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3 reasons your recall is failing (and what to do instead!)

Recall can be a challenge; more so for some dogs than others. And many dogs will go from the perfect recall as a puppy to appearing to be deaf during adolescence. 

Adolescence aside; there are a few reasons your dog's recall may be getting worse, rather than better. We will explore 3 of these (common) reasons now.


 Reason number 1, is that you are asking for too much too soon.

Maybe your do has perfect response to name and recall at home; but outside where you really need it they aren't able to cope with distractions of 'real life'. Things may be overly exciting, or scary! Which prevents them from being able to respond to even well known cues. 

 If your dog has just hit adolescence, or they are new to you, then maybe take a step back. Choose a quieter, less distracting environment to re-train and proof your recall, before starting to gradually build back up to locations which prove too difficult for your dog to respond to you in. 

The more that your dog is reinforced for a behaviour; the stronger the behaviour will become. Sometimes this means you have to slow down, and set your dog up to 'get it right' so that you get opportunity to build the desired behaviours with more consistency. 

The slower you go, the faster you get there!

Reason number 2: your dog thinks that coming back to you means all the fun is over.

 If you only call your dog when it's time to stop playing or exploring and go home, they will soon learn that coming back to you means that the good stuff is over. Make sure, especially during the initial teaching phases of recall, that when they come back to you you don't just pop their lead back on and take them home. It is really useful to practice putting the lead on, then giving them a treat and releasing them to go play again to give extra value to the recall training.

The goal here is that they learn that they can interact with you during off lead time; without you 'ruining' their enjoyment.

Reason number 3: the reinforcement you are using is not valuable enough.

 Does your dog call away from a really good scent or a game with their friend, and all you offer them is a verbal 'good boy.' If so; it's not really worth their time and commitment. Make sure that when your dog comes over to you that you provide them with things they truly do find valuable. For some dogs this could be kibble, but for most you're going to need to up your game a little and use really fun 'games' (e.g. tug), fresh meat, or even releasing them to go play again (one of the reinforcers I use with my hound mix is 'race ya!' where he comes over and then we run around together like happy fools).

 Remember, the dog chooses the value of the reinforcer you use; not you.

So, in summary. Break things down and make coming back to you EASY initially. Make sure that coming back doesn't mean that the fun has to end; and increase the value of your reinforcer, be it a toy or food etc. 

Recall training can be challenging, but also, so much fun. 


If you're really getting stuck then reach out to see how I can help.



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