Updated: Jan 16, 2021
When starting, keep your dog on a leash. Start with a regular 6ft leash in a calm area. Have your dog in a sit-stay at the end of the leash or if they cannot do this, wait for them to get distracted and go to the end of the leash. Next, call your dog (NAME, COME) excitedly and take a few steps backwards quickly. Instantly reel your dog to the front of you and praise. This is going to teach your dog to come right to your feet and quickly. Do not give your dog a lot of time to think about coming to you. They need to start coming towards you within ½ a second. Praise praise praise when they get to you. Repeat many times and keep doing this until they run towards you immediately without any reeling with the leash. (Once they have mastered this, you can start using a longer lead, 20-50ft)
You can use an e-collar for off leash recall training, your dog needs to know the command COME before using the e-collar. Start with a 6 ft leash, your dog won’t know what stim from the collar mean and may run away unless you reel him to you the first few times. Start by calling them and giving a tap of the e-collar, always release the button when your dog is coming towards you, hold the button if they head away from you.The dog should not yelp or jump, keep it on a working level (the dog can just barely feel it) for right now. Fade out your voice so when your dog feels the stim, he runs to you. Praise them thoroughly every time they come up to you. Practice with the lead until your dog will solidly come to you when he feels a stim or vibration on a 6ft lead. Then use a 20-50 ft lead, then add distractions, (people, dogs, animals, new places etc) then off leash in a fenced in area. Use the 20-50 ft lead in new areas and in as many places as possible while training them. When out in new areas, your dog’s adrenaline can be higher so his working level can be higher, bump up 5-10 levels in new areas. If your dog catches sight of something off leash and runs after it, do not be afraid to bump the collar up to high, it’s adrenaline will be high and it’s better to have a dog that is alive than try to “be nice” and have it get hit by a car.
Games with Recalls
Like children, dogs often learn best when playing games. You can use games to reinforce important behaviors, like “Come.”
Here are a few games to help strengthen your dog’s recall while also bonding and playing with you. Remember to keep your recall command happy and light, never aggressive or angry, and never chase after your dog if they don’t come to you, they’ll run farther away and you cannot out-run them.
Hide & Seek: (One of my favorites) Have your dog sit/stay in one room or have someone hold your dog. Go hide somewhere obvious (or ask your child to hide somewhere obvious), like partially behind something or around a corner. Excitedly call your dog to come find you. When he finds you, reward with lots of petting, praise and a treat. As your dog learns the game, the hiding spots can become more challenging.
Catch Me If You Can: Dogs love to play chase and a great way to get your dog excited about running to you is let them chase you. Never chase your dog, not even for this game. To play “Catch Me If You Can,” get your dog’s attention and then run in the opposite direction making fun sounds and excited gestures to get your dog to chase you. You can rustle the grass or pretend that you found something really amazing. When he “catches” you, make a big party with petting, praise, treats and toys.
Go & Come: A great game for speedy recalls is the “Go & Come” game. For this, you will need two types of treats, a low value treat like kibble, and a high value treat like cheese or meat. Toss a low value treat away from you and tell your dog to go get it. When he has nearly finished the treat, call him to “Come” in an excited voice and reward him with praise and a high value treat when he returns to you.
Relay Races: Get the family involved by having some relay races. This is easy to do in a hallway or in a fenced in yard. One person holds the puppy. The other person goes a few feet away and calls the puppy, rewarding them with several treats when the pup comes. Then the other person calls, also rewarding with several treats. Slowly increase the distance as your dog gets faster.
Recall Retrieve: If your dog loves fetch, this is a perfect game for them! Just throw the toy and as your dog is running toward you to return the toy, say “Come.” Have him give you the toy and repeat. If your dog is reluctant to give you the toy, switch him off for a treat or second toy.
An emergency recall can be used if your dog happens to get loose. You need to get your dog to look towards you, do NOT chase your dog, you can jog up to him if he has his back towards you but as soon as he turns, drop to the ground and act like you have something really fun, call him excitedly and make whatever noises that can get your dogs attention. Rustle the grass or run to a bush and shake the leaves, the point is to tap into your dog's instincts and make them think you caught a rabbit or small animal. They will run over to see and you need to grab them on the first try or else they will see your trick.
Check out AKC.org to find these games and more