Recall Exercises

Coming when called is perhaps one of the most important exercises that your dog needs to learn as it is not only useful but essential for his/her safety. The following are some exercises to strengthen and instill this behavior.

Home Exercises It is important to begin teaching the recall in a low distraction environment as the behavior is more likely to occur and thus be rewarded. The dog's own house also provides a familiar and safe environment whereby to begin.

  1. Stand facing the dog, say ‘come' and back away about 8 feet while clapping your hands and praising the dog as he approaches. Stop, ask the dog to sit, gently take the collar and give him a treat. Once successful at 8 feet, increase the distance to 10 feet etc...

  2. Call the dog from a distance of 8 feet. Praise him as he comes toward you. Stop, ask the dog to sit, gently take the collar and give him a treat. If the dog does not come or shows indications of not coming, give a verbal reprimand such as ‘ah ah ah ah' while going to get him. Take him gently by the collar and bring him to the spot where you called him from. Ask for a sit, take the collar and reward with a food treat. Increase your distance as reliability increases.

Change the activity by doing a recall through your legs. As the dog arrives, toss a ball or other toy through your legs. This will increase the dogs motivation to come to you. Alternate the exercises to keep him guessing as to whether you'll throw something through your legs as the reward or give a food treat for a sit!

  1. Send the dog between two or three different persons in a room. Each person calls the dog, one at a time and asks for a sit on arrival, takes the collar and then rewards. That person then tells the dog to ‘go see (name of person)' The next person then calls the dog to him/her.

  2. Call the dog ‘fido come' from different rooms within the house. If dog comes, does a sit and allows you to take his collar then give a food treat. If the dog chooses not to come, make sure you go and get him and gently bring him to the spot where you called from, ask for a sit and then reward.

  3. Other exercises that can be done are as follows: Have one person with the dog's meal and call the dog toward you. If dog comes, then food bowl is put down as the reward.

Any situation whereby there is eagerness on the part of the dog, such as going out the door, getting a Rawhide chewie etc.. are invaluable to do a recall away from. The reward then becomes entrance out the door or getting the chewie..

  1. Once your dog can do all of the above exercises with good reliability, try practicing at other people's homes.

Outdoor Exercises

  1. If you have a fenced in backyard, have the dog on leash and practice your recalls by calling the dog toward you while you back up. Use plenty of praise. Ask for a sit, take the collar and food reward. Once he is reliable ‘on leash' you can practice the exercise ‘off leash'.

  2. When walking the dog, turn around and call the dog toward you while you back up. Use plenty of praise. Ask for a sit, take the collar and food reward.

  3. Take a long section of clothesline and attach firmly to the dogs collar. Go to an open area with no other distractions. Call the dog and praise as he is coming toward you. If he deters and does not respond, go get him and gently bring him back to the spot where you originally did the recall. Ask for a sit, take the collar and treat. Do not drag the dog toward you by the line. You want the dog to associate the experience as being pleasurable not unpleasant.

  4. Once he is reliable in the above exercises, add more distractions. For example go to places where there may be other dogs or people. Repeat the same procedure.

  5. Go to enclosed areas where you can safely have the dog off leash. Repeat the above by starting off with no distractions. Once reliable, add distraction.

  6. Call your dog off a moving target such as a ball. Begin by doing so while on leash. Roll the ball and as he begins to go toward it, say ‘fido come' and praise and treat when the dog sits in front of you. Do not allow the dog to get to the ball as he will be reinforced for ‘not' listening to you. Once reliable, practice ‘off leash'. As mentioned in the home exercises, any situation whereby there is eagerness on the part of the dog, such as going into the dog run or park, are invaluable to do a recall away from. The reward then becomes entrance to those areas.

Remember the following: a) the more you practice in all environments, the better and stronger the recall.

b) provide the verbal feedback the dog requires. Praise him throughout his coming toward you and 'verbally mark' him when he does not respond by saying 'ah ah ah'.

c) use ‘novel' food rewards along with praise. Extra special treats that the dog doesn't normally get such as liver treats, small pieces of cut up hot dogs etc..

d) go slowly, don't expect too much too soon. Initially keep dog on leash and distractions at a minimum. Only progress when the dog reliably ‘comes' on leash before doing ‘off leash' exercises.

e) as with all training, make it fun for both you and the dog. Don't train when frustrated or in a bad mood. Keep training sessions short and pleasurable.

f) while continuing to verbally praise, begin to decrease the amount of food rewards by asking for two recalls for 1 treat, then 3 recalls for 1 treat etc.. Do not begin to do this until recalls are quite reliable. Do not have high expectations. Do this gradually over weeks.

g) make it happen. If you ask for a 'come' and the dog chooses not to, it is up to you to get the dog and bring him to where you originally called.