The complete beginners guide to how do I teach my dog a recall?
Dorset dog recall training: Most likely your recall has failed even before you call or whistle your dog back!!
We offer recall training here in Dorset and give you back the confidence to let your dog off the lead again safely. Is your dog ignoring you when you attempt to call them back? Are you wondering how to teach your recall? If you have to ask more than once for your pet to return, then you have one of the most common dog training issues, so don’t worry; you are not alone.
- Does your dog ignore you when you call them?
- Do you have a Pet gun dog who has no recall in a distraction environment?
- Will your dog ignore you when it has run to other dogs/ people?
- Does your dog run off the moment you take them off the lead?
- Will your dog chase rabbits/ squirrels and ignore your calls to come back?
- Have you got to the stage of being worried at taking your dog off lead?
Muttley Solutions offers recall training classes to help you turn these issues around. We specialise in providing unique teaching and support, particularly around recalls. My training classes are held on a one-to-one basis, ensuring your dog gets the attention they deserve.
Do you have a gun dog breed that has a poor recall? At Muttley Solutions, we specialise in training and understanding these particular breeds, offering a dedicated approach to recall training in a proven and measured manner. Do you live in Wimborne, Merley, Broadstone, Corfe Mullen, Poole and surrounding areas of Dorset? If you have recall issues, then we can help turn this around.
Does your dog ignore you when you try and call them back?
This is one of the most common issues pet owners have, and typically poor recall will go hand-in-hand with the dog pulling on the lead. These signs can often also be a symptom of a wider issue, such as poor leadership. Will your dog sit and wait, or do they have to be busy? Again, if they ignore your command to wait, they will also ignore your command to come back.
So how do you know if you have recall issues? Most clients we see will say that they have some recall issue, particularly around the house or in the garden. However, the usual indicator that the recall has gone wrong is when they are in the park or out for a walk. When your dog is off the lead and playing with other dogs, many owners find their dog totally ignores them. This leads to the owner getting angry and frustrated, shouting louder, which only worsens the situation.
Dorset Puppy recall training
It is important to remember that the failure of the recall will begin as soon as you get your puppy. You need to start the correct training programme before letting them off the lead for the first time. The puppy will need to learn to recall back to you as a default, and we start to teach these foundations at around ten weeks.
By 12 weeks, you and your pet will visit the training field for the first time, and by then, you will have the start of a great recall with your puppy. The foundation for training the puppy recall is the whistle alongside classical conditioning. Recall training for the puppy before you start taking them out, is essential and many of my 12-20 week puppies have solid recalls that put many older dogs and their owners to shame!
One recent client told me her young dog would ignore her for two hours, and she would have to sit in the car waiting for the dog to return when they were ready! Although this may sound extreme, having a dog that doesn’t come back when called is very common. That is why puppy recall training as early as possible is essential and will help you with recalling them when other dogs, people and distractions are nearby.
What is meant by the term ‘Recall’?
Simply put, recall means the dog will come back to you the first time you call them. However, the actual process of teaching them this is far from simple. I have my own way of explaining recall: it means the dog will return to you even when it doesn’t want to.
Every waking moment, your dog is asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ and they will perform behaviours and actions that will potentially deliver them with the greatest reward. If those actions deliver a great reward, they are quickly adopted as learned behaviours. From my experience as a dog trainer, I usually find the behaviours the dog has discovered itself are often not the behaviours that owners would desire.
A dog who doesn’t come back when called has most likely learnt that it is more rewarding to ignore its owner and carry on playing. When the owner begins shouting and yelling, it only reinforces this behaviour further.
The dog determines if you have a recall not you
Many owners tell me that they have a recall, and they only have to ask a couple of times for the dog to come back. To me, asking more than once is one time too many, so the first thing that I will do is check your technique of calling them back is correct.
If it is, then you should only be calling them once to respond, but the reality is that in many cases, the dog has nothing better to do, which is why it comes back to the owner. The scenario I often see is the owner has practised the recall in a hall at training classes or in the garden and assume they have control. However, out into the park and off lead, the dog quickly proves that the owner has no control of the dog, and it is actually the dog who determines if the owner has a recall or not.
The dog quickly finds that ignoring the owner is more rewarding, which soon becomes an established behaviour. Here is a famous video clip of a recall gone very wrong for many reasons, and I use this to highlight this to my clients when training – this could be you on your next walk without having a good recall in place!
The dog doesn’t come back when I call them: What does this mean from the dog’s perspective
It is important to view the world from the dog’s point of view when looking at training issues. However, most owners only see the problem from their point of view, failing to see why the dog ignores them when called.
These bad habits are learnt in the early months of the puppy’s life and then reinforced each time the dog ignores the owner. By about six months, many dogs have really honed their skills of ignoring the owner when out in a moderate to high distraction environment.
It has already been highlighted that the dog works based on ‘what’s in it for me?’ From a human standpoint, this might appear selfish, but this is a human concept, and dogs have no understanding of selfishness, morals, guilt, sharing, right or wrong.
For a dog, it is important to consider ‘what’s in it for me?’ because it is an old survival trait. It is pointless expending energy if there is no reward, and nearly all modern dogs no longer need to hunt for their food, so it is more about fun rewards than pure survival.
Of course, prey drive can be a great reward and playing the simple game of fetch the ball is rewarding their prey drive instinct. Gun dogs work for us because we train and set up scenarios to harness their great skills of finding, hunting and retrieving.
Recall from a dog’s perspective
From a dog’s perspective, what does it mean when its owner calls them back? The answer really depends on what they were doing at the time they were called back. If the puppy is in familiar territories, as their garden, then the reward scale will be relatively low.
Therefore, if the owner calls them, it could mean going for a walk, getting their dinner, playing games, or having some fuss. In this situation, the owner will be the most rewarding choice, which is why the pup decides to go back, as there is nothing better to do. Of course, the owner is happy because the puppy came back when they called it and believes that all that training in the village hall is paying off.
However, when out in new situations, the owner lets the young dog off the lead, confident that they can call them back when the dog suddenly gets the scent of a rabbit or finds some playmates, and the slippery slope starts. The owner shouts the dog’s name, with a hint of concern in their tone, and while the dog might look around briefly and see the owner holding the lead, there is no reward for them.
That is why you should never call your dog back and then put it on the lead, as the dog will learn that coming back is the end of the fun and will begin to ignore you. Instead, call the dog back, and when they return, then reward and play a game before putting them back on the lead.
When you recall your dog it has two choices
One of these will be to go back to someone who is not looking happy for some reason and be put on the lead and taken home. The other will be finding some more playmates in the far more rewarding distance and will ignore the owner. It is important to remember that no emotion, punishment, loyalty or humanistic trait came into play when the dog ignored the owner.
It was purely based on where the highest reward was. That means it is not something against the owner personally, the dog is simply seeking the most rewarding scenario, and with this in mind, you can begin to adjust your recall to ensure success.
What are recall training classes?
For me, recall training is not so much a training exercise but more of a process in understanding how your dog works.
It is about understanding why the dog ignores you and the factors which contributed to this. It is also about realising that it is nothing personal on the part of the dog. I have come across many owners who accuse the dog of being selfish, given they provide for all its needs daily.
In these cases, I have to work with the owners to change this mentality before even considering the dog. When commencing recall training, you need to dump the baggage and start with a clean slate.
We will set up situations whereby the owner and the dog learn what is required in a very low-distraction environment. Once you both have it right, we can then increase the number of distractions.
Many people don’t know that we must train the dog to come away from different distractions. It is no good having a great recall but never training for a stranger giving your pet a treat or the occurrence of other dogs being around. You need to look at the type of environment you take your dog to and consider the distractions in that area. This will allow you to set up unique training sessions to ensure that your dog is exposed to those distractions, allowing you to develop an effective recall.
The general key to recall success is the foundation. We will then build on that with different distractions, training the dog to leave them behind and return to you. You will need to practice this frequently, adding in new distractions to keep the process fresh. However, you should remember that a good recall does not mean the dog will ignore all distractions!
If your recall suddenly starts to fail, then the distraction is most likely too high, and we will need to step back. However, it could also be that the owner has not raised their game accordingly, and the dog is getting distracted.
Recall Failure Protocol
A key thing many dog trainers who teach recall training forget is to have a recall failure protocol in place.
This is something that I teach at all of my Recall Training Classes, and the owner will practice it many times so that it becomes second nature. When it all goes wrong, and your dog is off, you only have a few seconds to turn the odds and avoid your own Fenton moment.
To give you an example of why I think having a recall failure plan in place is essential. My Bronze, Silver and Gold syllabus all have recall as a test, and you can actually still fail the first recall part but achieve success by correctly implementing the Recall Failure Protocol.
The success of a recall is not the ones that work, but turning around the one that could have failed!!
Recall Training Equipment
To start recall training with a puppy or older dog, we need the following:
- An effective method of communication with the dog
- The dog to be whistle trained
- A long line
- Very high quality treats
- Failed recall protocol
- Failed recall tools
- The understanding that until the dog has a recall then off lead time will be limited
- A low distraction, live environment
- Bucket loads of patience and being persistent and consistent.
- You, as the owner, putting in the practice ‘proofing the recall in different environments.
- Understand there is no quick fix in dog training
What treats should I use for dog training?
One point I do want to make is the rewards you offer your pet. Many owners mistakenly believe that their dog will be grateful for any old treat, but this might only apply if you have a Labrador!
The reality is that dogs will only work hard for quality treats, and I have seen dogs ignore the owners recall in training, but when we switched to a high-quality reward, they were suddenly engaged. It is all about finding what rewards your pet prefers the most.
Training treats and rewards can differ between dogs. Many owners will say that their dog does not like treats, but I find that once we get the right treats, there are not many dogs that are going to turn their noses up. I find a low salt-cooked sausage, cheese, fresh chicken, beef, and pork work best. Remember, you are selecting the highest quality treat for whistle training only.
These cheap packets of biscuit type treats will not cut it, and a training session will be wasted. PLEASE DO NOT TURN UP FOR TRAINING WITH THESE TREATS.
Longer-term, the goal is to get the dog off the food treats and onto a ball object or similar as the reward.
Dorset pet gun dog recall training
A dog is a dog. Not when you are looking at gun dog recall training. While the ideology behind recall training is the same, we also need to factor in the breed.
There are numerous varieties of gun dog, which is then complicated further by various crossbreeds. However, regardless of whether they are a pure breed or a crossbreed, they will have one thing in common: Bred to serve a purpose.
This instinct is powerful, and these dogs are totally focused when out in a live environment, which makes it difficult to get them back in the zone where they will respond to commands. We ask a lot of a gun dog when out working, but it is essential for the dog’s safety. If an owner cannot confidently control their dog in a prey environment, they should not be off the lead.
It is difficult to make the owner more interesting than the seeking out of prey. This is why we have to focus on excellent obedience and manners in the dog. It would help if you had your pet come back by default rather than on a decision-making basis.
Pet gun dog recall training and live prey
I trained my own dog to chase rabbits, not to catch them so that I could teach him a recall whilst he was in the prey zone. I would recall him when he was some distance away from them and slowly decrease the distance as I recalled successes. In the end, he would only be a few feet away on the chase before I would pull him off.
This meant that he got to the point where he expected to be recalled, ensuring that it became his default stance. Henry was very ball focused, so I found that he was happy to return for a ball reward.
Part of training a recall for a pet gun dog is to understand the animal and what makes them tick. This takes a lot of setup practice and rewards, and we only let the dog off into a working, live environment when we are completely sure of the recall. If there is any doubt, we will hold back until the dog is ready, as a single failed recall could undo months of hard work.
The pet gun dogs I train are not being worked in a shoot. However, the forest or field is a live environment, and your gun dog breed will find things to chase, so if you cannot currently recall your dog off a rabbit, pheasant or deer, then get in touch today.
How long will it take to teach my dog a recall?
While we all want a quick fix, there isn’t one when it comes to training your dog. Any dog trainer that claims they do have one will most likely be involving pain for your dog, which is not an option I use. I will never give a time scale because there are too many variants involved, and it depends on the owner, the dog and the environment.
If I am training puppy recall techniques, then we have a blank canvas. We can easily teach the puppy that the default is to return when they hear the whistle, and we will never expose them or give them opportunities to learn that ignoring us could be actually more rewarding.
With older dogs, the journey is more challenging. This will take longer because we have to show the dog that the rewarding behaviour of ignoring the owner when called is actually not that rewarding. We have to set up win/win scenarios, where the dog is not rewarded for ignoring but gets very high quality treats for returning to a whistle.
If they like a ball, then the job is a little easier. This takes many repetitions of the dog getting rewards when they come to you but never getting rewards when they ignore you. Anyone who thinks dog training is easy is mistaken, but it is great fun and very rewarding as you start to see the dog understand what we want.
Recall Training Classes In Dorset
Here at Muttley Solutions, I specialise in working with the client and their dog to turn this around. I will take on any breed of dog with a recall issue and will put in place a plan to improve the situation. I make no promises and will be honest and realistic.
For some dogs, it is so hardwired to ignore their owner that it can be a challenge. However, I will say that we can get you to a better place than where you are now. I often say that if the owner is proactive, rather than reactive, to the dog’s decision making, then the need for a recall can be avoided most of the time.
Most trainers focus on the dog when recall training, but this course will be 70% teaching the owner and 30% the dog. Once I get the owner doing things right, we can expect the dog to start doing things right.
If you want to be in a better place than you currently are, get in touch, and we can have a chat.
The simple answer is, what is more, rewarding at the time? Are you the owner, or is the distraction more rewarding? It is nothing personal; your dog thinks your wonderful. Just not when other dogs or distractions are present. Muttley Solutions puts the odds back in your favour!!
The simple answer is NO. Firstly it is dangerous to have a dog loose when you cannot call them back, and you may be breaking the law. Secondly, if the dog ignores your efforts to get them back, they are rewarding themselves, and the problem will only worsen.
There is no way you can guarantee your dog will come back every time. You can put the odds in your favour; they will come back 99.9% of the time. At the end of the day, a dog is only as good as its last successful recall. It takes practice and effort to ensure you have a solid recall in place in a high distraction environment.
Yes. I live locally to Poole, so I will travel there to your location to help with all aspects of training. There will be no travel costs. We can then use one of the many open areas in Poole to help you work with your dog. I do have a training field at Lytchett Matravers.
Absolutely. This is the best time to start recall training. I like to start the process at about 9 weeks and put it into real practice at 12 weeks. We make coming back to you great fun, and the puppy soon learns this is the default behaviour. This then increases the chances of you having a great recall from distraction as the dog gets older.