ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Teaching a Reliable Recall

Here is something I wrote for the golden rescue list I'm on. Keep in mind that I wrote this, knowing that some volunteers and adoptive "parents" never heard of positive/clicker training before. Some have no idea how to start. I thought this would get them on their way. They were free to email me with questions. But this is how I taught April.

Hi All.

There is nothing like having your dog come running up to you, happily, and because he wants to when you call him. This is how I taught April to come, even if she's on her way to chase a squirrel up a tree.

For beginners --

  1. Start in the house or in the back yard. When your dog walks up to you, all on his own, give him a treat. Do this until your dog figures out that whenever he comes up to you, great things happen--a treat.(It won't take long)!
  2. Figure out situations that your dog runs up to you for. For April, it's when I come home, the jingling of the car keys or leash, or when I'm putting on my shoes and she knows she's going somewhere. Be ready with the treats. (I also used a clicker) As your dog is *running* up to you, say its name and "come" Reward him like crazy. Never use the word :"come" if you don't think he is going to. You MUST be 100% sure that your dog will come when you use that word.
  3. Take him for a walk, (on 6' leash) While you're walking, call him back to you. Give a treat then release him to walk again. I also use lots of praise and hugs with the treats. Do this periodically throughout the walk.
  4. Take him for a walk on a flexy and repeat the above.
  5. If you have somewhere safe to take your dog off leash, start with step one.

The idea of this method is to reinforce the word "come" with your dog so much that he learns to come without even thinking about it. It becomes an automatic response. By calling him, treating, then releasing, your dog will learn that checking in with you is a great thing and his fun won't be over just because you called him. He will like nothing more than to come to you--every time.

Always make training fun for your dog. If he is slow at coming, or doesn't come, DON'T punish him--no matter what! Let him see you put the treats away, and say something like,"too bad" or "sorry"and try again later. They will learn.

After 2 years, I still practice the recall with April when we walk, on or off leash. Sometimes she doesn't want a treat. That's OK too. She still likes the praise and hugs. She is wonderful at coming when called, it's probably one of the best things she does. Remember to go slow, one step at a time. Make sure your dog understands one step before proceeding to the next.

Above all, have fun! If you're having fun, your dog will too. The more he learns, the more fun it gets. And, always quit training on a good note. If the session isn't going well, end it with something your dog knows well. You will be amazed at how much he really has learned the next time you train.

Eileen Trethewey
copyright 2002 Eileen Trethewey


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