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Why Your Dog Needs a Solid Recall

Author: Chris Long | Date: September 3, 2013

Having a solid recall can mean the difference between life and death for your dog. By having a solid recall, I mean that your dog responds consistently to a chosen word and comes bounding back to you. I don’t care if the word is “Come,” “Here,” “Pickle,” “Montana,” or “Sausage.” The point is, when you yell out that word, your dog should think that there is nothing more exciting or better than that, and should come racing to you.

In theory, this is great, but all too often, many of us fail to build this solid recall.

In a perfect world, a good solid recall is taught by having a dog learn that the recall word, like “Come,” means treats, belly rubs, and the general feeling that he is a genius. As a puppy, you train your dog  by giving him a reward every time he hears that word. Nothing bad happens when that word is said. Or, if bad things do occasionally happen, like the romp in the park is over, or he gets put in his crate, he has been rewarded so many other times that it’s okay.

In the real world, people don’t usually have treats on hand all the time. The dog is in the yard, and the pot of pasta on the stove is going to boil over, or the phone is ringing, or you’re late, and THE. DOG. JUST. WON’T LISTEN. So, you call his name and say, “Come.” He ignores you, because the smell under the bushes is far more interesting. Frustrated, you repeat yourself. Again. When he finally trots over to you, he’s  brought in the house and maybe put in the crate. He’s inside, but that delicious smell is outside.  Basically, the fun is over. If you were a dog, would you come running up to a human for that?

Repeat this enough times, and the word “Come” is meaningless.

Even worse, it could mean, “avoid my human, because the fun is over.”

If you suspect that this is the case with your dog, don’t fret. Simply pick a new word to let your dog know he should come galloping up to you for some deliciousness because he is so super smart. Don’t use the old, meaningless word. Make sure that anyone who uses the new, awesome recall word has amazing treats that your dog will love. If your dog is out in the yard, use the new recall word, reward him for being so awesome, and let him go play again. Do this in the house, out in the yard, at the dog park, or even on a leash. Don’t do it when your dog is chasing a squirrel, or when you’re angry, or if you need to do something unpleasant with your dog. Remember, it’s all about setting your dog up for success and showing him this word means that spectacular things will happen, you just have to run to me.

Last weekend, we had a new bedroom set delivered. The movers propped the doors to our house open as well as the gate to the alley. Khaleesi, our hound, saw the world beyond the fence and trotted through the gate to explore the exciting alley. Even though I saw her go out and ran to catch up with her, she was halfway down the alley before I made it out of the gate.  I saw her and yelled, “Khaleesi, Come!” She spun around and galloped towards me, back down the alley, through the gate, into the house, where I rewarded her with an entire can of cat food (a little disclaimer- this is a rare treat for what I felt was an outstanding performance on her part). That night, I was thankful that we had been so careful and consistent in building a solid recall… and that my dog was able to devour that can of food without so much as a single burp.

How do you show your dog that coming when called is the best thing ever?


Our trainer gave us lots of tips and “homework”, as well as useful resources.

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