Recall is the ability to communicate instructions to your dog verbally. There are five main components of recall:
‘Go over there’
An Interrupter - the ability to interrupt what they are doing at any time.
‘Come’ is the one commonly thought of for recall and is very important, it is where we are asking our dog to ‘come’ back to us. For this we teach people to gain the dogs attention by calling their name, followed by calling them to ‘come’ while holding a treat down low, as low body language is inviting and rewarding the dog for coming back to us.
‘Go over there’ is where we send the dog to where we need it to be. It can be target training, such as ‘go to bed’ or simply a ‘move on’ command when walking. This is important for recall because when our dogs are off lead, we may need to simply move a dog on from something instead of calling it back to us.
‘Stay’ is where the dog waits until we let it go again, stay builds up the dog’s patience, the more times we practice stay, the better at it our dogs will become, and the more useful it becomes in real life. If the dog is waiting patiently, it can buy us time to do the things we need to do, if the dog is running around when we are doing our own thing it can make us feel rushed and lose concentration. Teaching a dog to stay and be patient, can be the best thing you can do to build a healthy relationship with your dog.
‘OK’ is the release for your dog after it has been asked to stay. ‘OK’ is allowing the dog to run off and be a dog, we can use it at dog parks before we enter new places, or to go and get the food after we have asked them to ‘stay’ for it.
The ability to interrupt your dog’s current behaviour is again vital. A verbal communication that simply interrupts the pup and gains their attention is extremely helpful. It is an attention grabber that can prevent a dog doing their current behaviour and put us in a position to be able to give it further direction so that the pup makes a good decision. An interruption is as far as a punishment should ever go, because once we have interrupted the behaviour they were doing, they are no longer completing it and so we must move on ourselves and teach the dog what it is we would prefer them to be doing. An interruption should never cause fear in our dog’s, it should simply raise their head to get their attention. Common Interrupters are claps, whistles or just using their name.
Recall is best built through positive reinforcement, rewarding the dog once it has got the behaviour right. Reprimanding the wrong behaviour will often lead to a break down in the relationship and could reduce the chances of it doing what it is you have asked in the future. If the dog finds the behaviour we are asking it to do rewarding, then the pup is more likely to complete the behaviour repeatedly.
Build recall up gradually to create a relationship between you and your dog where you can communicate to your dog and your dog understands what you are requesting and is willing to listen. We underestimate how busy and distracting the world is to our dogs and are often left bemused as to why the dog cannot complete the behaviours it has practiced at home. To learn more about what affects the training of recall, read our what affects learning factsheet
Having the ability to communicate verbally with your dog is the safest way to maintain a level of control, we should use physical restraint as a last resort, after all, the more physical control we have to take, the less control we are actually in.