Lack of Recall

Posted by JeanH
Apr 3, 2009
I have taken on a small rescue Labrador/Collie bitch Carra who is nearly five but has no sense of recall. If she sees an open door she is trough it and disappears. Whilst she is in the house or out on a leash she is very obedient but I am concerned about the lack of recall because I live in a rural area surrounded by fields of sheep and the local farmer has been known to shoot first and ask questions after. I have to try to train her myself because there are no local training sessions near enough to me. I am a retired lady who has had dogs most of my adult life but I dare not let Carra loose because I am not fast enough now to catch her. Where should I start? Jean H
Posted by KOPsarah
Apr 30, 2009
Hi Jean thanks for your post.

The only way to ensure that your dog will “come” every time you ask her to is to spend time - a lot of time - practicing and training, in a variety of situations and with varying levels of distraction, to ensure that she learns to respond to “come” in every situation.

-Prepare a small baggie of tasty treats (bits of chopped up hot-dog or cheese are great, but commercial dog-treats also work well)
-Attach a long line to your dog’s collar. Keeping the end of it in your hand, put some distance between yourself and your dog - either by allowing her to wander around, or alternatively, by putting her in a “sit-stay” and backing away yourself. Crouch down to the dog’s level and open your arms wide, as if for a hug. This is the most welcoming posture for dogs: greeting them “at their level” is a great way to ensure a rapid response. Most dogs find an erect standing posture intimidating, and won’t respond so eagerly to it. Call her to you with a cheery, upwards inflection: “(dog’s name), come!”
If the dog doesn’t respond, give the line a ‘flick’: a short, sharp tug.

NOTE: The aim of the flick is not to use the leash drag her towards you.
It’s kind of like a poke in the chest with a forefinger: a quick physical
reminder that you’re in charge, and you expect your commands to be

As soon as your dog starts walking towards you, praise her in a low, encouraging tone of voice: “Goooood boy, what a goooood boy!” You want to praise her as she’s heading your way, so she associates the praise with walking in your direction; but overly-enthusiastic praise tends to distract the dog from what she’s doing, which is why it’s best to keep your voice steady and low-pitched. Put a smile on your face for added effect.

As soon as she reaches you, get that treat in her mouth as fast as you can. Some dogs, depending on their personality, will prefer a short game with a cherished toy as an alternative to food treats: you’ll figure out which of these your dog responds best to as training progresses.

Keep up the training and she will soon come bounding over every time you call her. Once she is coming reliably continue giving praise every time but only give treats sometimes. This unpredictably will actually make recall more reliable.

Goodluck with your training.