Training your puppy to come back to you can simultaneously be one of the most frustrating and most rewarding parts of your dog’s education. It takes a lot of determination and a little courage- after all, the end goal is to have your best friend off the lead and in the world, hoping that they choose to return to you. Such a big step is not to be taken lightly, so we decided to break down the key steps into easy-to-learn, bitesize chunks to help out.
Below are some of our top tips, which can make recall training fun and effective, and will help you go from your dog ignoring your recall, to a happy dog that wants to come home with you- instead of chasing their new pal or finding something smelly to roll in.
Dog Breeds With Good Recall
If you haven’t bought or adopted your pup yet, you can do yourself massive favors by opting for a breed that is known for their trainability and recall. While all dog’s- and their humans- can be trained, it helps to have a little nudge from nature at times! Some dog breeds with excellent recall include:
- Golden Retriever
Retriever by name, retriever by nature! These family-friendly dogs will happily come back on command, once they’ve got the gist of how they’re supposed to play fetch etc.
These highly intelligent dogs are also described as being “Velcro dogs”, meaning they never like being too far from their owners. Perfect for recall training.
- Border Collie
Known as the smartest dog in the world, the loyalty of a collie will never falter- although these live wires will need to be kept well-exercised and well-trained, as a neglected border collie will rapidly lose interest in their owner and chase that squirrel, instead.
- German Shepherd
Another loyal dog with excellent brains. German Shepherds are loyal to the point of being a tad needy and enjoy making their masters happy. The chosen worker of police and firefighting forces, you can be sure they’ll pick up their recall before you can say “come here”.
Practice “Stay” First
It sounds a little contradictive but try training your dog to learn the “stay” command before you learn how to conduct a proper recall. This is because you can have a good practice at home- away from distractions and any concerns about your dog going AWOL. It can also be really helpful to have this in your repertoire if your dog is being stubborn and won’t return- as a last resort, you can go to them, assuming they are sat waiting for you (never chase your dog!).
Play With Your Dog BEFORE Training
The worst thing you can do as the trainer is allow your dog to become super excitable and ready to hit the roof the second they’re let off the leash. Ideally, you’ll be able to play with your dog throughout the day, which will let them burn any pent-up energy. This, in turn, will make your dog more attentive to you and much more willing to learn new commands. Remember, exercise their muscles first, then their brains!
If you know your dog struggles with their recall, then do not take your pup into an area that is open, has traffic or lots of distractions that will require some serious effort on your part just to get him or her to pay attention to you. It’s important to get the right environment for your dog’s recall training- in other words, search for somewhere quiet, with few distractions (it’s only natural your pup will be interested in absolutely anything, so this can be difficult!).
Use a Single Command and Make Sure Everyone Uses it
An old favourite is “come” for good reason- it’s short, simple and doesn’t sound like other commands you might be training with, so no risk of confusion. Your best bet is to say your dog’s name, followed by your chosen command- so you catch their attention and follow with what you’d like them to do.
It’s also really important that anyone else who is with you while you train uses the same command. This helps to avoid confusion and stops your dog learning multiple different commands for one instruction. If you have a friend that prefers a different command, just explain that you’re using your chosen expression, and would they mind helping you recall your pup using that word? Your dog will thank you for it with their behaviour, later down the line!
Reward Good Behaviour and Ignore Bad Behaviour
Puppies are often so distracted by multiple things at once that being shouted at can often confuse them, since they’re not sure what behaviour their Alpha is annoyed by. The best way to get around this is to simply ignore bad behaviour. Of course, if your dog is acting naughty, you can still use your new repertoire of commands to encourage good behaviour. For example, if your dog isn’t returning to you because they’re smelling something they find interesting, rather than tell them off use the command “leave”. This will tell them to stop doing what they’re doing without you losing your temper.
Naturally, you’ll want to reward good behaviour. In this sense, it’s a good idea to get to know what your dog responds to. Most dogs will love a tasty treat but you’ll notice that lots of pups love knowing that they’ve made their owner happy- especially when you raise the pitch of your voice and give them lots of love, cuddles and a little game to reinforce their good behaviour.
Play Dog Recall Games to Hone Their Skills
Speaking of little games your dogs will love, it’s important to play on your dog’s instinct to encourage their recall. Dog’s love using their amazing noses to find exciting things- so why not make yourself the object of their attention with a quick game of hide and seek? Once they’ve found you, use your body language and voice to let them know how good they are, coming to find you and staying by your side.
As another example, the border collies we mentioned in the first step are known for their herding instinct. If you notice that your dog won’t return to you, try turning on your heel and having a quick run in the opposite direction. You’ll notice your collie soon chasing after you! Once they get to your side, you can say your chosen recall command and give them a treat.
Have Some Great, Smelly Treats
As mentioned, pretty much all dogs adore a good treat. Having some handy, small but smelly treats will certainly treat their olfactory senses to a myriad of scents and flavours. When you first start with your training, it’s a great idea to keep some of these on you. This way, not only will you be totally fascinating to your dog, you can also reward them at a drop of a hat, which will help them associate their recall with some lovely food.
Don’t Expect Immediate Success
It takes a great deal of time and attention to encourage any new behaviour from your dog, and you should start from small beginnings, such as your living room. While the earlier you practice, the quicker your dog will learn, it’s hard to fight against the 2-second attention span of puppies. Older dogs are equally hard to train, if they haven’t been already, as this a new experience to them, which fights against what they’ve known all their lives. Good behaviour takes a good amount of time but it’s completely worth it in the end.
Know When to Stop
Your dog’s might not pick up on what exactly you want from them, but they’re always willing to try and please you. As such, it’s very possible that extensive training can tire them out and wear them down. As a responsible owner, you should be aware of when they might be getting a little stressed or worn out from the training and register that it’s time to stop. Try not to push your pup too far, or the training itself will become a punishment to them, which is the last thing you want or need!
- Once you take your dog into the big, wide world, they’ll be picking up on your feelings and thoughts, which can often set them on the alert, too. Try to remain calm and tell yourself you’re in control of the situation. Being in the right area at the right point of training can help with this.
- No dog is going to be perfect 100% of the time. Always be ready to pop your dog back on their leash if you’re going into areas that you know are troublesome
- Consistency is key- your dog will not always be perfect but, as their owner, you need to be. Stick with the same command, get to know your dog and your own boundaries and be prepared to take them home when they’re tired.