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How to teach a dog recall? A guide for the pet parent.

By Daniel Mar Journalist

Updated on the

The recall command might just be the most important one your dog needs to learn. However, this command can be very difficult to learn, and therefore requires lots of practice and patience!

Picture this: you are walking with your dog, and all of a sudden, he spots a squirrel. He got away from you and begins to chase the squirrel. Unfortunately, he is running in the direction of the road as a truck is coming. How can you stop your dog from a certain death scenario? The answer is right before your eyes. It is time that you learn how to teach a very solid recall command! This command is very useful in all sorts of situations, and in this case, it can be life-saving. The “come” command, also known as “the recall”, is a critical skill. If you want your dog to come when called, then follow the following advice.

Where to start?

The foundation of any reliable recall is the strength of your relationship with your dog. From the very beginning, you need to teach your dog that he can have a lot of different and fun interactions with you. You have to maintain positive associations with this command and use high-value treats during the training process. Here are some important tips for training a fantastic recall.

  • Keep the command clean! – whenever you tell your dog to “come” but you do something he would perceive as negative (like scold him or take something out of his mouth), that’s what trainers call “poisoning a command.” You need to make sure that your dog knows coming to you is always the best thing. When he comes to you when called, use plenty of praise!

  • Be creative and simple with your recall word – The word “come” is usually burnt out. Pet parents tend to use it to call their dogs for a punishment. Therefore, it is advisable to use an unknown command. The word doesn’t really matter. You need to make sure that it is loaded with positive energy.

  • Don’t overuse your dog’s name – If you’re frequently yelling at your dog using his name, he will eventually create a resistance to being around you when you call their name (another form of ‘poisoning’). If you already established negative associations with his name, you should start offering rewards whenever you say it: calling your dog before meal time and cuddles and before going out for a walk, for example. This might clean his name well enough.

  • Come up with a list of distractions to train your dog’s skills with the “recall” command. Of course, when you start training the recall command, you want to set your dog up for success by practicing in calm, quiet, un-distracting areas. However, once your pup starts to get the hang of it, you can add challenges to your recall training sessions.

How to teach a dog to come? Follow these steps!

  1. Try the “ping-pong” game – To play, you need a friend, several treats and a tug toy. In order to teach a dog to come on cue, you should start by sitting on the floor. Your friend needs to sit about 10 feet away from you. One of you should lightly restrain the dog while the other one calls his name excitedly. When the dog starts running to whoever is calling him, praise him by giving him a high-value treat. Afterwards, play a game of tug with his favourite toy! Once you have successfully repeated this process a few times, then you can add the word you want to use for recall. Repeat and gradually increase the distance between you and your friend.

  2. Teach ‘gotcha’ – This cue is important to teach dogs that wearing a collar is necessary. To train this command, you have to begin by showing your dog a really tasty treat and holding it very close to your body. When your dog comes over and starts chewing, reach for his collar (do it very slowly and gently). Once you’ve slipped a finger under it, say “gotcha”! At the same time, open your hand and give him a treat. As training evolves, you need to start grabbing him with your whole hand. Also, you have to do it quickly! Don’t forget to say the word “gotcha”.

  3. Lastly, you can combine “come” and “gotcha”. In order to incorporate all of these commands, you can practice the “ping-pong” game, but add the “gotcha” cue after he responds to the recall. Continue to give him high-value treats.

Final considerations

Once your dog has mastered the “come back” command, the training is not over. It’s mandatory to keep practicing it with him throughout his life. Usually, dogs takes months to really learn this command. But fear not, eventually, your dog will create a habit of coming back to you when called, even in the presence of distractions. So, just hang in there, and keep practising it. Always remember to use positive reinforcement and lots of high-value treats. Learning how to teach a dog to come back on cue is one of the most important things you can master as a pet parent. This command will help you keep him safe from a lot of dangers. Take all the necessary time to train him. You will see the results soon enough.

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