dog-running-jerry-xuRecall is when your dog or puppy comes to you when called. There are two main types of recall. One is a more casual coming to you when called, like when you want your dog to come inside. The second is an emergency recall, which is THE most important thing you can ever teach your dog. Even if your dog obeys nothing else, having them come to you when called can save their life. To teach your dog to come when called in more casual situations using the word “come” see our other Teach your dog to come when called article with its awesome training video! The tips below will help you teach your dog the second kind of recall, the emergency recall.

Step 1: Emergency Recall Word

Decide precisely what one word you’ll use to call your dog in an emergency situation Keep it simple. Everyone in your household should agree on exactly what word will be used. Pick a word that you don’t say very often, shorter is better. Imagine your dog escaped and is running into traffic! Pick a word you don’t say often, maybe “Bacon!!!!” or “Cake!!!” or yes even “Recall!” could work too.

Always say your emergency recall word in a loud happy tone. Imagine if your dog’s leash broke and he is running into traffic: You want word to be heard!

Do not repeatedly say your recall word in a row. Only say it ONCE.

Instead of a word, you could use a whistle sound made with your mouth if everyone who will ever be calling your dog can do the SAME whistle as loud or louder than they can yell a word. Training emergency recall with an actual metal or plastic whistle isn’t recommended as you may not have it handy in an emergency situation. Clapping can work, but only if you never clap to tell a dog not to do something, nor at other times like while you watch sports on TV.

Step 2: Load Your Recall Word

Load your recall word up with lots of “credit”. Imagine your recall word is a debit card. You need to make a deposit before you can use it. You don’t want your dog to ignore you due to “insufficient funds” or a word that has “expired” for lack of practice. How to load your word depends on your dog’s motivation:

A) Foodie Big Payoff. This works for food-motivated dogs and if you’re not free feeding. When does your dog get whole lot of yummy food all at once? Mealtime! Before you put your dog’s food bowl down, with your dog looking at you and the newly-filled food bowl, say your word once and loudly as you put the food bowl down. Repeat every mealtime for a week.

B) Play/Praise/Petting: Similar to above, hide your dogs favorite toy and only take it out twice a day. Or reserve your happiest praise and lots of petting for recall. Stand right next to your dog. Call your recall word then “load” the word by giving your dog the toy/praise/petting for up to 10 seconds. Repeat a few times a day for one week inside where least distracted, and gradually generalize in new locations with more and more distractions.

If your dog isn’t motivated by food, play, praise, or petting seek the help of a professional trainer for recall.

3. Recall Exercises: Teach your dog to come when called

WEEK TWO: After at least one week of “loading” as described above, you can advance to preparing the reward (food/toy/person)  and now say your emergency recall word after backing up a few steps, so your dog has to come towards you to get the reward.

WEEK THREE: Advance to generalizing by rewarding in different places around your home, in your yard, and while on leash out on walks. Foodies can switch from getting their meal to huge handful of favorite treats for on leash recall work out on walks. Only practice ONE TIME each new place, You don’t want to desensitize them, i.e. don’t withdraw all your loaded credit! Also for this week, try to pick a time when the dog is not distracted.

WEEK FOUR: Add in touching your dog’s collar too, like you’d have to do if the dog escaped and you needed to attach a leash. Touch the collar as you reward, just for a second. Also you can start advancing to bigger distractions, like if your dog sees a squirrel in a tree or another dog down the block.

OFF-LEASH RECALL: Please be safe! When you’re ready to practice recall off-leash, do so in a fenced-in dog-safe area. Some dogs (like scent or sight hounds) can never be off-leash trained. All dogs take lots of training and lifelong practice to recall around compelling distractions.

ONCE A MONTH, FOREVER: Don’t let your emergency recall word expire. Practice once a month will prevent your emergency recall word from being forgotten. A solid emergency recall may save your dog’s life one day, and allow you and your dog to safely enjoy many more activities and a richer life together.

Photo by Jerry Xu