Rules of Recall Training
Train with a leash! Set your dog up for success both when training and in life. And if you don’t trust his recall, or local ordinances require it, keep your dog on leash. The best-trained dogs can be led astray by the scent of a critter, many of which are most active at dawn and dusk.
Never call your dog to you for something unpleasant. If you need to do something your dog may consider unpleasant, calmly walk up to him, ask him to sit, feed a treat, attach the leash, feed another treat, and walk him wherever you need to go.
Reward generously. Convince your dog that hearing his recall word is like winning the doggy lottery. Use small, soft, high-value treats that can be broken into many small pieces. A piece of cheese the size of a game die can be pinched into 10 or more small treats. Ten small treats, clearly fed one at a time while you lavish praise and petting in ways your dog enjoys, are better than one large treat. It’s dog math!
Don’t overuse the recall word. My recall word (“Here!”) is reserved for situations where there’s more at risk, either because my dog is off leash, or because there is a situation that might go sideways. If I’m casually walking down the hall and want my dog to follow me, or I’m trying to call him inside, I use a more casual phrase such as, “C’mon… let’s go…” or “C’mon … inside.”
Avoid static recalls. Dogs love to chase stuff. Rather than stand still as you call your dog, scamper away so he gets to chase you.
It’s okay to always use food! For the life of my dog, especially when I choose to let him off-leash somewhere (thus upping his access to distractions), I will always bring treats and reward heavily. This does not mean he’s not well trained; it means I understand I’m asking him to do something challenging and I’m willing to pay well for this, and to maintain the behavior. He doesn’t need to come when called “because I said so.” Try to keep ego out of your training!