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How To Teach Your Dog A Perfect Recall

Wondering how to train a perfect recall with your dog? We’re revealing our secret steps to nailing recall - don’t miss out!

Teaching your dog to come when called is an essential part of your lives together. 

A reliable recall is the foundation of joyful, stress-free walks. It also allows you to give your dog more freedom and it helps keep them safe.

However, our research has proven that recall is by far the greatest challenge facing dog owners. 

In fact, our 2022 Play Survey of more than 2,000 dog owners revealed that 80% struggled with their dog's recall.

The happy news is, almost 70% of owners said that Tug-E-Nuff toys have positively impacted on their recall training. 

So, what’s the secret to recall training your dog reliably?

Training a reliable recall is all about making yourself more exciting (in your dog’s eyes) than your environment.

There’s a reason why even the yummiest of treats aren’t enough to get your dog to return to you - and it’s because your dog’s biggest distractions (whether it’s other dogs, squirrels or smells) are simply more interesting. 

Often, the best and only way to eliminate distractions and get your dog to focus on you, is by harnessing the Power of Play. That means using an interactive, motivational recall training aid as the ultimate reward, so your dog comes running back the second you call them, 

In this blog, you’re going to discover exactly how to use the Power of Play to train a perfect recall.

Here are the 8 recall dog training steps you need to follow...

1. Introduce your recall toy

Once you have chosen a recall toy, you have to build value into it for your dog. To do this, introduce the toy to your dog in a distraction-free environment (the hallway in your house with all the doors closed is a great place to start).

Let your dog see and sniff the toy and praise any interest they show in it (our toys are designed by training experts to be highly motivational - so this shouldn’t be too tricky!).

Try mimicking the movement of prey with the toy by moving it fast, slow, then fast again to spark your dog’s instinctive play drive. 

If your dog is happy to grab on to the bite area and engage in a game of tug straight away, go for it! If not, you’ll want to start by encouraging them to bite down on the fluffy part of the toy before starting to tug back and forth and then asking for a ‘leave’. 

When you’ve finished playing, put your recall toy away so that it maintains its status as a high valued prize.

If you’re new to playing tug, you might find our tips on teaching your dog to play tug here helpful. 

Note: Always remember the three magic words: supervised, interactive, fun. Tug-E-Nuff toys aren’t chew toys and should never be left unattended with your dog. 

2. Decide on a recall word

    With the Tug-E-Nuff dogs, we use ‘come’ as our recall word, which works well. You can use any word you like - as long as you use it consistently. So decide on a recall word - and stick to it! 

    3. Practice on a short lead

      Maybe your dog has always struggled with recall, or maybe they once had a good recall but now need to go back to basics. Either way, this next step is an essential part of the process - so don’t overlook it because it seems ‘easy’. 

      Put your dog on a short lead right next to you. Use your recall word and look for any response from your dog. At this point, just making eye contact is enough. If they do this, offer the reward of a play with their Tug-E-Nuff recall toy. Repeat this a few times.

      4. Try a longline dog lead

        For this next step, you’ll need a long line lead and to be in a distraction-free environment (at home is usually best).

        This time when you use your recall word, you want your dog to move towards you in order to get the reward of a play with their Tug-E-Nuff toy.

        Build distance slowly, gradually using more of the length of the lead. Again, practice this a few times until they’ve got the hang of it. If your dog seems to be struggling, go back to step three (on a shorter lead). 

        5. Add in distractions

          Once your dog will consistently come when called whilst on a long lead while at home, it’s time to add in distractions.

          Still using a long line lead, practice recalling your dog in busier environments - such as the dog park or at the beach.

          Practice improving your dog's recall around as many distractions as possible - and that includes other dogs, scent trails and various wildlife. However, it’s important to set your dog up to succeed - so do this gradually and add in one distraction at a time, if you can.

          6. Drop the longline

          If your dog is able to successfully and consistently recall on a long line with various distractions around them, it’s time to try recall off-lead.

          However, to begin with, practice somewhere that your dog can’t run off too far (a large, enclosed garden is ideal).

          7. Add in distance 

            Once you’ve got your off-lead recall nailed, the next step is to add in some distance. Gradually let your dog explore further afield before calling them back.

            Remember to offer the high value reward of a play with their Tug-E-Nuff toy every time they return to you - rewards are important even once recall becomes ‘easy’. 

            If, during any of the steps, your dog starts to struggle you should pause and go back a step or two.

            Teaching your dog a perfect recall requires patience - take things at the pace your dog finds comfortable, and always only use positive reinforcement (never punishing your dog for doing the ‘wrong’ thing) 

            7. Don’t save recall for home time

              Your dog is smarter than you think. If you only recall them when it’s time to go home (and for their fun walk to stop), they’ll soon catch on.

              To combat this, recall your dog at various, random points during your walk. Offer their reward when they get to you and then clip on to the lead for a few paces before letting them go again. This way, they won’t be able to predict what recall ‘means’ and it’s far more likely to be successful long term. 

               Or check out our full range of recall toys here. 

              Read Next:

              3 top reasons your dog's ignoring recall

              Human-dog bond basics - how to boost your bond

              5 tips for training your high prey drive dog

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