Perfecting the recall!

by Fiona Sinclair // December 2017

Beneath this lovely calm exterior, my working type Labrador is a nose on legs. She loves to put her nose to the ground and follow a scent – at top speed! And where better to do this than in the hills, like the Pentlands near Edinburgh. On a recent visit there was even a dusting of fresh snow to add to the fun.

Getting a good recall with a dog like this takes practice and the very best rewards. My Labrador, like most of her breed, LOVES food; but food alone can’t compete with the wonderful reward of following a good scent on the ground. It’s only with lots of practice in areas with much less distraction that we have been able to build up a good recall in places like this. We started in the house when she was a puppy, gradually moving our recall practice to new areas and introducing new distractions. The very best rewards were always on offer for recall and my dog has learned to expect that.

Teaching your dog to come when called is one of the most important parts of your training, so here are some tips for getting it right:

  1. Always use the very best rewards for recall; get to know what this means for your dog. Liver? Tuna? Prunes??? Scatter treats on the ground for a dog that loves to sniff. Or maybe a game of tug or the chance to chase a ball is your dog’s idea of heaven?

  2. Practice the recall many times a day! Can you manage to fit in 50 times?

  3. Practice on-lead so that your dog can’t discover how wonderful it is to ignore your recall.

  4. Practice off-lead too but make sure you only use that precious recall word when you are 95% sure the dog will come to you. Otherwise, they learn to ignore you.

  5. While you are refining your recall, always try to make it a positive thing for your dog: don’t use the recall word when you are going to clip nails or put your dog in the bath if she is not keen on those things! Don’t call your dog away from fun and put her on the lead to go home – that comes later once your recall is perfect

Stick with these basic rules and watch your recall improve. Don’t be tempted to give up the rewards too soon – particularly with those teenage dogs!

Why not come to our classes to find out more about great exercises to practice recall with and get some hands-on help?


If you are interested in bringing your dog along to our classes, to see what you can you can achieve.

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