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A ginger german spitz running back to the owner because of effective dog recall training

Dog Training 101: Recall Training & Rewards

When you call your dog, do they automatically respond to you? With reliable recall training, you can call your dog and they will always respond. This is considered a fundamental obedience skill that every dog needs to learn because you can use it in various situations. This skill can also save your dog’s life and keep people (or other animals) safe around your dog. 

There are certain techniques you can use for practical dog recall training. We will discuss all these and plenty more in this complete guide. 

Let’s get started! 

What Good Recall Looks Like in Dogs

When your dog has a reliable recall, you are 99.99% sure that they will respond enthusiastically to your call and be by your side. 

Even if it seems natural for dogs to come to you when called, consider the following situations:

  • If your dog sees a squirrel, a mailman, a car, a kid on a bike, and so on, can you count on calling or whistling so that they stop and come back?
  • If you are at a dog park and your dog has run off, can you count on calling or whistling to them so that they come back to you instantly? 

Some of you probably think that calling your dog to come back to you and leave other more stimulating elements is near to impossible. However, proper dog recall training makes this possible, thereby giving you added peace of mind and less strained vocal cords.   

Why Dog Recall Training is Important

As we mentioned earlier, reliable recall will keep your dog and other people safe. Your dog can also be stopped from checking out a thorny shrub or a poisonous chemical like antifreeze (which can be really appealing to both dogs and cats). In emergencies, you can also quickly get your dog to safety. 

At What Age Can Dog Recall Training Begin?

You can begin introducing recall training to a puppy that is 6-7 weeks old. You can also facilitate recall training in older dogs. Regardless of age, patience and consistency are key. 

A man using a dog whistle with his dog running towards him from the distance

How To Facilitate Dog Recall Training 

Avoid POISONED Cues

The main objective in dog recall training is to form a strong positive association with the chosen recall cue. So before anything else, let’s talk about poisoned cues so you can avoid them. 

In dog training, a cue is considered “poisoned” when your dog associates the cue with something unpleasant. Of all commands, recall cues are the most likely to become poisoned. Here are a few common scenarios of recall cue poisoning:

Using the recall cue.

  • for getting shots or other veterinary procedures 
  • for bath time or nail clipping
  • for getting groomed (the long period of staying still is unpleasant for some dogs)
  • for scolding, punishing, or locking up your dog for an extended time (please avoid this as much as possible) 

Choose a Recall Cue 

To keep the recall cue as unpoisoned as possible, we avoid using just the dog’s name. Consider your dog’s name as the more general way to call them. 

Recall cues, however, have to be kept pure from ANY negative association for it to be reliable later down the line. Recall cues must equate to only good things like their favourite treats and/or lots of praise, which must be kept consistent even after training.

With that said, here are some recall cues you can use: 

  • Come
  • To me
  • Here
  • The sound of a whistle (the best option for anyone who wants to avoid yelling in open spaces)

Teach Your Dog What the Recall Cue Means

Teaching tricks and commands take on the same framework:

    1. You either wait or encourage your dog to do the desired behaviour
    2. You use the cue while the behaviour is occurring
    3. You then capture the completed behaviour by saying “yes” or using a clicker
    4. You reward the captured behaviour with treats, play, and praise
    5. Repeat

So here’s how to apply this framework for facilitating dog recall training: 

  1. Entice your dog to come towards you without using words 
    1. Use their favourite squeaky toy, pat your lap, pat the ground, and so on. 
    2. Avoid using their name as much as possible because we are about to establish the recall cue in the next step. 
  2. Just as they are about to reach you, use your chosen recall cue. 
  3. Click the clicker or say “yes” to capture the behaviour once they have reached you.
    1. To be extra clear to your dog about how near they need to be, you can tug their collar gently or pat their head as you capture the behaviour. 
  4. Reward your dog for every successful attempt with their favourite treats and lots of praise and play!
  5. Repeat.

Closeup of a golden retriever who ran back to her owner

Strengthening Your Dog’s Recall in Daily Life 

Establishing reliable recall can be done with the pleasant experiences in your dog’s daily life. This supports and speeds up training. Here are some suggestions: 

  1. Use the recall cue as they run to get their meal. 
  2. Use the recall cue as they run to you when it’s time to walk.
  3. Use the recall cue for any instance that they run to you, then give them a treat.

All of the above ties back to reinforcing a positive association. Keep the recall cue as positive as can be and you can be assured your dog will prefer coming back to you over chasing squirrels, running off with other dogs, or going after other people’s frisbees.

Final Notes 

We at PuppyViewer, wish you luck with your dog recall training! With these tips, your dog will never miss your call. If you want to learn more about training your furry friend, check out our blog.

Your new family member is precious and choosing the right puppy takes research and time. With PuppyViewer you can be sure that your time and effort will not be wasted!

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