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How do you recall a dog that wont listen?

How to Train an Older Dog Recall

Training your dog to recall is one of the most important skills your dog should master. It’s critical to teach a young puppy recall as soon as practical, but what about older dogs? Are they able to learn to recall too? Maybe you’ve just adopted an older dog from a rescue or shelter, or perhaps your dog is up in years and needs some refresher training, but regardless of the circumstances, an older dog can learn new tricks. It will just take more effort, time, and commitment.

Recall is vital for all dogs to learn because your dog needs to listen to and focus on you no matter what distractions may abound. For the safety of your dog, yourself, and anyone in your immediate area, you need your pup to come when he’s called the first time. These training methods will put you and your senior canine on the road to a better recall.

Defining Tasks

The challenge with recall is making it more exciting for your pup to come to you when called rather than investigate the rabbit in the next yard over or the dog across the street. While we all want to let our dogs run free, we also don’t want them to run into danger or cause difficulties for other people or pets. Therefore, a proper recall can allow your dog some freedom while he remains responsive and under your control.

Older dogs may take longer to pick up on the recall especially if they were never taught this skill or were taught differently or incorrectly. Patience is essential in this situation, as is consistency. Above all, keep it interesting for your dog, so he doesn’t get bored with you and let his attention wander. Ultimately, you want your dog to return to you on cue because what you offer is better than anything else out there.

Getting Started

Have some high-value treats on hand, preferably ones that you don’t regularly give to your senior dog. That will make the treats seem special and help prevent boredom on your dog’s part. Change those treats up frequently so he doesn’t become accustomed to what reward he will receive. If the dog is not food-driven, consider having a new squeaky toy or ball to use as a reward for recall.

For the best training results, use a long lead line consistently as this allows your dog room to move but you are in control at all times of his movements. Long lines can be dropped on the ground and dragged behind the dog but can quickly be stepped on or picked up by you if necessary. Choose lead lines in bright colors as they are easier to see on the ground outside. Do not use retractable leashes for training.

Start each of the following training methods in a low-distraction environment such as a large room in your house or a fenced-in backyard. Once your older dog masters these levels of recall, you can begin to work in larger spaces on walks or in dogs parks or on trails.

The Happy Recall Method

Energize your recall command

Whatever word your choose as a recall command, deliver it with a voice full of happiness, energy, and excitement. When your dog responds by coming to you, reward him with a treat. Do this for a few minutes so he associates coming to you and staying next to you as a pleasure.

Run and reward

With your dog by your side, say «Come!» cheerfully, then run for ten to fifteen feet. Stop and reward your dog. Change up the reward between a treat or toy to keep your dog guessing.

Practice Steps 1 and 2

Continue to practice the first two steps for at least a week before moving to a larger area.

Try longer distance recalls

Using a long lead line, practice Step 2 when your dog is at a farther distance from you. Again, when you stop running be sure to reward your dog enthusiastically.

Add some helpers

Once your dog has done well on recall from longer distances, ask some friends or family members to help with the happiness and provide some new distractions to challenge your pup. Then, start the process over from Step 1.

The Long Line Game Method

Pick a recall command

Choose a command word for the recall and use it only when your dog is running toward you. Avoid using your dog’s name as the recall command.

Use the long line lead and demand his focus

Hook the long line lead up to your dog, then take the first few minutes to play and engage your dog.

Invent some fun games and use the recall command

Be creative and come up with some fun games to keep your dog interested in focusing on you. Toss a toy up in the air when your dog isn’t expecting it, or roll some treats on the ground. Then give the recall command.

Run and chase

Deviate your direction and run away from your dog while giving the recall command. As soon as your dog catches up to you, reward him.

Practice longer ranges and different directions

As your dog improves his recall skills, switch things up on him to keep him on his toes. When he gets to the end of the lead line, switch directions and give him the recall command. He will learn to pay attention to you so he doesn’t lose you.

The Focus on Me Method

Get your dog’s attention

Practice spending time getting and holding your dog’s eye contact. Reward your dog by saying his name and giving him a treat after a few moments of eye contact. Lengthen the time frame and move about the room once the first goal has been mastered.

Teach your dog a recall command

Choose your recall command for your dog, such as «Come» or «Here.»

Deliver the command consistently

Make sure that each time you use your recall command word, you do so in the same way each time.

Practice the recall

Give the recall command to your dog, and when he responds correctly, offer him a unique, high-value reward.

Introduce distractions

When your dog successfully masters the basis recall training, move him to a larger space with more distractions. Ask a friend to bike or run by your house, throw a ball over your dog’s head, or ask a neighbor to let his dog out in his yard. Continue this practice until your dog is focused on you and you alone.

By Erin Cain

Published: 04/23/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

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Training Questions and Answers

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he is obsessed with the chuck it ball and carry’s it everywhere when we are out after the first throw. when on the beach he will chase other peoples balls and sometimes pinches them so he has two balls in his mouth and will not come when called to retrieve the other persons ball.

Caitlin Crittenden — Dog Trainer

1133 Dog owners recommended

Come! Tips For Training a Reliable Recall

Spanish Water Dog running on the beach.

Learning to come when called, or recall to you, is one of the most important skills your dog can acquire. But teaching a recall can be challenging, as dogs find so much of the world so interesting. Each time we ask our dog to come to us, we are asking them to stop what they are doing and turn away from other stimuli. As a result, to build a reliable recall, we must teach our dogs that being near us is the most fun thing they can do and will bring them the most rewards.

What Is Reliable Recall?

“Reliable recall” means that when you call your dog to come, you are 99.99% sure they are going to enthusiastically respond. Dogs are not robots, so there is never any guarantee that they will listen to your cue. But with a lifesaving skill like recall, we are working towards them being as consistent as possible.

Having a reliable recall is especially important if you want to allow your dog off-leash outside of a fenced yard or dog park. Reliable recall is also important in the event of an emergency.

Alternatives to Off-Leash Play

There is no shame in keeping your dog on-leash if you are not confident in their recall. Instead, let them play in fenced areas or consider using a long leash. These may give your companion more opportunity to explore while staying safe.

Regardless of how strong your dog’s recall is, it is important to respect all local leash laws. This includes your front yard and anywhere else on your property that is not fenced. Local, state, and national parks will usually also have these regulations in effect.

©Lois Stanfield

Training Recalls

An important part of teaching recall is to make training a game for your dog. Start your training in a slow, low-distraction environment, like inside your house. First, show your dog a toy or a treat, praise them as they are coming to you, then reward them. After a few repetitions, whenever your dog looks at you and starts to move towards you, add in your chosen verbal cue (“come,” “here,” etc.). Make sure to only add in the cue when you are confident your dog is moving towards you.

You can slowly up the ante by asking your dog to come before showing them the treat. But be sure to reward with a high-value treat like chicken, cheese, or beef liver when they get to you. Also, try slowly adding distance within your low-distraction environment.

Recall Games

  • Catch Me: While walking your dog on-leash, get their attention, then turn around and run a few steps. As your pup moves with you, say “come!” or another verbal recall. After a few steps, stop and reward with a treat or a toy. Before you run, make sure your dog is paying attention to ensure the leash does not yank at them.
  • Find Me: Once your dog has gotten the hang of recall, you can build speed by calling them from another room. When your dog finds you, offer lots of praise and rewards. This hide-and-seek-like game is a lot of fun for both pups and people!
  • Hot Potato: Take two or more family members or friends and give them high-value treats. Next, stand apart and take turns calling your dog between you. Reward your companion each time they come to the person who called them.

A common training mistake is to recall your dog, put the leash on, and go home. Dogs will likely learn to view recall as a sign that the fun is over, which may make them less likely to come in the future. One good method of practice is to recall, praise, and give a treat, then release your dog and allow them to return to they were doing before.

Poisoning The Cue

“Come! COME! Come! Come! Come! Please come!”

If this sounds like your dog’s current recall, you may have a “poisoned cue.” This generally happens unintentionally and occurs when the cue either has an unclear meaning or takes on a negative association for the dog, so they ignore it. The easiest way to poison a cue is to overuse it by repeating the word over and over without your dog responding.

In this case, the best thing to do is to change your verbal cue to something new. For example, if you had previously used “come,” you could shift to something like “here” or “close.” Go back to basics and start at the beginning when introducing the new recall cue.

chuckrasco/Getty Images Plus
Basset Hound running across the grass.

Recall Training Tips

    • Do not repeat yourself. If you have to repeat your recall cue, the environment may be too distracting. Alternatively, your dog may not understand the skill well enough for the level you at which you are trying to train them.
      • Reward eye contact. When you notice your dog is looking at you or has self-selected to be close to you, verbally praise and give them a treat. You may use a lot of treats at first, but you are reinforcing an important lesson to your dog. Being near you and paying attention to you makes good things happen.
        • Never punish your dog for coming to you. Even if you are frustrated because your pup took their time before coming, always praise a recall.
          • Reward! When training recalls, use high-value treats and toys for your dog. This is especially true when your dog is learning. Always reward the recall, because you want them to associate coming with getting something great.
            • Practice recalls daily. Slowly increase the difficulty and level of distraction. Moving too quickly is likely to confuse your dog and may lead to less reliability.
              • If you require recall in an emergency, do not chase your dog. That is likely to make them continue the “game” by moving away from you. Instead, try running away from your dog to inspire them to chase after you.

              Need some help training your dog? While you may not be able to attend in-person training classes during COVID-19, we are here to help you virtually through AKC GoodDog! Helpline. This live telephone service connects you with a professional trainer who will offer unlimited, individualized advice on everything from behavioral issues to CGC prep to getting started in dog sports.

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