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Recall (Coming back when called)

Scenthounds, ex-racing greyhounds, lovesick dogs, young dogs and ex-strays may not be keen on coming back when called . Some dogs will never be trustworthy, but most dogs respond well to training, after which they can be trusted most of the time.


Work on recall at home first, where it's safe, attracting your dog's attention, calling 'here', or 'come here', with a treat reward when the dog comes to you. Pups usually want to be close to you for security, so this is quite easy when they're small. You can vary this by placing a small, tasty treat in a bowl about two feet away from you, while restraining your pup. Then encourage the pup go to the treat, pointing your arm at it, and, as the pup eats it, call them back for another treat which they get as soon as they've reached you. You can do this with a helper to place the treat, while you restrain the pup, or use a lead attached to something immovable to keep the pup in place, telling the pup to 'stay'. You can gradually build up the distance, keeping the bowl in the same place, putting another treat in the bowl, and starting from further back. This exercise is easier with a dog which has learnt to stay, because there's no need for restraint. You can also place the treat on a mat, to teach the dog to go to a mat, so it's quite a versatile exercise, building a number of skills, such as stay and sending out, as well as recall.

Once your dog has a good recall with you in sight, you can try recall from different rooms in the house, calling your dog's name and 'here', when he's in another room. Then, if you have a safe, enclosed garden, you can call the dog in the garden, or call him indoors from the garden, and out into the garden from indoors. Try recall in as many safe, enclosed areas as you can, but keep him on a long line while he's in unfenced areas, until he's coming back every time. You can try run-back recalls in unfenced areas, using a long line, getting him to sit and stay, running backwards, then calling him to you. Use gestures as well as your voice, so you're easier to understand and can communicate more easily at a distance when he can see you.

Find a very safe unfenced area to let him off for the first time, ie no roads, joggers, or screaming children nearby. The first time you let him off, let him have a little mad run around, then, when he is coming towards you, call him, and reward him. Vary the rewards, like cuddles, a throw toy or titbits, so he never knows what nice thing you are going to do next.

Try to call your dog only when you are sure he'll come back, or he has no option because he is on a long lead. You may be tempted to run after him if he won't come back, but he'd probably find that great fun, and keep on going. It's more effective to run away from him and shout 'bye bye'. If he's dancing near you and playing hard to get, sit down, ignore him, and squeak. Take a squeaky toy out with you if you feel an idiot squeaking yourself. Dogs like to investigate squeaks. You can also sit and play with one of his toys and ignore him, or hide. Sitting down is an invitation for most dogs to approach you. Hiding often works with dogs that like to take their time, but also like to keep you in view. Do praise your dog when he does come back after a delay, even if you're fuming about the worry he's caused you. Then do some
 run-back recalls to remind him that he's meant to obey you, and work harder on recall at home.

The more you practise recall at home, the stronger the recall on walks. Doing things with your dog on walks also both improves recall and lessens the chance of his wandering off. You can play hide and seek, for example, or ball games. Throw the ball in the direction you are walking if the dog doesn't always bring it back. It also helps to teach sit at a distance, or a 'lie down where you are' command. Then give a recall or release command, or catch up with the dog.

Whistles are very helpful for communicating at a distance, because the sound carries a long way, You can practise whistle recalls at home, for example, using four sharp pips for a recall. This usually attracts curious youngsters, and you can reward the dog for coming back with a titbit, or by throwing a ball. You may just want the dog to stop and sit at a distance, and you can also use a whistle for this. going up to the sitting dog, and rewarding with a thrown object or a titbit. Some people use one long whistle for a sit at a distance. Whistles are used differently in obedience, gundog and sheepdog training, so if you have a pup and plan on training classes with a whistle, it's worth finding out how your future trainer uses the whistle. It doesn't matter if you use two, three or four pips to signal a recall, so long as your dog understands the signal, and if you start out using a whistle the way it will be used in class, it makes life simpler. 

Dogs are more likely to wander off on walks if you aren't paying them much attention and they're bored, or when they are seeking a mate. Don't trust a seriously lovesick dog to come back - just keep him on a lead. You can tell if he's lovesick, he'll be deaf, sniffing constantly, and whining to go out when he's home. And letting a bitch in season off the lead in public places is asking for trouble!

It's best not to leave your dog unattended in the garden unless you're very, very sure that it's secure. The most common way for dogs to escape is when they're left alone in a garden, so get a friendly builder to help dog-proof your garden if you don't have the handyman skills yourself. It's a good investment since it can last the lifetimes of more than one dog. Dogs are less likely to try to escape if they know when they're going to have a walk - just being able to sniff new smells on a short walk can make them less 'antsy' and more relaxed.