Harness Peace of Mind by Teaching Your Dog A Reliable Recall

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Our sister site, The Inquisitive Canine, outlines the initial steps in training and reinforcing a solid recall. Check out that post to discover simple and fun exercises you and your pup can practice indoors, around the house. Then, after your dog has mastered coming on cue inside, you can move your recall training outside. Gradually take your skills into real-world situations, starting in a secure outdoor area and eventually unleashing adventures together in a variety of different locations. We’ll walk you through it.

Step-by-Step Recall Training – Outdoors:

  • Start in a fenced yard or other secure outdoor area, keeping your dog on leash for safety reasons if necessary. 
  • As in the indoor training, begin by backing away from your dog. 
  • As he approaches you, use your happy voice to praise lavishly.  
  • Then stop moving backwards. When pup stops in front of you, reach in and grab his collar with one hand, and give him a tasty treat from the other. 
  • For extra credit, when you stop backing up, ask your dog to sit before you reach for the collar and present the reward. Guardians can also ask the dog to sit if he or she likes to jump up on them. This way you prevent accidentally reinforcing jumping, rather than recall!
  • Repeat these steps several times, until your dog is almost chasing you around the yard!
  • When your buddy is coming to his name, reliably and enthusiastically, each and every time, you can then move on to the next steps.

Generalizing the Skills

To help pup generalize this training to various locations and situations, begin to mix it up a bit. For example, practice the backing-away recall while out walking your dog on leash. Give the cue (your pup’s name in your cheeriest voice) when your dog is facing forward, not looking up at you. As he turns towards you and begins to approach, follow the steps outlined above.

If you want, you can get a longer leash or long-line and practice the same exercises, gradually increasing distance. At first, back up just a few feet, progressing to a farther, but safe, distance over time. As with the indoor training exercises, remember to keep it simple by increasing the distractions slowly and using your happy voice at all times.

Slow and Steady

A reminder, if your dog doesn’t come when called, “save your recall” by going to him and luring or walking him back to where you called him from. Praise and reward generously in that location. 

Stay positive and keep at it. Recalling your pup from all the incredible sights and scents of an outdoor adventure is a lot to ask. Take your time and only move on to more difficult challenges when the one you’re working on is super easy for your dog. The ultimate goal is that coming when called, regardless of the situation, becomes a conditioned response, meaning your dog responds without even really thinking. 

Management Tips for the Great Outdoors

So often in dog training, management is the key to success, as well as keeping everyone safe. That goes double when training outdoors. As you practice bringing your recall skills out into the real world, keep the following tips in mind: 

  • A safety note about using a long-line: be cautious not to get your dog, someone else, or your own self, tangled up in the leash.
    • Know the laws in the areas you take your dog, including leash and vaccination requirements, as well as any breed specific policies. 
    • Supervise your dog and pay attention to your surroundings.
    • Provide feedback to help communicate what you want. Capture and reinforce behavior you want to encourage, such as “check-ins” when off leash.
    • Help your dog make good choices by providing proper and “legal” outlets for normal canine behaviors.
    • Learn to read your dog’s body language; this is their main form of communication.
    • Allow your dog to communicate with other dogs in their own doggy-specific language.
    • A physically and mentally enriched dog is often a happy dog! Keeping your dog physically and mentally active can help prevent boredom related problems indoors as well as outdoors. 

A Word on Motivation

Successful positive reinforcement training begins with discovering what motivates your dog. Whether it be food, toys, or ‘real-life’ rewards such as sniffing a favorite tree, all have one thing in common: They encourage learning and participation through things your dog enjoys. Providing anything that your dog finds rewarding helps to establish a more enjoyable learning environment. It also assists in building and maintaining a mutually trusting relationship. 

A solid, reliable recall is one more way you and your best fur friend (BFF) can enjoy unleashing adventure and harnessing fun together!


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