The Importance Of Reliable Recall.

Reliable Recall is one of the cues your dog has to master. There will be so many times you need your dog to return to you quickly, without hesitation. Recall is essential for all dogs, but even more so for a working dog. Featured Expert Claire Denyer explains the importance of a reliable recall and some steps you can take to improve your dog’s return to you.

The Problems We Face With Poor Recall

It’s important to remember that it is rarely the dog’s fault when things go wrong. It’s pretty common for owners to get over-excited and rush through training a young dog, especially when things appear to be going well. However, if training is rushed or the basics are skipped you may find things start to go wrong later on.

Rose and Dude (two of our current Labradors) have always had a pretty reliable recall, even through adolescence. However, I do remember that Indy’s (the third of our current Labradors) recall seemed to disappear overnight at seven months of age. I remember all too clearly calling John as he had been out with Indy for a rather long time and when he answered the phone he stated: “I’m coming home without the dog” in a rather angry voice. It turned out he had been trying to get her back for 20 minutes and while she hadn’t run away, she was having a wail of a time bouncing around just out of reach. She went back on a long line for a couple of months until we felt confident her recall was solid. She is now nearly nine years old and it was worth it for years of a reliable recall.

Problems You Can Face with Unreliable Recall

A reliable recall will give you the confidence to give your dog more freedom. Dogs who are obsessed with other dogs or people often have a poor recall when distracted. John and I educate our clients about what correct socialisation is and the importance of not letting their dogs run up to other dogs or people. Getting this right will help achieve an excellent and good non-negotiable recall. If you are wondering why we don’t think dogs running up to other dogs or people is a good idea, or why we believe dogs should have a reliable recall, let me explain.

If your dog runs up to a dog who is on a lead it may be on a lead because the dog is nervous or may be aggressive, the dog could be recovering from illness or surgery, it may be in pain, the dog may be in training, perhaps the dog is unpredictable or has a poor recall, the list goes on.

The Dangerous Dog Act

The Dangerous Dog Act 1991 is another reason to not let your dog run up to people. If you cannot recall your dog and he runs up to someone and they feel afraid, you could be reported, and your dog could be deemed dangerously out of control in the eyes of the law.

If your dog is over-friendly or has a poor recall and runs up to people, your dog could be at a greater risk of getting snatched and new puppy owners in particular need to be aware that dog theft is becoming increasingly common.

Incorrect socialisation can create over-friendly dogs who are more interested in other dogs than in the owner. These dogs can become obsessed with other dogs and may pull or lunge on the lead to try to get to the other dog. This can lead to frustration or even aggression.

Here’s the thing, dog-on-dog attacks are on the rise. You wouldn’t believe the number of dogs John sees for behavioural consultations that have been attacked and as a result are now either fearful or aggressive or the number of calls we get from owners whose dogs just won’t recall when other dogs are around and are starting to get themselves into trouble.

If you’ve never witnessed a dog-on-dog attack or had to deal with the aftermath of a dog attack it probably sounds a bit farfetched or even a bit dramatic. It’s not meant to ensure you can control your dog and it’s certainly not cruel to stop your dog from running up to other dogs and people. It could save your dog’s life.

The Solution

Use every opportunity to condition a reliable recall. I find it useful with a puppy to pair the action with the behaviour, so every time the puppy comes running towards you, pair the action being offered with the recall command and make a huge fuss of them once the puppy gets to you.

It is a good idea to start your recall training in non-distracting places and thoroughly proof your recall along with all the other skills.

Remember part of proofing is training in different places and adding distractions. So, teach your dog to recall away from all kinds of interesting things such as people, other dogs, toys etc.

Top Tips for training a Reliable Recall:

  • Recall your puppy for their dinner
  • Recall your puppy when they are already coming toward you (pair the action with the behaviour)
  • Layer up the rewards (this will help prevent your puppy from snatching a treat and running off again)
  • Teach a release cue that gives the puppy/dog permission to leave you after a recall (this too will help prevent your puppy from snatching a treat and running off again)
  • Don’t waste a recall command (if you don’t think your puppy is going to come, don’t call them, go and get them)
  • Don’t repeatedly recall your dog (you are teaching them to ignore you)
  • Set your dog up for success (when training the recall start in low distracting places)
  • Train for everything (distance, duration and distractions)
  • Make recall fun (if your dog enjoys a game of tug, use this to reward your dog)
  • Don’t test your dog, train your recall, and proof your training.

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