Reliable Recalls in Less Than a Minute a Day?

Sounds too good to be true? While it may take months (or, depending on the breed, age, and individual dog), even longer to develop a...


Sounds too good to be true? While it may take months (or, depending on the breed, age, and individual dog), even longer to develop a really reliable recall, the steps involved in training this behavior are not actually that time-intensive and are generally so easy a five year old could teach a dog to come reliably when called. Training a reliable recall only takes commitment and practice, requiring rather little time or money to get started.

Today, we’ll talk about preparing for training. Next time, we’ll talk about beginning training steps.

I like to use a whistle for my recall signal. I like my whistle (which is exactly like this one for the same reasons I like a clicker as an event marker. It is:

  • Consistent sounding – sounds the same no matter who uses it. You could call my dogs if you knew the signal, and it would sound exactly the same as if I whistled for them.
  • Unemotional – never angry, sad, happy
  • Unique – never heard in conversation or any context other than recall

While I have a number of whistles (attached to lanyards, my key chain, my treat bag, etc.), I followed these same steps to condition a verbal recall signal in case I happened not to have my whistle with me. If you use a verbal signal, you should try to make sure that it meets all three criteria listed above. You should pick a short (one or two syllable) word or phrase with strong, staccato, consonant sounds, something you can say loudly and clearly, even when your mouth is dry. If you choose to use a whistle and are, like me, prone to losing nearly everything, make sure that you buy a lot more whistles than you think you’ll need. A regular whistle will do just fine – you don’t need a special “dog whistle” of any sort. If you can actually whistle with your mouth (in which case, you are more talented than I) and would like to use that instead of a regular whistle, you should first make sure that you are able to whistle even when your mouth is dry, and the whistle signal must be one that can be replicated by all family members who may need to recall the dog.

For the training, you’ll need a variety of delicious treats or whatever your dog’s favorite reinforcements are. I recommend selecting 2 – 4 wonderful reinforcements for this exercise and only making these reinforcers available in recall training sessions. These reinforcers must be something your dog goes bonkers over and is really excited about – tennis balls, tug games, liverwurst, steak, fried chicken, whatever it is that really floats his proverbial boat.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow we start training!

2 thoughts on “Reliable Recalls in Less Than a Minute a Day?”

  1. Saw this as I was wanting to know if my dog could be hurt by sonic thingy to stop barking,,,I’ve three wee dogs,,two Tibetan terriersand a rescue dog that was getting returned over and over and resold over and over by nasty money makers bringing in dogs from Romania,,,I didn’t know this till after I had bought her and immediately knew things were not as advertised,,she is a Hungarian puli aged about 8 according to the vet who checked her over and her teeth are an indicator,,,apparently,
    She has food possession aggression fears,,I’ve learned The hard way as she grabbed and held onto the ankle of my 18 month old grandson and I had to prise her teeth off,,gladly no damage but def a very scary time and she did similar with our 22 month old grandson whose dad lifted his wee boy from sleeping on sofa and dog flew up and grabbed his foot and wouldn’t let go,,,analysing all event s imrealised both times the dog had a rawhide treat which she wasn’t eating but saving and thought it was in danger of having it taken off it so attacked, the children had no puncture marks or even dents but it was a hard job I had to get her to let go,,,such was her fear of losing her food,,,she was a street dog taken in and bred then thrown out after a broken paw,
    This older dog has dominated the others and because she is highly alert at all,times and she barks fast and constant when worried or a sound trigger it means the others copy her and with me having developed anaphylactic reactions unknown I have spent five months in hospital over 14 times in 999 situations and as I’ve disablement now and weaker I can’t sustain the training excercise as I did with the Dalmatian who was wonderfully obedient,,,sadly now deceased,
    I’ve recently had a complaint to the council about the dogs barking when left alone at home,,,because I’ve been in hospital,and husband at work whereas I’m usually here 24/7 so no way to stop them barking when the postman comes or if they see the squirrels running up and around the great tree across from our window, we pulled the blinds and closed the curtains even using clothes pegs to keep them closed but it’s a huge picture window,,eleven feet wide and six feet high and tHey eventually figure out how to get to the window sills and if another dog form another street barks,,it sets her off and the others join in…
    I’ve never been one for anger or any physical,punishment,, I was a childminder who advocated kindness in training children but I’m so stressed out I need help but a trainer for three dogs,,,,I don’t think I could ever afford it,, now I’ve had cancer surgery 13years ago leaving me with health problems and now this month have had bad news of another one and I might not be so fortunate so I need to train these dogs to be ready to respond and to not be so excitable triggered by one another,,,any ideas,,,I’m in Clydebank 7 miles from Glasgow in our own property which is an ex council four in block home with us having both front and back garden,,,any advice or recommended people who could help me to do better because they are clever dogs,, it’s me who needs to know how to deal with them
    Thanks for a great newsletter with great and relevant articles

    Wilma Colquhoun. 60 yr old Nana.

    1. Hi Wilma,
      We suggest contacting a professional trainer and a behaviorist. These articles might help, too:

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