How Can I Improve My Dog’s Recall?

Problems with consistent dog recall is one of the most common training needs for dog owners. It is more common in certain breeds, but any dog can have difficulty with a consistent recall, especially if it not trained to do so from an early age.

You’ll likely have found that in certain situations your dog will come back to you, yet at other times, temporary deafness seems to take hold! It’s both frustrating and worrying as your concern for having control of your dog whilst wanting to allow them the freedom to roam, come into conflict.

Why is it so common? Once a dog is off the lead it has free rein to explore and well, there are just so many interesting things to discover, why would they want to come back?

Is it too late?

Is it possible to improve your dog’s recall now it is adult? Are you destined to keep your dog on the lead or avoid certain places where they’re prone to ‘sudden deafness’? Thankfully, no! Whilst, it is easier to achieve success with puppy recall training, it is still possible to improve it in adult dogs.

Dog recall training may seem like a lot of hard work, but rest assured, with some simple dog training tips and a bag of treats, you’ll really notice a difference over time.

Instinctual behaviour

It’s important to understand that your dog has natural instincts which vary in severity across the different breeds – for example, sight hounds like to chase anything that moves!

Whilst you cannot tame your dog’s natural instincts, you can strengthen your communication with your dog to keep the focus on you.

Why is recall important?

Aside from it being pretty tiresome for you – calling your dog’s name a billion times before they return to you, the behaviour is, more importantly, a danger to your dog. Simply put, any time your dog is off the lead, puts them at risk.

As we’re sure you love your dog as a family member, investing this time will allow you both the freedom to safely enjoy walks together.

What motivates your dog?

Before you begin recall training with your dog, you need to have an established bond and know what motivates them.

This is because when you call your dog away from something it is interested in, the reward they will get from coming back to you needs to be more appealing!

What motivates a dog does vary between the different breeds – does your dog do anything for a tasty treat? Is there a favourite toy that sends your dog’s excitement through the roof?! Or does your dog love nothing more than a big fuss and cuddle?

This is your ace card, right here!

Start small

Begin by taking your dog to a small enclosed area. For the first few rounds of training, keep the lead on.

You can use a whistle if you wish or just simply call your dog to you. Choose a command – such as their name 0 and then give your dog its preferred reward as soon as they come to you.

Repeat this step daily whilst gradually increasing the lead length (to up to 30ft), for a minimum of four to six weeks.

Build it up

Once you’re in a position where your dog is coming to you every time you call them, you can try a larger space. Make sure the space is still enclosed for now and away from main roads, dogs and other distractions.

Remaining on the lead, practise your recall in this new setting and after a few successful calls, let the lead trail on the ground. Watch your dog and as soon as they’re a few feet away, call them to you and reward.

Keep repeating this whilst gradually increasing the gap between you and your dog. Once you’re achieving 100% recall rates, take off the lead and do keep recalling and rewarding.

Practice makes perfect!

The key to training a dog to do anything is repetition. It can take different breeds, different amounts of time to master, so the one thing you’re going to need as a dog owner, is a bucket load of patience!

That is easier said than done, and if you find yourself struggling, remember why you’re doing it and focus on how far you’ve come, not on how far you still have to go!

Over time, you can then introduce larger areas and more distractions, just do it gradually and continue to follow the same steps of regular recall and reward.