I’d say this is one of the top complaints I most often hear. A poor recall is not something an owner wants to admit. Nor do they want to hear that they are the cause of the problem. Of course, there are also lots of excuses.

  1. “My dog is stupid.” - Honestly, I have yet to meet one, and I've been at this a long time.

  2. “This breed is known for being stubborn.” - Really? This is usually not true, although some owners don’t realize they are playing into their dog’s breed traits, with which they are not familiar or didn’t even realize the dog had. (Should have done their homework BEFORE they committed to bringing Spot home.)

  3. “I don’t have time to work with my dog.” - A really big really? for this. Why ever not? Perhaps you should not have gotten a four-legged companion at this time.

  4. “The dog is more work than my cat.” First of all, your dog is not a cat.

Please note that dogs and cats are very different. They are even a different species. I say this because I’ve actually come across a few people who thought “a pet is a pet.” (More than that I won’t say.) Dogs are social animals. Cats are not.

A dog not listening to a recall occurs for any number of reasons.

  1. Not enough time was devoted to proper training.

  2. The dog was not given rewards high enough in value in the beginning to make it worth its while to cooperate.

  3. Poor timing on the owner’s part.

  4. The handler’s “marker” held little value.

  5. The dog was given inconsistent praise (not just food rewards.)

  6. Commanding started before the dog understood what was asked of it.

  7. Not enough repetitions were performed for a solid foundation.

  8. The dog has its own agenda and you are trying to force the issue.

  9. Owners are giving the dog mixed messages and creating confusion.

  10. Training happened in a distracting environment.

  11. More than one behavior was trying to be taught in the same training session.

  12. The handler is always talking to the dog’s butt.

Any training - whether it’s a recall or anything else - is about shaping your dog’s behavior so that he/she can understand what is asked of it. This is where positive training really comes into play. It’s called shaping. Training is not about commanding at this stage.

Too often, people ask the dog to do something it hasn’t learned or only has a shaky foundation for, which soon falls apart. Here’s a two-legged example:

Asking a first year med student to do successful brain surgery. Not going to happen. As you can see, the student was set up for FAILURE. Many people regularly do this to their dogs, especially in teaching a recall.

Train for success.

  1. Pick a spot to train with as few distractions as possible.

  2. Train only for one behavior. In this instance, the recall.

  3. Decide ahead of time what you and your family are going to label that recall. “Here? Come? Quick? Potluck?” It doesn’t matter what you call it or in what language, but it must be used consistently by everyone so that there is no confusion for Spot. Using more than “recall word” is truly confusing.

  4. Start at a short distance. Don’t get carried away. Build that foundation FIRST. Remember, it’s about success!

  5. Work for only five to ten minutes. No more!

  6. Afterwards, put Phydo in a quiet spot or his crate for at least a half hour. This lets the dog’s short-term memory convert to long-term memory.

  7. Give your dog a nice gooey Kong or marrow bone during downtime. You want his stay there to be one he looks forward to again.

Most importantly, the trainer must remember that building a solid behavior takes TIME. There are no shortcuts, only consistent proper positive effort and rewards.


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