One of the most pressing questions for anyone who lives with a dog can be “how do I train my dog to come when called?”. Often this is asked when there has been a recall collapse. It’s also a question we see a lot in our Free Dog Training Facebook Group.
I wrote an article called “Deposits Into the Perfect Recall Account” many years ago, and it’s frequently used as a resource for the question, but we have never had it here on my blog. That changes today, and the article is below for you in full. Anyone who has registered for our Recallers program will know the article, and we have also turned it into an eBook that we send to you when you register for our Recallers notification list. If you would like the eBook, just fill in the form for Recallers that’s here on my blog.
Deposits Into The Perfect Recall Account
To increase the probability that your dog will come to you, each and every time you call.
This is achieved by building a solid foundation of them doing just that. You must be diligent, and make sure that the number of times your dog comes to you when you call, is far, far greater than the number of times your dog chooses not to come when called (ideally you don’t ever want that to happen!).
Here is a strategic approach to help you shape a more reliable response each and every time you call your dog:
Make up a list of situations, people, toys, places, other animals, food, objects or odours that your dog finds distracting, to the point of not listening to you. Refer to the list below of possible distractions for your recall if you need ideas.
Rate these distractions on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most distracting to your dog. Now, for the next week, make a point of having your dog on lead at all times when they are around any distractions that are “2” or greater.
You are going to avoid any “10” distractions for the next 2 months. This means you are not going to allow your dog freedom to choose not to come to you, when number “10” distractions are in their environment. This may mean keeping your dog on leash for the duration of this program or until you are confident in the reliability of his recall.
In order to have success with recalls, you must put in the groundwork. Make a plan of doing recalls with your dog, three sessions a day — 5 minutes per session.
Use different motivators to reward your dog when he comes to you. Your motivators may be toys, different types of food or anything else your dog goes gaga over. Choose a word that you want your dog to understand means “come to me”. It may be “come”, “here”, “com’ere”, “front” or anything else you choose. Try to pick a word you haven’t already attached meaning to (ie, if you choose “come” and you have been using “come” with your dog and your dog comes sometimes but not always, this word already means, “I have a choice” to your dog).
Do not use your dog’s name before the cue “come” when playing the recall game. In two months, once they fully understand their new cue “come”, adding their name will be a bonus.
Be sure the motivator is being used as a reward and not as a bribe. Call the dog, celebrate verbally with them for coming and then present the reward. Do not hold the motivator out like a lure in front of their nose as then you are teaching your dog to come to you only if they can see the toy or food first.
In your five-minute training sessions you should be able to get in between 15 and 25 recalls with your dog. In your initial training sessions, make certain there are no distractions around so your dog will want to come to you. You may even have someone help you by restraining your dog. Walk a short distance away and call out your cue “come” and run away. When your dog chases you celebrate verbally and reward. Be sure you vary your body position. Some times call your dog and when he starts to come, you will run away so he can chase you. Sometimes start to run away but then stop and let him come to your while you are standing still. Occasionally don’t run at all. Be unpredictable.
As the week progresses add a few of the distractions that rate a “1” on the distraction scale. Remember to only call your dog once, if your dog chooses the distraction over you, score one for them, minus 20 for you. You then need to execute at least 20 additional recalls before you can progress with your homework. By the end of the week your dog should be doing a successful recall with distractions of “2” or lower.
If your dog does not come with one cue at any time during the program lower your criteria. You may need to lower the rank of the distractions, if you are working with distractions. You may need to move closer to your dog or get more attractive rewards.
Progress up the distraction chart as your dog allows you to, but not too fast. You want to try to work your dog in the presence of their number 10 distractors, but not until you have diligently done your homework of at least 8 weeks of recalls. After eight weeks you should have put in an average of 20 recalls per training session, 3 times per day, 7 days per week. Over the two months of work you would have done at least 3360 successful recalls with your dog.
If your dog has a long history of not coming when he is called you may need to extend this program. It may be more difficult for you to work up your distraction list, be patient and only move forward with success. Rather then 8 weeks your schedule may be 16 or more. The program will work if you are methodical and DO NOT let your dog have his freedom to ignore a recall at any other time.
You may not have thought of every possible distraction your dog may encounter but if you have worked through as many distractions as you can think of in as many different locations available to you, your dog will start to generalize his recall to all locations.
Following through with daily reinforcements for coming will give you a solid foundation of shaping your dog to want to run to you, each and every time you call, regardless of what distractions are in their environment.
Enjoy the training! Remember we are all about fun for your dog and fun for you!
For some inspiration, there are two very short videos of mine on Facebook to see what a “real world” recall looks like. You can watch even if you are not on Facebook. Check out a Tater-Salad recall … okay, he might need some work on ‘stopping’ but if you have been following along with Tater, you will know he is a rescue dog who had a long history of not coming when called. The next is Feature recalling off a squirrel. Recalls like this are possible if you keep the deposits in your recall account high.
Today I am grateful for everyone who has shared “Deposits Into The Perfect Recall Account” with friends, family, training buddies and students over the years.
Great advice thanks!
Lenni and I have just come back from a most happy and joyous walk . Lenni responded to ‘here’ when distracted by crazy smells,when he went to far out on the lead . Sat at heal while others walked past we had a good 2 metres distance . And whilst not instantaneous rather than freezing and trying to lurge (not in a bad way he does not have an aggressive bone in his body he just things they are playing) at an aggressive barking dog on the side walk I was able to use use the here and with me and he did respond ( not fast enough however positive) again when he saw and heard 2 barking dogs about 5 metres away he stood and watched, did not come on the 1st here however did click after what seems minutes ( possibly about 30 sec) he did respond and remember we were walking together. My most favoutite ‘command’ that you have taught me Susan is ‘with me’ Ive never used it with any on my other dogs and I wish I had. Lenni respond to it really well and possibly more importantly I do; I loved it . No doubt there will be not so great training sessions around the corner. Howver tonight showed so much promise and very proud human and dog companions. THANK YOU
Adding to my training list.One of my biggest issue s is a smell on the ground when Lenni 5 month BMD are out practsing walking. Im getting better at avoiding people and dogs but the unpredicatable smells I loose he is strong and only going to get stronger . I will try to be dillegent . some times I gt overwhelemed with all he needs to learn or rather all I need to learn. Tnak you for harign Susan Im terrbile at post and vifeoing too much for me right now however we are dilegent at listening to yoru podacs and watching your u tubes. we are ot so great at growing the games but we are trying.Thnak you for sharign your passion and love abounds and I am gratefulChristina and Lenni
You are very generous to share this, yet you don’t say how to “not allow” them to not come on the recall. Please explain.
It would be great to avoid all number 10 distractions but Milo goes literally out of his mind for dogs and people and it is impossible to not run into these where we live and wal’. Any suggestions?
My problem is not with distractions but the dog realizing he is being recalled when he doesn’t think he wants to come. Like to load into the car when he’s not sure it’s positive. This is a random reaction from him. Sometimes he’s ready to go but I can’t tell ahead of time and treats lose their relative value in these situations
My dog’s outside trigger–depending on the season–are little things that fly erratically. In the summer is was moths and butterflies. Starting in the fall and happening all of the time when there is no snow cover, it is blowing eaves. She loses her mind. The real battle, inside or out would be when she gets something in her mouth and does NOT want to give it up. It is a constant battle. She loves to chew on rocks, plastic, coins, cardboard, paper, ANYTHING that might fit in her mouth. Sometimes it’s a receipt that I need, sometimes its diabetes-related stuff. She will not drop it unless she is trading up, and then I’m rewarding terrible choices. Help!
and what about the dog who is grabbing your pants while running ?
This is all so good and works perfectly! But I have a BIG problem with my frenchie and treat rewards. Too many training treats during the day and I have to reduce mealtime quantity so his digestion – which functions best with just 2 meals a day – goes way off and I’m taking him out to poo in the middle if the night. This has become a real dilemma because he loves training and does so well with it, and he is not motivated by toys at all. Suggestions?
I would explore “Value Transfer” from food to toys! It can absolutely be done! I forget which podcast but I think SG has a podcast on Value Transfer somewhere around here 🙂 My Border Collie mix much prefers toys, and she had troubles eating in general so we did value transfer and she can take both fine now. I also rotate what I feed her. I called my vet and made a list of foods I can make at home. So for her she cant have more than half a banana a day, I mix in steamed broccoli as a treat, and boiled chicken for the tough stuff, ect.. Lots of fruits, vegetables, and meats so we dont run into health troubles, or atleast we hope to avoid it best we can. I pre measure them into little “lunchboxes” a day before. That way I can rotate the healthy treats that are premade and pre measured with the toys! Really important to clear anything with the vet first so you know what’s safe, and how much is safe per day! Good luck hon and I hope something in here helps! Maybe one of the admins will see this and know the episode from heart that I am thinking of… I swear there’s a podcast on it or something by SG LOL
You can either make the treats really tiny, or use her food, if it’s solid, as her treats.
I have a 2 1/2 year old papillon rescue named Jack. He is a good dog, but insists on grabbing something to bring in from the fenced in back yard. It is often a twig or piece of mulch or a stone. Getting it away from him before he swallows it is a challenge. I have not found a treat that he likes enough to eat it right away as a reward. He stashes his treats in couch corners and in his dog bed for later if needed. He does not come in when called, has a mind of his own. Suggestions appreciated.
Hi Roberta, two suggestions for you. Review Podcast #58 and #59 where you might find them both insightful.Susan’s program Home School the Dog offers a fun training opportunity called Bring Me. Have a listen! https://dogsthat.com/podcast/59/
You say do not let your dog have the freedom not to come. Does this mean at first you have them on a long lead and draw them in if they don’t come when called, but only reward if they come by themselves?
I am wondering the same thing. I understand everything else but not what to do if they don’t come.
The trigger for our rescue dog are birds on the fence or in the neighbour’s tree (we have only a court yard at the back) and no possibility to draw curtains to the floor length glass door. Also we have a doggie door and she is out in a flash when she sees the birds and barking until they have flown away.
Any suggestions How to deal with it?
I understand the concept but I am simply not prepared to not walk my dog off lead until she has perfect recall. It would make both our lives intolerable. Yes mine two as hiking through bush/ beach is my main joy in life. Zulli come sometimes instantly some times in a minute or so and occasionally in her own time. I have two recalls. COME I only use either in formal obedience and sometime when she is already close and I am sure she will come. We are really at 100% there. The second is a sort of YODEL ( as I can’t whistle) which means “ I’m over here, please check in with me” I might add THIS WAY, if she’s ahead and I’ve turned back or changes tract. What I want to train is an “ Emergency Recall” and am thinking of a whistle I carry, plus a different verbal and I would use Susan’s method to train that word/sound, so I would use it in increasing distance / distractions as outlined, but not on our hikes until we had reached a level of training as outlined. In the meantime I would still use my yodel, when I wanted her to check in. Does that make sense? I am a Recallers Alumni plus H360 and Agility Nation.
Hi I registered for news letter but didn’t get confirmation email to click to confirm
I’ve tried as well, twice now. No confirmation e-mail…
Correction…I just checked again it came!! It just took about 12 hours to get here 🙂 …thank you
I’d like to share a fun recall story about my 12 week old puppy. A huge distraction for her is moose poop (the sawdust type). So I’ve practiced letting her get focused on it and then calling and running as suggested. Now she looks for it, grabs a piece and comes running, even if I don’t call. Somehow she thinks the reward is for bringing the moose poop! She so proudly drops it at my feet and waits for the treat!
This is the key – you have to put in the work to expect results.
After eight weeks you should have put in an average of 20 recalls per training session, 3 times per day, 7 days per week. Over the two months of work you would have done at least 3360 successful recalls with your dog.
Fence fighting, today my dog came off the fence on the first call. I had a cookie for him. I was elated. I thought of you. I have been training the recall for several years. It has been a long hard slog, at last some headway.
Since so many of his distractions happen when we are on walks, should we not walk him? That’s where I am confused. I agree with everything you are saying. I am just not sure how to execute it without keeping him locked inside the house all day where he can’t get sticks, leaves, and rocks (all of which he loves to put into his mouth) and then we have to fish them out for fear of him swallowing something terrible.
Hi, I think the point is to walk him on the leash when in the presence of distractions.
Thank you for your information. I need help with my 5 mo old 3 pound Miki puppy. She may be about 4 lbs. she is afraid of the pull on the leash or harness. She will play with leash and harness, wear her harness, but if I attached the leash and let her just walk around by herself to get used to it . She freezes will not move or go forward with a treat or toy? Please help. She does search well that you taught us. Thank you very much. I want to help her with her fear.
It’s when the door bell rings
We got a great doorbell fix. Home Depot has doorbell chimes. We’ve got ours spent on Beethoven. It has Christmas songs etc. not too expensive and fit right where the old one was. It also has an adjustable volume.
My older dogs goes crazy barking and runs through the house like a maniac . Then he is so excited the person can’t get in the door. He is teaching my puppy to repeat his bad behavior
Hi! Thank you SO so much for this information!! We rescued a 5-6 month old Belgian Malinois last year (2018) in June. To say she is a bundle of energy handful is a massive understatement 😂😂😂 She is very defiant, because she is extremely playful & energetic, but she WANTS to do well to please us & is the best snuggler ever. I plan ok starting the 8 week recall course on Monday, & extending if necessary. Currently we have to tether her (supervised at all times of course) or keep her on a long leash even in our fenced backyard, because if we do not, she clears that fence & bolts. She always eventually comes back after the whole family is out there calling her & bribing with treats, but I’m hoping if both her & I are diligent with this recall program, she can be the best dog!!!
Thank you. I need to go back to starter block on recalls with my girl. She is addicted to rabbit hunts and disappears fast into the undergrowth. She has some hound DNA along with beardie, retriever and couple of others .
can’t let him off leash out of house as he will take off right away
I am on the recallers notification list …I didn’t get the e book that goes with the How to get your dog to come when called.
Could I get the link please
Thanks for your help
Thanks for the training advice, very useful! But what if the triggers/distractions are in or around the house? My dog can get very focused on rabbits and unfortunately these little critters are EVERYWHERE in our garden. I understand how I can work with her on her walks outside on a leash, but should I have her on a leash all day? And inside the house she can get quite obsessed looking at the rabbits jumping around in front of the window. I can usually call her away but I’m not always around and I really don’t want to shut her away in a crate for hours on end… Any tips?
Since no one has answered you I will try to answer you this question, you already have answered it in some ways yourself. I am a dog trainer for nearly 20 years , however I do not have the experience as Susan or some of her team members have when it comes to the Recaller program.
In order to set the dog up for success he should never be left unattended in the backyard, rather it is fenced or not.
One of the biggest mistakes people make, is leave the dogs unattended in the backyard, making the dog practice all the undesired behaviors you don’t like. That goes for the same thing leaving a dog unattended in a house, looking through the windows where they can practice going bonkers over squirrels and bunnies and what not. If you don’t want to create your dog when you’re not home, you could block the windows or put the dog in a different room so he does not have access to those windows. For the outdoor exercise as described above into Susan’s blog you might want to get a 30 foot leash, always have control over the dog in case he makes bad choices. I hope this helps, perhaps re-read the blog above to follow Susan‘s instructions on how to work with the dog around the distractions you mentioned, take baby steps take your time. Best of luck to you
( I understand if you have to delete this note, since I’m not an authorized instructor of the Recaller’s team, nevertheless any feedback to correct my feedback to Eline would be appreciated )
Extremely informative advice for a safe outcome…especially when my one is a sheep & car chaser ! 😢😭
Great article, excellent training tips!
Thank you for this training advice … very much appreciated!
Always sound advice!!!