies and often do whatever they want instead of running towards the person who called it.
– Without forgetting that one’s superhero mode is still on, the player can do whatever is necessary to get the puppy to come.
This can be for example:
* Running a bit towards the dog, enticing it get off its ass and run towards the player.
* Sometimes making kissy noises, clapping or patting the ground might do the trick.
* Be creative, especially if you are dealing with a very young puppy. Try acting like there is a yummy on the ground in front of them and pretend to eat it „Hmmm, look at this! Yummy!“
– When the puppy is finally convinced to run to that person, reward it with a big treat, praise and lots of cuddles. „Well done!!!“
– Then this player’s turn ends when he/she turns off its superhero mode and disengages with the dog by saying “okay” or “all done!”
– The player stands still and acts boring.
– Now a different person takes their turn, switches on his/her superhero mode, assumes leadership and repeats the same thing!
As your puppy hopefully soon starts to get the gist of the game, you can start taking turns faster. Sometimes puppies get really into it, play it over and over always with more excitement and thus will be super happy and tired once the game is over.
Learn in Part 4 of this long blog about „How to train the Perfect Recall“ a lot of tips and tricks to increase the speed and accuracy of learning reliable Recall. Also learn how to recall your dog using only visual examples and how to get your dog to rush back to you when it hears your whistle. You can find Part 4 here.