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7 Secrets to Teaching a stubborn dog recall

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7 Best Tips to Teach a Stubborn Dog a Bombproof Recall

Everyone wants to have a dog that is a pleasure to walk right? One that comes back when you call, follows you along happily where ever you go, loves to play with other dogs but know when to stop and continue on the way with you. But why do so many people struggle with this? 

Many people are too afraid to even let their dog off lead incase they don’t come back to them, but dogs absolutely love to run and there is nothing more rewarding thanks seeing your dog run freely off lead, able to express themselves and the reward when they choose you over every other distraction is huge.

A bombproof recall isn’t established over night, it is certainly something that has to be taught and practiced and tried and tested.

Many years ago we rescued our very first dog. He was a very cheeky 10 month old big and boisterous cross breed who had previously had no training at all. Little did I know about training at all really in those days and certainly knew nothing about a reliable recall. Our first walk out with him we made the mistake of letting him off the lead in what I would recognise now as the worst possible area for a first off lead run. It was highly distracting, a busy, sunny day with children, dog walkers, horse riders, picnics, various roads crossing through and a golf course!!!

Needless to say, it was an absolute disaster and this dog could run and run, there was no stopping him. He did laps of the golf course, repeatedly pinching golf balls just as golfers were about to tee off with their expensive balls, making several golfers swear and shout at us. It took a couple of hours of chasing, bribing and several members of the public who kindly volunteered to help retrieve him by which point everyone was utterly exhausted not to mention embarassed by the whole ordeal.

From that day I have made it my mission to discover everything about recall so not to be faced with this situation ever again. With him, it talk months of intense training on a long line to establish reliability in the recall but we got there eventually which was such an achievement, he was fantastic. It made me realise that if our dogs are given the right foundation from day one this process is so much easier and although a poor recall can always be improved if you start a puppy off well you are already 10 steps ahead in the process. 

Want to hear an embarassing story?

Does Your Dog have a Poor Recall?

  • The bottom line is, a poor recall is when your dog will not come back to you when you ask them to. They may stay near by but do a runner when its time to put their lead back on. Perhaps they have quite a good recall until there is something more interesting to them such as other dogs to distract them and then all hearing seems to go out the window.
  • Recall is the number one command that is more important than any other and could literally save your dogs life, yet so many dogs recall fails time and time again.

Why do some Dogs just not seem to Listen?

There could be many reasons for a poor recall including:

  • poor foundations as a puppy or bad habits learnt for various reasons
  • the reward of the distraction is higher than the reward of coming back to you
  • miscommunication, simply not understanding the verbal cues you are giving
  • too much communication causing the dog to switch off and not listen
  • repetition of commands and cues innocently teaching the dog to ignore cues
  • coming back to you signals end of the walk which means end of fun
  • pure stubbornness perhaps?

We don’t always know the reason why but we do know it’s immensely frustrating when you cannot fully trust your dogs recall. What is important here is no matter how bad your dogs recall, we can help you fix it and improve it today so keep reading!!

7 Best Tips to Teach a Bombproof Recall

Let’s take a look at 7 things you can do today to help you on the journey towards the all important bombproof recall.

Tip 1: Always use High Value Treats

  • recall is THE single most important command you can teach your dog.
  • make it worth while coming back for.
  • high value treats get their attention even when there are distractions on the field.
  • they include chicken, ham, hotdog, sausages, cheese, liver, tuna cake etc
  • always carry a treat bag with you so you have treats on hand when you need them.
  • a pick and mix variety bag of high value treats makes it even more appealing and worth working for.

Tip 2: Only Call their Name Once

  • by repeating your dogs name during recall, you are actually teaching them to ignore it.
  • have patience and say their name ONLY once, loud and clear and wait and keep waiting, you can make a kissing noise to try and gain their attention.
  • always reward your dog when they come back even if it was a few minutes after you called them.
  • if they still haven’t come when you have waited, always follow through by either getting their attention some other way if you are near by by making a kissing sound or saying this way until they are nearer and more focused on you to come directly.
  • if they are highly distracted and you can’t get close to them walk away briskly in the opposite direction rather than following after them.
  • often when they realise you have disappeared or seeing you moving away, they will come running and always reward them the moment choose to start running towards you.

Tip 3: Get the Recall Timing Right

  • set your dog up for success and try to only call them when you know they are going to come.
  • avoid recalling as soon as you have let them off the lead.
  • avoid recalling them when they are busy sniffing around or mid-play with other dogs.
  • anytime they are running towards you say their name and recall cue.
  • when you are first practicing, keep recall distances quite short and recall when they are running back towards you and not away from you.
  • as your recall gets more established you will be able to work on progressing it to all situations but this is how you start off on the road to success.

Tip 4: Be the Most Exciting Thing on the Field

  • In order for your dog to want to come back to you, you have to be more exciting than everything else on the field.
  • When they are near to you, they need to feel like is is the best place to be.
  • Always take a goody bag/rucksack with you obviously with high value treats but also some favourite toys engage them with.
  • When they are close to you, not only can you treat them but you can pull ou a favourite tug to play with for a few moments or use a toy that squeaks to get their attention.
  • Let them hear excitement in your voice. If you sound boring to be with , chances are you are boring to be with so sound fun and engaging so your dogs brain releases “feel good” happy chemicals when they are with you.

Tip 5: Lead the Direction of the Walk

  • It is so common to see owners following around after their dogs or even repeating the same old circuit on their walk every day.
  • You are the leader and you should decide which way the walk is going.
  • Walk assertively as if you are expecting your dog to follow you.
  • Keep each walk interesting by changing directions, do a different route each time but also keep your dog on its toes by being unpredictable so they have to pay attention to where you are and where you are going all of the time.
  • if your dog heads off in another direction, you can use a phrase such as “this way then” to encourage them to follow you. This is not a direct recall but still a useful command to get them to stay with you.

Tip 6: Always Reward when your Dog Checks In with You

  • You don’t just need to reward your dog when you call them
  • Your dog needs to feel that being with you is the most amazing place for them to be.
  • A “check in” is any time they run up to you or near to you, throw them a treat and give verbal praise.
  • Even reward eye contact with you as this shows they are focused on you and where you are going.
  • Be generous with your treats to reinforce positive behaviours.

Tip 7: Avoid the Lead Signalling the End of the Walk

  • All too often you see dogs with amazing recalls until the point where it’s time to go home. The lead comes out and the dog is no where to be seen or starts doing circuits of the field.
  • There is one simple way to avoid this and that is to remove the signal that lead means end of walk and end of fun.
  • At various points throughout your walk, recall your dog and put them back on their lead, practice a few figures of eight of loose lead walking and then release again.
  • This completely and quickly devalues the signal that lead means the fun is going to end.
This shows two of our Happy Hounds puppies demonstrating a phenomenal recall at just 4 months old on a field with lots of distractions.

In Conclusion

  • Recall is the single most important command you can teach your dog.
  • It’s never too late to teach a bombproof recall to any dog and these simple tips that are so easy to implement into your walk will help you well on the way.
  • Don’t just settle for a dog with poor recall, things can be so much better and your walks can be so much more enjoyable.
  • First steps . . . put these 7 easy tips into practice today to see some awesome results!!
  • To learn more, take a look at our WELCOME HOME PUPPY COURSE filled with all the help you need to establish tat bombproof recall!
  • Still struggling? We will be back very soon with how to take it a step further for dogs who really need more assistance!!

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