Tips to help improve your dog’s recall

by | Dog Care |

Do you feel like your dog isn’t listening when you call their name? If you’re having difficulty getting your dog to respond when you call them, this blog is for you!  

Why your dog may not be responding 

First, it’s important to consider what may be impacting your dog’s recall. Here are a few considerations: 

  1. The environment is too exciting: Whatever is most exciting in your environment will grab your dog’s attention. For example, if there’s a dog across the street from you, that dog is more exciting than you are.  
  2. Being off leash too soon: If you haven’t practiced recall, and then take your dog off leash, they will have a hard time understanding what you want from them in this new and exciting environment. 
  3. Negative associations: When on a walk, if you recall your dog to get them to drop something they’ve picked up, or to take it from them, you are inadvertently punishing them for coming to you. 
How to improve recall 

Things to avoid 

If you can’t guarantee your dog will come to you every time you call them, don’t take them off leash yet. Start small and in spaces your dog understands and is familiar with, such as your home or backyard. 

It’s very important to avoid creating negative associations with recall. If your dog has something they shouldn’t have, don’t call them to you. Instead, go to them to remove the item. The same principle applies to experiences your dog may not enjoy, such as nail trimming. Go to them rather than asking them to come to you. 

Things to do 

Recall training should always be done safely with your dog on a harness and long line. Be patient with your dog and do not punish your dog if they don’t respond to your recall requests. 

Practice recall all the time – not just when it’s crucial your dog responds. After they’re recalling well in your home, you can walk them on a long lead that allows you to reel your dog in if they don’t respond. When they do get to you, make it a party! Reward them with a fun interaction with you, a treat, or a favourite toy. Teach them to understand that coming when called is a positive experience. 

It’s important not to assume your dog inherently knows the behaviour you expect or want to see. By practicing and rewarding regularly, and randomly, you’re teaching your dog to see a pattern that results in you being the most rewarding thing in any environment.  

Is it ever too late to train? 

The key thing when adjusting behaviour that has been long established in your dog is to break it down and assume your dog has no idea what’s required of them. Dogs are constantly learning, and although you can’t start fresh, you can always start something new.  

For more training tips, visit the Ontario SPCA blog.