Reliable recall…

Okay, so I may not be able to teach a dog how to fly, but I can teach them how to fly back on a recall.  This week (or part of it, I haven’t yet figured that out) I want to talk about recalls.  I find recalling, or lack there of, is one of the biggest complaints of dog owners.

Having a dog who will not come back is an incredibly frustrating problem for people.   I have found that many people are almost offended/embarrassed when their dog refuses to come back when called.  It’s emotional, on a human level, to realize that your dog has chosen to roll on an animal carcass instead of come back when you call.  It’s not uncommon for people to take it personally–in human culture this type of “refusal” (as the humans see it) could be a personal attack.  If you asked someone to wait a moment or slow down or come back and the person blatantly ignored your requests, it would be reasonable to think there was a personal aspect to the refusal.  I regularly have to remind people that it’s not personal in anyway… it’s simply a breakdown in their training.

Recall is one of the most important behaviors a dog can learn.  It’s a behavior I take very seriously and one I work on regularly.  My dogs have learned to love to recall but it didn’t happen over night and it certainly didn’t happen without doing a lot of work.

One of the things that I think makes this cue so difficult for people is that there are so many little things that can be done incorrectly that sabotage the end result.  For some dogs, it just takes one frustrated collar grab after a less than great recall, to set back the training weeks.

So this week I’ll talk about common missteps, problems and ways to improve the recall behavior.  Should be an interesting ride (though likely a little boring on the photo front)!


About Success Just Clicks

I'm a dog trainer and enthusiast who moonlights as a blogger and custom tug-toy maker.
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10 Responses to Reliable recall…

  1. Anna says:

    Good points here about praising, GOOD treats for outside… and then a big one, letting them go back to what they are doing. One of the most common things people do is use that “come” in the yard to bring them back inside, or to leash them up. You have to let them go back to the fun thing way more often than you actually hook them up. Luna’s recall is really good, and usually only takes a whistle which is nice, but a lot of work went into that while hiking with her as a pup. Good topic for this week

  2. Ci Da says:

    Is it a coincidence that the timing of your recall series coincides with Susan Garrett’s launching of her “5 Minute Formula”?

    I’m signed up for the e-course and hopefully will get my pretty darn good recalls to almost perfect recalls.

    • Actually it is….I had multiple students in the last week complain about their dogs refusal to recall and I figured now was as good a time as any. It was only after i wrote the post i recalled (lol) that Susan had her recalling course happening (i’ve been meaning to watch the videos she has up for a few days now but haven’t found the time)…. but i guess it works out then right?

      • Ci Da says:

        The videos are fairly lengthy, but definitely worth your time. I don’t think they’ll be online for too much longer — I think she’s using them as a way to sell her course right now, and then once registration is closed she’ll take them down and put them on a future DVD.

        Her list of 12 Common Recall Mistakes (listed on my blog) was very helpful. It’s a great jumping off point for tackling any broken recall.

        So far there has only been a focus on basic focus/self control/attention games like Its Yer Choice, Crate Games, Collar Grabs and “Call Once”. Just within the last few days I’ve already noticed Cohen more enthusiastic about interacting with me off leash with me putting just a tiny bit more effort into managing and reinforcing her. I expect great things!

        Anyways, I’ll be looking forward to your blog entries this week!

        • I did finally get to see her three-part series… great information… lots of similarities … lots of great perspective… and I think I want to steal Swagger! I’d love to take the e-course…. perhaps next time around… being unemployed has its downsides

  3. miranda says:

    I’m really looking forward to this week! I just finished a susan garrett mini webanar on brilliant recalls and now you are focusing on it too 🙂 Roo (JRT mix) has a nice recall untill a critter is involved so off leash walks have never been a possibility for him. Lefty is still very new to the thrills of life off the chain and has a history of running away from his previous “home” so I’ve been looking at ways to really build a great recall in a way that’s fun for him. Thanks for a great blog!

  4. Bob Ryder says:

    It is so interesting that you felt the need to restrain yourself from repeating the cue on the second recall from the video. I don’t mean that you ought to have felt free to repeat. Rather, it’s interesting that that from your perspective (live in the moment), it seemed like a long enough delay that a repeat was tempting.

    Our perception of time is often skewed in training, probably by something like performance anxiety, self-consciousness or some other version of insecurity. It seems related to your observation about the instinct to take it personally when dogs choose not to recall at all. From my perspective watching the video, both recalls seemed very prompt and impressive. It’s difficult to imagine feeling that enough time passed after the initial cue on the second repetition to be inclined to repeat.

    I’ve had a few experiences teaching good manners training wherein I’ve noted that a delay in response (during which the dog is obviously thinking) seems much loner than it is. Even a delay of 3 to 5 seconds feels awkward. A delay of 15 or 20 seconds feels like minutes. Clients will often repeat a cue in less than 1 second, so conditioned are we by the on demand aspects of our culture to expect instantaneous results.

    Anyway, awesome post and great subject. Keep up the amazing work!


    • Bob, I think my temptation of calling a second time had to do with a little insecurity… he was out of sight, could easily be in the woods, and that particular corner we’ve seen deer, rabbits, and wild turkey on a regular basis. Since I couldn’t see if he reacted right away to the recall I was nervous he had found an animal to chase through the woods…he is, after all, part sight hound. I would have given him a few more seconds before I made an informal recall noise… but it really was impulse control from me to hold off LOL!

      • Bob Ryder says:

        I totally get it. There are a lot of valid concerns while training naked in the field like that. Your observation helped clarify my own thought processes and uncertainties. All my speculation about the thinking behind training behavior and decisions aside, your deliberateness about not repeating the cue is the most impressive aspect of a really good training session. Way to go!

  5. Belle says:

    I’m looking foward to reading the following recall posts. You’re training advice is very good. I love Rio’s collar, the bright green matches his fur perfectly.

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