The Easiest & Most Effective Way to Teach Recall

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Mr. Krumm

Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 6:59am PST 
I went out and bought a 100 foot rope and want to teach Krumm some recall! Woooo My question is how should I start? In his obedience class he took when he was younger, he learned 'Front' which he would come to if he was in a sit/stay and focusing. It was supposed to be recall if you needed it. I tried it with him in the yard, and he came a couple times, but as soon as he learned I wasn't holding any food, he would decide to stay put. So if anyone has any suggestions, then I'd appreciate it! Thankssmile

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 7:09am PST 
Really Reliable Recall:

Augusta, CGC

Such a good dog!
Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 8:22am PST 
Ah, a great systematic approach, Asher! We need to work on this too! Thanks!smile


I like wet, fowl- smelling things
Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 9:53am PST 
I know Pam Dennison's Really Reliable Recall is thought to be a good approach but I have a few major problems with it.

1. I am 100% against using the dog's name as part of a cue/command. Recall should be a single unique sound not dog's name then sound.

2. "Come" is a very weak word to use for recall. I strongly recommend using a whistle. Not a dog whistle but a regular, plain old referee's whistle. If you prefer to use a word something like "Here" is much better than "Come"...it is easier to say loudly, sharply and distinctively....but still nothing is better than a whistle.

3. She does not emphasize enough the value of classical conditioning (think Pavlov). She mentions it but it has almost singular importance when laying the foundation and as an intermittent reminder.

ETA: I realize the article is really a summary and not a training protocol but I just totally disagree with her basic approach when talking about a really reliable recall....maybe we have a different notion of what's really reliable.

Edited by author Sat Apr 24, '10 9:54am PST


Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 9:56am PST 
Nick, then what would you DO differently?

The Angel that- stole my heart
Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 10:00am PST 
Nick: What would you suggest instead?

I like wet, fowl- smelling things
Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 10:21am PST 
Here a basic summary I posted a long time ago for how to get started training recall:


In the beginning, never call your dog if you have any doubt that he’ll return to you. So assume (until he is trained) if he is doing something he loves that he won’t and go get him.

In the beginning, never call your dog for something that he may consider unpleasant like to go inside and stop playing, a bath, etc. Don’t chase your dog (unless you are playing a game unrelated to recall).


Start with classical conditioning: Use a whistle. It is a unique sound, is neutral, has no inflection and is easy for a dog to hear at any distance. “Charge” the sound of the whistle. “Charging” is another way of saying - give him something for nothing - just so he associates the recall cue with something great. Think Pavlov. Here’s what you do:

Wait until he is in the same room with you, perhaps just lying around, as long as he is not engaged with you in any way - blow your whistle and reward him immediately….repeat that 5-6 times. The whole process should take no more than 10-15 seconds. At this point the dog is not moving you have gone to him and done this. Don’t say anything and when you’re done go sit down again or go about what you were doing. Do this sequence 3-4 times during the day. The concept is something for nothing and you are conditioning him to the sound of the whistle. Do this for 3-4 days.

Then for the next 2-3 days while you are in the same room with him blow the whistle but let him come to you. Do that 2-3 times and 3-4 times/per day. Again, don’t say anything. The next day, blow the whistle when you are in a different room, let him come to you. Jackpot him (5-8 pieces of treat given one at a time), don’t say anything but a little while later do it again when you are in different rooms. Do that 4-5 times during the day. Next hide in your house somewhere (don’t make it too difficult) and blow the whistle, make him find you. Do that a few times over a couple of days.

Don’t skip any steps….don’t think just because the dog is performing well/responding quickly that you can move ahead more quickly – you are building a lifetime association between the sound of the whistle and recall…take your time.

In the first weeks of training, every time your dog starts to come to you spontaneously for any reason blow your whistle and when he arrives “jackpot” him. For instance, you just got home from work, you know he is going to greet you anyway, well, whistle and jackpot! During this early training time make sure your practice daily and often. Think how many times a day formally and informally you practice “sit” with your dog and that's the easiest of cues. Recall is the hardest and often the least practiced.

Think of it this way: If he gets a cookie for sitting on cue in the living room he should get a case of cookies for coming when called. That’s the difference. Sitting in the living room is easy for the dog. He is comparing it to the fact he really wasn’t doing anything too interesting anyway or something he could get back to as soon as he finished the cookie. But outside if he stops to return to you the squirrel he was chasing will get away. So that return is worth a lot more than a cookie, maybe more than a case of cookies unless he gets to chase squirrels a lot.

When you are confident he is responding fast in the house. Go outside to an enclosed area (like a fenced backyard) with no distractions. As soon as you are outside give the command and treat a couple of times, something for nothing, this is priming him. Now start to play a game he likes and in the middle of it when he is close to you blow your whistle and jackpot, then keep playing. This becomes a daily thing for awhile. He begins to learn that coming to you doesn’t end fun things it just adds some benefit in the middle. Of all the reactions you get from your dog you want him to remember the reward for recall and anticipate it when he hears the recall cue. If you go to the dog park, just before you go in use your recall cue and reward twice, leave that as his last memory before you open the gate. Gradually, add distance and then distractions, never add both at the same time. Go slowly. By the way, the reward/treat should be something you only use for recall training and be very high value! Do not train any other behaviors with it. Make it special.

ETA: Don't want to make this too long but if you want a detailed protocol through advanced off-lead training send me a pmail.

Edited by author Sat Apr 24, '10 10:23am PST


The Angel that- stole my heart
Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 10:31am PST 
Second question: When does the verbal cue come in?

You know you- want to pet me
Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 10:57am PST 
I followed Pamela Dennison's method (not to a T, but just enough) and it is very effective.
I started Mikey out on a 30 ft lead, in a very low distraction environment. I first worked on sit/stay/come-down/stay/come. I'd stand back a few feet and when he would respond to "MIKEY COME"! 100 % I would then step back a few more feet and do it again until he was responding 100% and then back up, eventually being at the end of the 30 ft lead.
I did this every single night last summer until I could drop the lead and walk 50-60 ft away and call him. Handing out treats and praise with every response.
I would call him with the excitement of a wildly happy person( enough so that I was always looking around to see if someone was giggling at my antics). The second I called, he'd come screaming in my direction with a big 'ol smile across his face. When he got to me he got a handful of yummy treats and lots of "good boy".
When you call for your dog, you've got to make it sound like he's won the doggy lottery. Make it fun for your dog to go to you.
Then when I was done with the super structured aspect of it, we'd go walking on the 30 ft lead and as he's sniffing and walking, I'd randomly call, "MIkey Come". He'd spin around, come trotting to me and get treats and praise. I still do that on our regular walks.
Every, single night that was our routine. If he didn't respond, I'd wait 15 seconds or so, call again and if he didn't come, I'd slowly real in the lead and take him in a different direction to let him know that he needs to come in my direction.
Eventually I upped the distraction level (we were at a soccer field and sometimes people would be playing on one end of the field) and ran through the same thing. In between I'd throw the ball to break up the routine.
I then worked it up to the point to where when we were walking on the 30 ft lead, if he even looked at me, he got treats and heavy, happy praise. When he walked by me (not necessarily coming to me) I would casually hold out my hand with treats in it and he'd take them. Every single time he came my way, my hand already had treats in it and he'd come take them.
Sometimes he'll be behind me sniffing and I'm still walking and without me calling him, he'll come trotting by on his way to sniff something up ahead, but he comes right to me to get his treats I have in my hand at my side.
What that has created is him always keeping his eye on me and sticking close.
So now what I work on with him is taking him to the one and only field that has no dogs, letting him off leash and just walk and throw the ball and as he's sniffing, I'm walking and next thing I know, I hear him running up from behind coming to get his treat. He never wanders far because he knows that I'm always good for a yummy snack.
I also will wait until he seems to be focused on something and I'll call him. I want him to be able to break his concentration and come when called. I don't call when the distraction is too great since we've not gotten that far.

Recall is fun, but take baby steps so you're not confusing your dog. You may not want to start out with such a long lead.

Edited by author Sat Apr 24, '10 10:58am PST

Sable Marie

-insert witty- phrase here-
Barked: Sat Apr 24, '10 11:16am PST 
Angel: If you're using a whistle to teach recall there is no verbal command, I believe. The whistle IS that command. You hear the sound and come running to mommy or daddy to see what you get/what they want.

I like the idea of a whistle, the sound will be consistent. I mean that's the way my mother trained me. If I was outside and heard her whistle it was time to go home laugh out loud Had she used my name I'd have been in trouble a loooot. Have you ever been playing with friends and heard someone yell that name. 'Was that my name?' 'No...it sounded like someone else.' 'Okay! Back to the mudpie factory.'

Not to mention, the tone and sound of your voice can and probably will vary. If you're annoyed it can be difficult to make sure you don't sound angry.

The downside, I would say, is if you forget said whistle. Sable's clicker has been turned into a necklace so I don't lose it xD
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