Photo by Jacob Henry

Why do dogs need a good recall?

A good recall is essential for dogs to live a more free, less restricted life. Being able to run on the Portrush beaches, leap through the Coleraine forests or bound through the sand dunes of Portstewart can give a peaceful sense of wellbeing, especially to our very high energy dogs. Similar to us humans, exercise can be really beneficial to both the mental and physical health of our dogs. A good recall is what keeps our dogs safe when exercising. They may need to recall away from other dogs or people, come away from a dangerous situation like abandoned rubbish, and return to you to get their lead put back on to go home.

1. Find your dog’s favourite reward

This can be very much individual to each dog. For some it may be food- chicken/sausages/pineapple/pizza crusts. For others it may be toys, chasing a ball or frisbee or playing a game of tug. For some dogs the ultimate reward is getting to run free again, or go splash in water. Find what your dog’s ultimate reward is and save it for recalls, keep it special.

See Tug-E-Nuff for fun tug toys. I like tug for a reward because the fun carries on beyond the recall and makes it a more interactive experience. You can use the code “Causeway” to get 10% off your first order at Tug-E-Nuff.

mini american shepherd dog playing with tug-e-nuff toy

2. Use a long line while training

What gets practiced gets repeated! If your dog practices not coming back when called, they’re going to keep doing it. A long line is a great halfway house between a short lead and off lead. They can have some more freedom on a long line but you can still reel them in if needs be. You can start by holding the long line for some security, then as they prove themselves you could let the long line trail and step on it if you need to stop their escape. This is only applicable to a long line, not a retractable/ flexi-lead. You can’t easily reel a flexi-lead back in so it won’t help with this stage of your recall training.

See The Dog Co for waterproof long lines which are handy for your beach recall outings!

3. Never tell them off when they come back

I know it can be really frustrating when you have called and called and they have essentially given you the middle finger and run off in the opposite direction, but when they eventually come back, you cannot tell them off. If you tell them off when they do actually come back they’ll think “well, if I’m going to get told off for coming back, I’ll just not come back at all!”. You don’t have to give them a big reward for coming back if they really didn’t deserve it, but a quick bit of praise won’t damage the desire to come back next time. Then when they come back willingly dish out the big rewards.

4. Practice in low distraction areas first

Think about the 3 Ds of training- distraction, distance and duration. Teaching a recall is like learning to drive a car, you start off really slow, for short periods in an empty carpark. 3 Ds all ready low. This allows you to learn the skills without too much brain processing going on at once. Once each of the areas is more fluent the level of each D is gradually increased. If you go out to East Strand, Portrush on a sunny summers day to start teaching your recall it will probably all fall apart because there’s too many distractions, too much for the brain to process at once. When all the recall skills have been developed individually then you can build up to that high distraction environment. Recall on a Portrush beach in summer is like taking your driving to the motorway. You’ve got to be confident all the skills are there! Have a look at Breckagh Dogs Grooming and Daycare, they have a secure field to rent which is a great place to start your training.

5. Teach good impulse control

Impulse control is definitely a factor in your dog’s ability to recall. The ability to ignore other dogs and people, picnics, smells, excitement. This kind of training can start away from your walks so you can positively impact your recall with a short session while waiting for the kettle to boil! Try these videos on teaching eye contact and leave it on our Youtube page.

Eye contact: Teach your dog to give eye contact – YouTube

Leave it: Train your dog to Leave It! – YouTube

6. Use a specific recall cue

How many times do you say your dog’s name in a day? How often does it result in a reward? If we use our dogs’ names as their recall cue as well, it can be very easy for the name to be white noise in the background. I recommend using a separate cue for recall. It could still be their name but said in a higher pitch to normal, or a fun nickname. Reef gets Reef around the house but Reeeefy for a recall. It could be a whistle or other distinctive noise. To teach your chosen cue as a recall you can pair it with your dog’s favourite reward. Use the cue, follow it up immediately with the reward and repeat. Try to reward all recalls at the start. Once coming back is reliable you can start to switch up how often the reward comes, but that’s down the line!

Need extra help?

Send me an email to find out how 1-1 training works, and how your dog could earn more off lead freedom.