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 -
To Begin Recall Training
For effective recall you will need:
1. Long line (25 feet to 100 feet) -
2. Harness – to hook up long line -
Core Rules Applied
1. Energy Spectrum (Hyper vs Tired) -
2. Training Phase vs Management Phase -
3. A to B Rule -
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.
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".
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.
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 -
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) -
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.
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 -
2. Work especially hard for the Top 3 Pack Structure items which are:
a. Food -
b. Possessions -
c. Attention -
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 -
3. Always Watch the Dog -
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) -
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:
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.
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-
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 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:
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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:
Most dogs with the Dogtra IQ will feel the correction at Level 38-
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:
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-
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:
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-
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-
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:
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.