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A Guide to Dog Recall Training

Published date: 26 February 2024

One of the most daunting parts of dog training, is teaching your pooch to come back to you on a walk. Many owners worry about their dog ignoring their commands or running off to find that much more interesting squirrel…

Well, I am here to hopefully make this worrying part of dog and puppy training easier. Here is some key advice for the recall training process.

Remember Training Starts at Home!

It is very easy to overthink and overcomplicate recall training. Many owners see recall training as packing up all their walking equipment, taking their dog into the deep countryside and keeping their fingers crossed they listen.

Instead, recall training begins right at home! Simply calling your dog from one side of the room to another is teaching recall. Training should be built up gradually as confidence and ability grows.

How to Recall Train

The following steps are a great way to begin the recall training process. You will need tasty natural treats to help reward your dog and encourage them to keep coming back!

Pssst. To avoid weight gain it is important to track the amount of food and treats you are giving to your dog. For help check out our Guide to Weighing Pet Food.

If worried about giving too many tasty tidbits, instead use your dog’s nutritious food they get at dinnertime.

  1. Before you begin the process of recall training, ensure your dog responds to their own name. This normally happens naturally with your dog whilst you spend more time with them. Understanding their name is essential for grabbing their attention quickly.
  2. Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed with your dog. Start with your dog on one side of the room and call them over in a loud clear voice. Most owners will use command words such as ‘come’ or ‘here’.
  3. When your dog comes to you always PRAISE and REWARD. Even if your pup takes longer than you would like to return to your side, they must always see coming back as positive. If you shout at your dog, why would they want to come back to you next time?
  4. Once your pooch understands coming back to you, start to build up the complexity of the commands. For example: start calling them from one room to another or from upstairs to downstairs.
  5. Once your dog is showing a great understanding of the recall command, you can then move from outside to inside or vice versa. If you have a garden this is the best place to start, as this will be a safer and more enclosed space. Only once your dog has mastered the art of recall inside and out in the garden should you start training recall on walks.

The key is keeping training positive and of course making sure coming back to you is exciting. There are a lot of interesting scents, sights and sounds to compete with on a walk.

Use a Recall Line

Recall leads or lines are a fabulous way to train long-distance recall, whilst still being safely attached to your dog.

This 10m long lead is very easy to use however it is worth (especially as a first-time dog owner) practising at home with this training tool first.

  • Start by attaching to a door handle (don’t worry it will be attached to the actual dog later!) to simply practise the motion of slackening (giving) more length and taking it away.
  • Always begin with only 1-2 metres in length and build up the distance as you and your dog get more confident.
  • Remember you can start by using this tool in the garden too!

Consider Whistle Training

In an emergency or a situation where you cannot shout for them, or they are too far away, a whistle can be an absolute lifesaver. All dogs benefit from being trained to respond to a whistle.

Whistles (unlike us) do not show human emotion. Every time you blow a whistle it is a consistent and understood sound. Whistles can be used right at the beginning of the recall training process (either alongside or instead of voice commands).

If introducing the whistle sound later, it is important at first to use familiar voice commands alongside the whistle noise. Over time this can be phased out as the dog gets more confident in the whistle meaning.

How to make whistle training easier:

  1. To discover the best type/ pitch of whistle look out for your dog’s body language. If your dog seems alert and animated at the sound of the whistle, this indicates it is a pitch that works for them. If your dog flattens their ears and seems uncomfortable, this simply isn’t the right pitch for your pooch.
  2. Gently blow on the whistle while your puppy/dog is eating their dinner or tasty treats. This helps to cement a positive connection between the sound of the whistle and yummy, exciting food.
  3. Use the whistle in different ways! Save the longest biggest blast on the whistle for when your dog is furthest away. Patterns of sounds on the whistle can also be used to direct your dog left, or right or encourage them to stand still.

Keep in mind anytime you are out on an adventure with your pup, they are legally required to wear an ID tag and collar. For help with ID tag engraving and choosing the right collar, head over to your local Pets Corner store.

I hope these tips have helped you on your recall journey. The key is consistency and positivity! Plus remember to have lots of urn fun when training with your dog. Read our Guide to Clicker Training.

Written by Lucy Marcham

Lucy teaches all aspects of the Pets Corner curriculum and specialises in animal nutrition, ensuring that our staff have the right knowledge and understanding of pet diets to assist customers with confidence and care.