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Six Tips on Training a Reliable Recall – How to Get your Dog to Come to you When Called

March 27, 2019

You and your FirstMate have a great rapport–you spend time outdoors and love to chill out at the end of the day—but do you have trouble getting your dog to come to you when called? Maybe he only responds to your call half of the time? Consistency is key! Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviour Specialist, Janine Allen, has some tips to help you and your dog learn the valuable skill of consistent recall. It takes baby steps, but with Janine’s help your dog will be responding to your call in no time!

Written by Janine Allen


NEVER punish your dog for coming to you
If you are angry about your dog chasing a cat/bird/dog/person and call him to you and punish him, he will remember that coming to you means unpleasant things will happen. 

ALWAYS reward your dog for coming to you, ALWAYS. If you aren’t prepared to reward your dog then do not call him to you.

Don’t call your dog unless you’re 99% sure he will respond
Set him up to succeed every time. Start with short distances and minimal distractions and gradually work up from there. Use a long line if necessary. A good way to poison your recall cue is to call and then have your dog not respond. This teaches a dog that he can choose to ignore you.

Start small
A truly reliable recall is built on tiny baby steps. This means ALWAYS setting up the dog to succeed and creating a rock solid foundation where your recall word creates an instant association in your dog’s head with FUN!  Again, short distance and minimal distractions and gradually work up from there.

Jessica Lea and Frida.

Add distance
Once you’ve created a positive association and the dog is enthusiastically returning for a reward, you can start adding either distance or distraction but NOT at the same time. Start with your dog five feet away and build up from there. Repeat this 10 or more times before increasing the distance to say, 10 feet or so. Repeat 10 or more times before increasing the distance.

Add distraction
If distractions are present you must shorten the distance between you and your dog before calling him. If another dog is near or there is an attractive toy close by, then stand closer to your dog before calling him. If possible, after the dog has come to you, reward him then RELEASE the dog to go and explore that very distraction.  You will be showing him that a recall does not mean “the fun stops now.”

Don’t overuse the recal​l
Don’t use the recall command as your “go to” word to get control of your dog. Instead of calling your dog to you to leave the dog park or his favourite playmate, go up to him and hand him a treat while you put the leash on him. Then release him to play again for a few minutes. Do this a few times before taking him away from the park or his playmate.  If he is going to jump up on a person ask him to sit and give him a reward instead of using the recall yet again.  If he darts out the front door, don’t rely on constantly recalling him to get him back in. Instead, teach him that staying inside the door is a rewarding and fun experience.

Janine Allen is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviour Specialist. Check out her website here

Did you find these tips helpful for your and your FirstMate? Have any training skills you’re dying to learn? Let us know in the comments below!

2 responses to “Six Tips on Training a Reliable Recall – How to Get your Dog to Come to you When Called”

  1. Pete Wright says:

    Great timing on the RELIABLE RECALL article. Our recently adopted 3 or 4 year old Goldie – Sam – came to us from overseas in January, and has been a wonderful addition to our family. He is catching on well to new commands as well as a whole new language. Only recently have I started training off leash, and the timing of the RELIABLE RECALL is perfect. I had not seen a training article from a dog food supplier before, so I am impressed. We feed First Mate Grain Friendly Free range Lamb and Oats, and Sam loves this stuff. We learned many years ago with Hudson our prior Goldie, that going gluten free is a great solution to the problem of ear infections in some dogs, and we started Sam off immediately upon his arrival so as to avoid the smelly ears thing. Thanks for the information, and a fine quality dog food. Pete W. in Waterloo, Ontario Canada

    • FirstMate says:

      Hi Pete,

      We are very happy to hear that you’ve both discovered our brand and enjoyed this article as we do plan to feature additional posts from Janine Allen. A big congratulations on your adoption of Sam as well!!

      – FM

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