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Recall (Coming when called)

There are a number of different ways to train Recall (Coming when called). There is the method of using treats, acting really excited, using a rope, using a shock collar or vibration collar or sound collar. Not sure about which one to use or why there are so many methods? Take a look at the article on Recall Debate discussing the different methods and their pros and cons. Below will go over the methods we find to work well regardless of the dog.

A dog trainer could work with a person and tell that person the exact information they need to know to work with that particular dog. Since this is an article on Recall designed to help any person and dog, the article is quite long. There are a lot of little tips and tricks for certain cases. All the ones we know are mentioned here. The article starts with the easier cases of dogs. If you are having difficulty with Recall Training you will need to read more and more of this article until your dog’s recall is to the level you want. Many dog training books go over all areas of training. We could write an entire book on training Recall since there are so many aspects that play into recall.

Before We Begin - See if any of these currently describe your dog:

  • The dog is aggressive or reactive towards other dogs or people. This means, will the dog bite another dog or person or do they get a bit crazy when seeing another dog or person? If so you will want to read the articles on Dog Aggression and People Aggression first. This can also be a result of the way the dog was Socialized. The article on Socialization would also be a good read first.

  • The dog is afraid of anything outdoors. If so you will want to read the article on Socialization first.

  • The dog does not listen to their human for anything. The dog nips or jumps on their human, steals items from their human or pulls on leash. If this is the case the dog is likely a naturally higher ranking dog. Take a look at the article on Pack Structure to see if you are following Pack Structure Rules. Just by following those rules can sometimes get a dog performing top notch recall.

To Begin Recall Training

For effective recall you will need:

1. Long line (25 feet to 100 feet) - Our preference is 50 feet.

2. Harness – to hook up long line - connect to the front of their chest.

Core Rules Applied

1. Energy Spectrum (Hyper vs Tired) - You want your dog Energetic for Recall.

2. Training Phase vs Management Phase - You need to keep using the Long Line for at least 1 month (2 or 3 for Beta and Alpha) after you have trained to your highest level of distraction.

3. A to B Rule - Work in low distractions and build your way up.

Recall: You generally want to practice this when your dog is right full of energy (Energy Spectrum). As they tire out you can transition into Loose Leash Walking and work your way down the Energy Spectrum.

Cues you will use (you can use whatever cues you want, they will all mean the same thing):

This way recall command for dog training

1. “This way” – which means follow me in this direction and only use this cue when you can tug the line within one second or if the dog is already following you. The time you don't want to say "This way" is when there is a bunch of slack in the rope between you and the dog. If you were to say "This way" and then walk 5 seconds before the rope was now able to pull your dog, you would be teaching them to wait 5 seconds before coming when called. This is why you want to be able to tug the line right away when you say "This way". If there is a bunch of slack in the rope you can either gather it with your hands or start walking in the opposite direction and when you can tug the dog within one second you can say "This way".

Come command recall dog training

2. “Come” – say this when you want the dog to come sit right in front of you.  Do this by taking a treat and walk backwards and at the same time wiggle your hand from left to right to get the dogs focus. You will also say the dog's name to get their attention and when the dog starts to follow (and only when they follow) say “come’.  When the dog gets to you have them sit and then give the treat, then say “free” to release.

Hold up command to stop a dog when off leash

3. “Hold up” – say this when you are going to stop the dog with the line from moving any further. Make sure you can stop the dog within one second either by gripping the line with your gloved hands or applying pressure with your foot as the rope slides on the ground. If your dog is running quickly you want to try and slow them down, don't do a sudden stop otherwise you can flip the dog over on their back and there is also a greater chance you can break the rope or harness. You can also hurt yourself pretty badly.

Note: The reason there are two commands to call the dog to you (“This way” and “Come”) is to make it easier for the dog to understand. Many people use the command “Come” to mean both: follow them and to come and sit in front of them. The dog isn’t a mind reader and does not know which time means which to you. If you separate the commands so that “Come” always means come sit in front of you and “This way” always means follow you, it makes training a lot easier for your dog. You can also call the commands whatever you like. Some like to use “Let’s go” instead of “This way” or “Stop” or “Wait” instead of “Hold up”.

Steps to Follow:

1. Start in Low Distractions (A to B Rule) outside - Practice your "This way" and "Hold up" commands.

2. When you notice your dog is following very close to you and you find it difficult to give the commands, this is a good sign. You are now ready for:

3. Increasing Distractions (A to B Rule) - Find an acceptable increase in distractions for your dog. Every dog will be different in what they find to be distracting. We often start in an open green space with no distractions. As the dog does well there we then move close to the chickens or horses. In the city you may move closer to dogs or people on a pathway as an example. Once your dog is performing well at the new higher level of Distraction you will then:

4. Increase Distractions again. Keep increasing distractions until you have practiced in very high level distractions (Super Proofing which is the A to B Rule).

The premise for recall is simple. Start in a low distraction area and work your way up in distractions as the dog gets better.

Tip: Achieving 100% recall at each level of distraction is not always possible. Once the dog is getting it right 70% or better we often increase Distractions. The higher the distraction levels you go to, the easier all the previous ones are. This is why we do Super Proofing (A to B Rule). If you have a goal in mind (B on the A to B Rule) then if you train to a higher level than B, your B goal will now seem easy to your dog. Example: Let’s say you want your dog to come very well when called while they are sniffing a new area. If you practice recall with a long line in a field where there are rabbits everywhere then coming when called while sniffing seems pretty easy.

Come Command

We practice this indoors to start with. Using your dog's kibble is the best way to train this.

1. Walk backwards and wave your hand in small motions from side to side.

2. Say your dog's name to get their attention.

3. When they focus on your hand and start to follow say "Come".

4. Keep walking backwards until your dog comes right up to you and then lure your dog into a Sit.

5. Give your dog the kibble.

6. Then say "Free" and toss a kibble on the ground away from you to release your dog.

7. As your dog runs off to get that kibble you will then repeat all over again.

8. Once your dog knows this indoors quite well you can practice it outside with your "This way" and "Hold up" commands. When outside it often helps to say "This way" to get your dog to focus on you and then walk backwards and say "Come".

Training Phase vs Management Phase

Once you have proofed up top notch recall with your Long Line you will need to keep that Long Line on your dog for at least 1 to 3 months of perfect behaviour before you consider getting rid of it. Otherwise some dogs can quickly learn they only need to come when they are on the Long Line.

Tip: Going from a 50 foot long line to a 20 foot long line to a 6 foot leash overtime can help transition your dog from the rope to no rope. This is using the A to B Rule to achieve your goal of Recall with no rope attached.

Problems to Encounter:

1. Your dog doesn't want to follow and is highly distracted.

There are a number of things to help out with this:

1. Pack Structure in place - This is one of the biggest causes for a dog not wanting to listen in distractions. Something as simple as letting your dog up on furniture with you can be providing your dog with a free supply of Attention. The more you make your dog work for everything the more they will see you as the leader and want to spend time with you.

2. Work especially hard for the Top 3 Pack Structure items which are:

a. Food - Working for kibble around distractions can help out tremendously for Distraction Training. For many dogs we will only feed them their meal when they are in the presence of a distraction. They have the choice to focus on you for their kibble or the distraction which you won't let them go see anyway since they are on a Long Line. This may take a few days before the dog is motivated enough to work for their food instead of wanting to seek out the distraction. In this time they get no food for free at home. They only get their kibble in the presence of the distraction. Working on Sits and Downs really helps out with this. See notes on Distraction Training for further examples.

b. Possessions -  Proofing up games of Fetch or Tug (See notes and videos on both) will help build a bond with your dog. The more they enjoy these games and really want to play them the easier your life will be for Recall Training.

c. Attention - In many cases we will pet our dogs whenever they come up and demand it. If we do give free attention for this, there is little to no value for our attention outside in distractions. Often times it can help to cut back on the attention we give our dogs in the house and save our highest and best praise for outside when they are listening in distractions.

The biggest cause of failure for Recall is when your dog does not see you as the Pack Leader. The more you make your dog work and provide clear leadership, the happier your dog will be. Trust me they will not lose their personality. You can have super obedience AND that same personality you love.

Long Line Handling Tips

When I first started using a Long Line I would get tangled in it all the time and the rope would get all knotted up. Here are a few key tips:

1. Always ensure you are clear of the Long Line. Don't get any fingers or appendages wrapped in the Long Line.

2. Wear Gloves - Rope Burn sucks. When you go to stop a bigger dog with a rope you will be gripping it with your hands. Even with gloves on you can feel the heat pulsing to your hand. If it was just your bare hand you would have bad rope burn.

3. Always Watch the Dog - People will often change direction and not watch their dog. Always keep your eye on the dog. Otherwise you don't know if they are running off in the other direction and are about to yank you off your feet or jar your arm or your dog may be tangled and it can hurt them if you don't slow them down gently.

a. Your dog may also circle around you. You want to keep an eye out for this and step outside of the rope circle your dog has just created for you so they don't take off and rope you down like a Calf at a Rodeo.

b. If the dog circles around you and takes off and you think you will be tangled then Jump Out of the Rope tangle and grab the rope again where it is not tangled. Your safety is first and foremost.

4. Start in Low Distractions and work your way Up (A to B Rule) - This will allow you to get the hang of handling the rope and work up in stages you can handle. If you feel like it is too much to handle you should go back to a much lower distraction area. Example: Don’t begin your practice in a field filled with rabbits. Start in a quiet area where there are no other people or animals.

Remote Training Collars

Some dogs plain and simple were not bred to please people (Some argue Terriers would be at the top of this list). Certain dogs, it seems, the only way you can get reliable recall is to use a Remote Training Collar. The ones we use if necessary are the Dogtra IQ. The Dogtra models have over 100 levels to them so they can be fine tuned to a high degree. You can find a setting where it just twitches a muscle in the dog’s neck so it doesn’t actually hurt the dog.

The reason why Remote Collars sometimes need to be used is that you cannot make it more fun and exciting to be with you than it is to chase a squirrel or rabbit (Bank Robber Principle). If that is the case all you can do is provide a Negative Consequence for chasing the Squirrel or Rabbit so that you now seem to be the more fun and exciting option.

Before you use a remote training collar, let’s make sure you have done everything you can first.

A remote training collar won’t automatically make your dog understand recall. If you hold a remote from a training collar in your hand you will notice that none of the buttons say “Come when called” or “stop chasing the rabbit”. All the remote collar does is provide a consequence. You really want to make sure the dog understands why they are being corrected. It is extremely easy to come across University Professor Syndrome when using a remote training collar. For this reason we want to ensure you have done all the right steps before using a remote training collar:

  • Pack Structure Rules - Take a look at these rules and see if there are any you are missing. These rules seem like they would have nothing to do with recall. Some dogs, just like people, naturally want to be boss. If you know someone who is bossy, do they like to listen to other people? Not usually. The same can happen with a dog. These Pack Structure rules appear to be how a dog determines where they are within the Pack. When a dog views their human as the leader, training is so much easier.

  • Using a Long Line (Rope) - Pretend that your dog is an ESL Student, English is their second language. A person may think that saying “come, this way, over here, *whistle*, let’s go” and every other version under the sun will automatically teach the dog what coming when called means. Put yourself in your dog’s position. Imagine that you don’t understand a word of English. Would you understand what you are talking about? Imagine if we were trying to teach you the command “Ahk blah”. If I said it 100 times, do you think it would make it any easier for you to understand what I was saying? Our guess is no. If a dog doesn’t know the command, a person needs to have a way of teaching the dog what that command means.

    Saying “this way” and then tugging on the rope right away teaches the dog that whenever you say “this way” you are then going to make them follow you. With a bit of repetition most dogs will turn to follow you before you can tug the rope.

  • Are you more exciting than the distractions? - If you can come up with a way of being more exciting than life outside, then you stand a very good chance at having excellent recall. This is where using the top 3 Pack Structure items (food, fetch or tug, and attention) can work well. Building drive for Fetch or Tug can work excellent. Saving your best praise and attention for outside in distractions can also work well.

  • How your dog was socialized - Check out the article on Socializing. If a person allowed their dog to greet every other dog and person they saw or let them run and play with other dogs at a dog park or doggy daycare, for some dogs this can create huge recall training problems. A bunch of time was spent teaching the dog how much more fun other dogs and people are than their own human is. If this was the case then this person would need to build their bond with their dog. Fetch and Tug work great. Nosework games, and working for food can be other options.

  • Safety Word - A reward based trainers method of having that extra awesome recall when needed is to use a safety word. This word is carefully selected and never said in everyday conversation. This word is then linked with the most high prize treat for that dog. Specially prepared chicken pieces with gravy are often a high prize reward. One client of ours had a dog that was not particularly good at recall but she used a safety word. One day her dog was full on chasing a rabbit toward the road with a car coming. She said the safety word and the dog abruptly stopped chasing the rabbit and returned to her. For some dogs this method can work very well. It will depend on whether the dog is more motivated to get the tasty treat than the desire to get the rabbit.

  • Super Proofed - Remember as a part of the A to B Rule, if you want excellent obedience at your Goal Level B then you should train over and above that goal so your Goal Level B seems easy for the dog. We train around rabbits, chickens, sheep, horses, other dogs playing, etc. Using a long line ensures you can always get the dog to come back to you. Once a dog starts getting decent recall at super high levels of distraction they may be close to or at 100% recall at your Goal Level B.

Using a Remote Training Collar

So you have done everything you can, tried everything the reward trainers told you to do and your dog still doesn’t come when called. The remote training collar may be the exact answer you were looking for. Keep in mind, using one of these requires a very good understanding of dog training. To start with we will list the huge problems that can be caused if it isn’t used properly.

  • Hurt and Terrified - Most collars have a setting from 0-5 or 0-10 and some with 0-16. These can be pretty big jumps between levels in the amount of correction a dog can receive. Many people think the dog knows they should come but are being stubborn. It can be easy to think that a good blast with a shock will magically fix everything. These collars hurt a lot when they are turned up high. It is much more common for a dog to not understand recall rather than being stubborn (University Professor Syndrome), so blasting the dog can often just terrify the dog and shut them down. The dog may think something is wrong with the area and want to run away.

  • Aggression Problems Caused or Made Worse - Some people may find their dog doesn’t come when called around people or dogs or other animals. They can think using a shock collar and giving the dog a blast can stop that and get the dog to listen again. Some dogs will associate the shock with the other dogs or people present. They may then try to run after the other dogs or people and bite them or get into a fight. We had one client where there dog was a bit rough with other dogs but not excessive. Before seeing us they used a remote training collar. Their dog spotted another dog and they called their dog. He didn’t come so they gave him a good shock. Their dog then charged the other dog and got into a really bad fight. It seems that their dog thought the other dog caused him that pain so he went to go put that dog in its place.

  • Run Away From You or Be Terrified of You - When first using a remote collar, the dog will have no idea what the shock means. They can think it was a bee sting if used strongly enough. Some dogs will bolt out of the area to get away from it. Others may hit the ground and cry. If a person is sounding angry and pressing the button, the dog can become terrified of their trainer.

  • Only Work When the Collar is On The Dog - Some trainers that use remote collars will tell their clients that they have to show the dog the remote and press the button. They want the dog to understand their handler has control over them when the remote is present. Another example is if the remote collar works excellent and the dog listens really well for a day or two, the person might remove the training collar and think the dog is now perfect with recall. The dog may go a few days and make a mistake. They then put the remote collar back on the dog and correct the dog if the dog doesn’t listen. In both of these cases the dog can become “collar smart” where they know they only have to listen if the remote collar is on or the remote is present. To ensure this isn’t a problem it is best to not let the dog see you handle the remote and to carry the remote around from time to time when not training so their is no association made.

    Once the dog is excellent with recall with the remote collar, the dog will then enter the Management Phase of “Training Phase vs Management Phase”. It is best to keep the collar on the dog for 1-3 months of perfect behaviour before considering not putting the remote collar on the dog when taking them outside. This helps ensure the habit is set in place and the dog does not become collar smart. Then you have a dog that listens great with recall without the use of the remote training collar.

Now You are Aware of the Problems That Could Be Caused

In the hands of someone that doesn’t know what they are doing a remote collar will almost always cause more problems than it solves.

These are the keys for success with a Remote Training Collar (already assuming you have done all the other options listed above first):

1. Know their commands  

Remember, the remote collar does not have a button that says “come”. This only provides a consequence. The dog has to have a clear understanding of their commands first before using the remote training collar. Doing the ground work with the Long Line is an essential first step.

2. Introduce the Remote Collar  

It is best to put the collar on the dog for 3-5 days (taking off at night or when not outside) before ever using the collar. You want the dog to think the collar is just an ordinary collar and doesn’t have any meaning to it.

3. Snug Fit

The collar must be on quite snug. A super common mistake is to have it on loose. It should be on snug enough that you can just fit one finger underneath the electrode prong on the collar. If it is not on snug enough the electrodes may not make contact. A person may think the dog has a higher tolerance for correction than the dog actually has. Therefore they may turn the remote up too high. A dog might then change positions or move their head to where the electrodes now make connection. If the person then presses the “nick” button at that ‘too high of a level’ it can overcorrect the dog and cause problems as mentioned above.

It is best to put the collar on the dog to where you think it is snug. Let the dog move around for a couple of minutes and check the collar again. See if it is still good and snug. It will often be loose again as dogs often puff out their neck when putting a collar on it seems. Once you find the right notch on the collar you might then want to mark it with a paint pen or scratch to know the right notch for future use.

4. The Right Level

Blasting the dog at a high level will more often cause problems than fix a recall issue. It is important to find a remote with a large array of correction. The Dogtra models such as the Dogtra IQ can work quite well. The IQ has 100 levels. To find the right level it is best to take the dog out on the long line to an area where the dog likes to sniff but isn’t super distracted. Ensuring the collar is snug you want to turn the dial on the remote to Level 2 and then press ‘nick’. Then go to Level 4 and press ‘nick’. Keep going 2 levels higher at a time until you notice a response from your dog. A proper response is not a yelp or cry. These are the responses you are looking for:

  • The dog looks up or around.
  • The dog shakes their head as if they have an itch.
  • The dog scratches at their neck as if they have an itch.

The remote collar needs to be used with repetition. This is why you don’t want the collar shocking the dog at too high a level. When the remote is first used the dog will wonder “what was that?” You will need to say the command “this way”, press the nick button at the appropriate level and then tug the rope. Doing this with repetition teaches your dog that when they hear “this way” the correction follows which is then followed by a tug of the rope.

The dog will learn to avoid the correction by coming when called right away.

5. Use the Long Line

It is extremely important that the long line be used with the Remote Collar when first training. This helps ensure 2 main things:

  1. Follow Through - You can make the dog follow through with the recall command no matter what the distraction is. The dog could be chasing a rabbit, you can press the nick and make the dog follow through with coming to you.
  2. Light Correction - It allows you to use a lighter remote collar correction. You can teach the dog that even at that light level you are still going to make them follow through with the command.

Common Mistake: It is common for people to put a remote collar on a dog without a rope and call the dog. If the dog doesn’t come, they zap the dog. The dog will typically do any number of things: look around, run away, become scared and sometimes if you are lucky, come toward you.

Whenever you are using a correction, the dog has to understand how to avoid the correction. Otherwise you run the risk of habituating the dog to that correction. This means you may find the dog learns to ignore the zap even at the highest level.

Using repetition with a light, non-painful correction and a tug of the rope is all that is needed.

We have heard of many cases where people used a remote training collar and eventually they had the remote collar at the highest level and the dog didn’t even care. This is a dog habituating to the correction because they didn’t know how to avoid the correction (come to you when called).

6. Take Breaks Often

It is often a bit stressful to a dog when first using a remote collar. To start with, they have no idea what is causing that correction. Once they piece together that they can avoid the correction by coming to you right away the stress goes away assuming your are using a low enough level that it isn’t painful for the dog.

You might try a couple of recall commands then stop and go play fetch or tug or do something else the dog may enjoy. You want to always associate good things with training, especially if you are using any force based methods of training. Dogs can be taught to love having their remote training collar put on if it is always associated with good things.

7. Train to a High Level of Distraction

Just like all other obedience training, you begin with low distractions and as your dog does well you increase the level or intensity of distractions.

A dog will often perform excellent with recall at lower levels of distraction. Let’s say the dog performs excellent to Level 3. You will then begin training at a Low Level 4.

It is often best to first use the remote collar in a new area with good smells. It is usually easiest to call the dog away from a smell as opposed to starting with other animals or people.

As the dog becomes proficient at Level 4 you would then proceed to Level 5. Continue increasing until you have reached a very high level of distraction (Super Proofing in the A to B Rule) such as rabbits, gophers, squirrels, etc.

8. Continue with Collar for 1-3 months of Perfect Behaviour

Once you have trained a dog to a very high level of distraction and the dog is performing excellently, the dog is then entering their Management Phase (Core Rule: Training Phase vs Management Phase). Depending on whether you have a Beta or Alpha you will either continue with the remote collar for 2 or 3 months respectively.

Common Mistake: It is common for a person to think that once a dog is excellent with recall using a remote collar, to remove the remote training collar at that point in time.

The dog will typically do good for a day or two and then make a mistake. If the collar is not on the dog, the correction cannot be applied. The handler might then go get the remote collar and place it on the dog again.

The issue with this is the dog can become “collar smart” and only come when the remote collar is on. They can make the connection that there is no consequence without the remote training collar. If you ever want to reach the day that you no longer require the remote training collar, it is imperative that you keep the collar on for 2-3 months of perfect behaviour (when outside in practice).

At that point, taking the remote collar off, the dog is much more likely to continue doing well with recall. The habit is much more likely to be set in place.

Important Tip: The 2-3 months is Perfect Behaviour. This means if the dog makes a mistake a couple days in and a correction has to be applied, the calendar is set back to Day 1. Those 2-3 months should mean that the remote is never pressed.

9. Continue Building Your Bond with Your Dog

The remote collar is a patch for having a low quality bond with your dog. The more your dog enjoys being with you the better your chances of recall are. Build drive for games like Fetch, Tug, Nosework or anything else your dog likes.

How to Use a Remote Training Collar

You have a pretty good idea already on how to use one based on the 9 Keys for Success with a Remote Training Collar. This basically goes over Step 4 in the Keys to Success.

1. Use 100 Level or More Remote Collar

Use a remote collar with at least 100 levels. Anything less seems to be too much of a jump for many dogs.

2. Desensitize to Collar

Put the collar on the dog for 3-5 days (take off at night or when not outside) without ever turning it on. This will have the dog think it is a regular collar that doesn’t mean anything. The collar should be positioned on the left or right side of the dog’s neck. This is where the muscle groupings are. These are the muscles you want to give a slight twitch to when a nick is applied.

3. Train Long Line Commands

Make sure your dog understands their recall commands with the long line for your “come”, “this way” and “hold up” command (you can use whatever command names you like, just make sure they don’t sound the same).

4. Charge the Battery

Make sure the battery is fully charged. On the Dogtra IQ this takes right around 2 hours to fully charge from dead.

5. Snug Fit

Make sure the collar is on good and snug. If it isn’t, it won’t make contact. A person may think they need to keep going higher and higher with the remote dial. The dog may readjust their position and if the collar now makes contact, a correction that is too high for the dog might be administered. You want to be able to just fit one finger underneath the electrode prong. You should feel like you need to help pull the collar away from their neck to slide the one finger underneath the electrode. Let the dog move around for a bit and then check again for the collar being snug. It will often loosen up after first putting it on when the dog moves around.

Try it out on yourself first. Snug it up to the side of your neck. Take the dial and turn it to Level 2, press nick, then level 4, press nick. Keep going higher until you can just feel it. Most people feel the Dogtra IQ around level 18-20. Once you feel it, move it to another spot on your neck and press nick. Notice how that feels. Then move it somewhere else on your neck and press nick. You will notice that it feels different in different spots. Putting it on the large muscle grouping of your neck works the best. This collar is great for working out cramps in your neck.

It is important that if a person is going to use one of these collars they test it on themselves first. It is extremely important that the person knows what the dog is experiencing. This collar can be used in a way that is completely fair and safe for the dog.

The remote collar in essence will replace the Long Line for a while. This helps the dog learn that even if there is no rope attached to them, they still have to follow through with the command you give. It helps as an A to B step with recall training.

6. First Using Remote Collar

It is often best to go to an area you don’t frequent often that has good smells and nothing else for distractions. While your dog is sniffing you will want to find the right level for your dog.

Turn the dial to Level 2, press nick, Level 4, press nick. Keep going 2 levels higher at a time until you notice a reaction from the dog.

Reactions you are looking for:

  • Lift their head up from sniffing as if something was there on the ground.
  • Look around them to see where that feeling came from.
  • Rub by their neck to get rid of the itch.

Most dogs with the Dogtra IQ will feel the correction at Level 38-42. If you get to Level 50 and there is still no reaction, check to ensure the collar is snug and on the right or left side of the dog’s neck. Some dogs will be to a higher level before they acknowledge it. One schnauzer we knew of was at Level 64 before she acknowledged it.

Once you find the right level you are ready to begin training.

7. Associating the Remote Collar with Recall and Long Line

At first the dog will have no idea where the correction is coming from or why it is there. The remote is not a magical tool that will teach recall at the push of a button. The dog has to learn why they are being corrected.

While the dog is sniffing something interesting this is how you will teach the dog:

  1. Say “this way” to have the dog follow you. If the dog follows right away there is no need to correct the dog. If the dog doesn’t follow:
  2. Press the nick button at the level that your dog acknowledged before. At this point the dog still will not understand what the remote collar feeling means.
  3. Tug the rope 1 second after you press the nick button. It is very important that the rope be tugged after the nick button is pressed. If you press the nick and tug the line at the same time, the dog will not feel the Nick. This is because the level being used on the collar is so low, the dog can barely feel it.
  4. Praise the dog as they come over to you.
  5. Repeat these steps as the dog goes to another spot to sniff.

Soon a dog will come to you when you press the Nick button. There is no need to tug the rope when the dog comes. This means they are starting to understand they need to come over to you. Then just saying “this way” the dog will come over to you. There is no need to press the Nick button as the dog did exactly as asked so no need to correct.

Tip: If the dog looks a little stressed you should stop and take a break. Go play a game of fetch or tug to take the dog’s mind off training. Try again in another 15-30 minutes. Re-read the steps listed to make sure you are doing everything right to minimize or eliminate stress to the dog. Remember that using a Remote Training Collar requires a very good understanding of training dogs. The person’s timing has to be exactly on. The correction can’t be too high.

If a person we are working with needs to use a Remote Training Collar we have them practice with it on us first. Better the mistakes are made on a human than the dog. Once we are happy the people time everything correctly we can then have them practice on the dog.

Have a friend of yours use the Remote Collar on you. Walk your friend through the steps. If you can explain it to a friend and have them properly use the remote collar on you then you are likely ready to teach it to your dog.

8. Increasing Distractions

Soon the dog will come very quickly when called in that introduction distraction where the dog was sniffing. From there you go to a slightly higher distraction. This will be different for all dogs so decide what is best for your dog. Typical distraction levels include:

  1. Green space with good smells but no animals or people.
  2. Green space closer to animals and people but off at a distance of a few hundred meters.
  3. Work your way closer to animals and people a few meters at a time. This can take a few weeks of training.

9. Super Proofing

To help ensure success with training we find it helpful to train recall in very high distraction levels. We have practiced in fields with rabbits running everywhere, chickens running around, gophers, squirrels, other dogs, people over for a BBQ, kittens, cats, other dogs, etc.

Once the dog achieves a high level of Recall in a High Level of Distraction then your everyday distractions seem pretty easy for the dog.

10. Weaning Off the Remote Collar

Mistakes are often made at this stage. Take a close read to ensure you don’t make this common mistake. Many people remove the remote collar as soon as the dog is performing excellent with the collar on. That is the mistake.

This is where the Core Rule of Training Phase vs Management Phase comes into effect. Since the dog is listening very well, that means the Training Phase has ended. This now means the dog enters the Management Phase. Depending on whether the dog is an Omega, Beta or Alpha will depend on whether the Management Phase is 1, 2 or 3 months. The higher ranking the dog is naturally, the longer the Management Phase is. This is due to higher ranking dogs being more likely to test authority.

When the dog is performing excellent with Recall commands and you are no longer pressing the Nick button on the remote, write that days date down on the calendar. Now make sure the dog does that perfectly for another 1-3 months. If you never have to press the remote button during that time then it is fairly safe to say you can remove the remote collar and you no longer need it.

Our experience is that the Management Phase never goes perfectly. The dog will make a mistake a few days in. That means the calendar is reset to Day 1. It now has to be another perfect 1-3 months from this new date. Going 3 months of perfect behaviour for some dogs can take 9 months to a year from the day they ended their Training Phase.


Recall basically comes down to: Does your dog like you and like to be with you? Then recall will be easy. Does your dog think you are ok but everything else outside is better? Then recall will be more tough to train.

Recall used to be a piece of cake many years ago when dogs worked with people. This seems to be the reasons why:

  • Bred for the job - If they weren’t naturally good at their job, they would get rid of that dog (usually meant shoot the dog) and get a dog that was better bred for the job.
  • Working Dogs - They weren’t pets and they had a job to do. This provided all the mental and physical outlet they needed.
  • House was no place for dogs - Homes were tiny and the dogs needed to do their jobs outside. In the cases of bad weather climates the dogs needed to stay outside to ensure their coats primed which would keep them warm in the winter. If they were brought into the house it would trick their body into thinking it was Spring or Summer and they would begin shedding which would make them cold outside.
  • Human was the most fun thing - Since the dogs spent all their time outdoors they got to see everything outdoors all the time. When the human came outside, the human was the most fun and exciting thing out there. The dogs were happy to come when called. Ever been on a farm that had dogs before? Ever notice how well they come when called? They can be almost anywhere and come running so long as they can hear the command.
  • Allowed to do their job - Terriers were bred to chase off and kill vermin. Many dogs, not just Terriers, have a high prey drive. They will chase anything away or kill it, if it doesn’t belong on the farm. The dogs were not only allowed but supposed to chase away deer, coyotes, neighbours dogs, rabbits or anything else that didn’t belong. Since they were doing their job, they didn’t need to be called back.
  • Pack Structure easily followed - Since the dogs slept outside and the human was boss, it was easy for the Pack Structure rules to be followed. The humans ate inside, had all their own belongings to themselves and dogs weren’t up on beds. It was easier to not blur the rules thus making the humans look higher ranking. When dogs started to live inside with us more often it became more difficult to not blur the rules.

As more and more dogs move to urban areas where their natural jobs are not needed and the dogs live inside with us, it adds complexity to training. We may not want them to do their jobs anymore but some dogs LOVE doing their breed’s job. One of the biggest requests we get for dog training is to take a dog that was bred to do something and train it not to do that.

Since dog’s jobs are changing it would be great if the general population had a better idea on how to pick a dog that was naturally right for them. It would also be great if Breeders focused more on breeding dogs that do excellent in an urban setting with thousands of other dogs and people in close proximity.

It has been said that human and dog have been working together for over 15,000 years. It is a tradition that isn’t going away anytime soon. A lot has happened to the advancement of the human race in the last 100 years. How we live with dogs and they with us needs to catch up.

Come command waving hand from side to side Come command luring the dog into a sit Come command rewarding the dog for sitting with a kibble Come command releasing the dog from sit