How to train the recall
The recall is such a simple exercise and if the groundwork is carried out correctly there is no reason why a dog with the highest of drives won’t come back as quickly as he went out on a single command. This level of control not only makes the dog safer to work on the street but may well save his life should he be heading for danger.
The exercise starts at home or in a field with as little distraction as possible. Wait until the dog is away from you and when he looks at you use your body to generate interest and encourage him back to you. When he gets there reward him. Repeat several times until you are confident that your actions will result in him coming back. Don’t say anything at this stage we are simply making coming back to us rewarding.
In the next session do the same as before but this time say your recall command as your dog is coming back to you and reward when he gets there. Repeat half a dozen times.
Next say the command slightly before you do the things you do to get the dog back and reward him. Repeat half a dozen times. As you progress, increase the delay between the command and the actions. When you can say your recall command when your dog is looking away from you and he turns and comes, you know he understands and can start to progress.
As we progress you will have to do less and less to attract the dog back to you. I keep flapping both arms like I’m trying to fly as this is a good visual signal if the dog is too far away or I want to recall him quietly.
The exercise now needs to be built up slowly by recalling in the face of greater distractions. The secret is to try to never recall if you don’t think he’ll come back. You always have the option of going to get him or relying on the technique you relied on before to encourage him back. You need to try to control the environment until you have the control.
You need to think of every scenario you are likely to want to recall your dog and then break that scenario into easy versions and progressively more difficult versions. For instance if you want to recall your dog from other dogs then start by recalling him when the other dog is a long way off. Build up so the other dog is closer before you recall. Then once they are playing, wait until the dog gets bored and you can see they were about to stop playing anyway and then recall. Let the dog approach old dogs that you know won’t play and recall him. Eventually your recall will become so reliable that you can recall your dog whilst he is mid play session.
A good exercise to practice recall is to place the dog in a sit and throw his ball out. Release him and recall him. The majority of the time, allow him to fetch the ball but you can recall him and reward with a tugger.
You can have a helper some distance out in front of the dog and they can be as distracting as you like to encourage the dog out. Practicing recalls in this way before the chase and detain has been taught is a great way of creating that habit before the pull of the helper becomes too great.