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Improving recall

(16 Posts)
OldTownNew Thu 23-Mar-17 12:51:44

I have a 5 month old lab, very bouncy and friendly, and his recall is great until there's another dog anywhere near him. Normally when I see another dog I'll put him on a lead so that he doesn't end up bounding up to them but sometimes I'm not quick enough and he's off!

What can I do to improve his recall around distractions? We have another dog who comes straight back if called but the pup is much more interested in exciting new dogs! We take him out on a long line which seems to work quite well but any other tips would be appreciated!

BiteyShark Thu 23-Mar-17 13:01:01

I have this problem as well so I can't actually give you any wise words but at training we are told that to improve recall you need to have the basic obedience sorted so you are your dogs number one focus.

What I am doing is getting my dog to sit and stay for longer periods of time whilst out and also doing lots of calling back and treating during the walk so he knows good things await him when he comes back.

Other than that like you if I get close to other dogs he is on the lead and I try and get him to stay whilst they pass but at the moment he still twirls round on his lead wanting to go to them.

airforsharon Thu 23-Mar-17 15:08:35

I've found chipolatas work brilliantly grin If he knows you've got something really tasty in your pocket, it can really help. Cheese and whitebait also work well.

JustBeingJobless Thu 23-Mar-17 16:27:58

Try a longline attached to his harness and some very tasty treats. At least then if he does go selectively deaf, you have something to stand on!

MsAdorabelleDearheartVonLipwig Thu 23-Mar-17 19:35:43

I've got a two year old lab and I share your pain. He's a lovely dog but he's obsessed with other dogs and if I'm not quick he'll bound up to them. His heel work has gone downhill lately although this might be his teenage phase. I mentioned his to my trainer and she said to keep him on a long line for a bit.

I do get frustrated with him at our dog club as he loves a little lab bitch there and if I don't watch him like a hawk and keep him constantly focused on me, he will leap off at her. My trainer says I mustn't let him do it in the first place, not wait till he's gone and get cross with him but it's bloody hard! She says I have to accept that I have a bouncy friendly dog and to manage my expectations accordingly and work extra hard on him.

OldTownNew Thu 23-Mar-17 19:35:55

It's nice to know I'm not the only one!

I was thinking of taking cheese out with me as a tasty treat, I'll give that a go with a long line. Weirdly he seems to be worse at the end of a walk, I don't know if he gets past the point of caring and everything goes out of the window!

MsAdorabelleDearheartVonLipwig Thu 23-Mar-17 19:40:26

He's probably like mine, more obsessed with other dogs than food, which is saying something for a lab!

Five months is still a baby though. You need to proof the recall. Try it in every situation you can think of with every distraction possible. Rope in friends with dogs. Anything that would be tempting. Keep him utterly focused on you and tell him to leave it and keep rewarding him. Change the value of the treats so he doesn't get used to it. And practice, practice, practice. That's what I would do anyway, I'm trying to remember what my trainer told me.

missyB1 Thu 23-Mar-17 19:47:46

I have an 8 month old pup, her recall has improved a lot with whistle training, I followed Pippa Mathison's "Totall Recall" book from Amazon. It has specific exercises you have to follow.

Theworldisfullofidiots Thu 23-Mar-17 19:48:04


purplecoathanger Thu 23-Mar-17 19:52:22

Even with sausages mine gets selectively deaf. Lately she's taken to finding something revolting to roll in, which seems to trump the sausages. Dogs don't you just love them.

OldTownNew Thu 23-Mar-17 20:03:55

MsAdorabelle I found that with our other dog, she was very hit and miss when it came to other dogs until she was about 2 1/2 and then really settled down and is much more interested in a ball grin

We use a whistle with him and he's really responsive to it, unless he sees another dog. It's made harder for us I think because we have a Rottweiler, so people instantly put their dogs on leads and walk in the opposite direction, which then doesn't give me a chance to get the puppy used to walking past other dogs in a calm way.

MatthewWigginsWKD Thu 23-Mar-17 21:03:38


I'm only here briefly whilst dealing with a required response regarding my business in another thread but thought I may as well take a look at what else is going on in the dog which point I couldn't help but offer a little advice.

Ive spent the last three years studying the commonalities between non dog trainers which lead them to get completely different results to myself. I am busily trying to collate my findings and make them available but whilst I figure out the best way I can offer the following.

There are three main causes for recall issues in a dog, three common handling errors and three character traits that can make it more difficult for the typical owner to get control. In addition, a 100% recall is a fallacy, dogs are dogs, even I get caught out by this from time to time as I found out with one of my seven year old Shepherds a week or two back. The dog is exceptionally well trained, amazing around all animals and has no hunt drive whatsoever....imagine my disbelief when said dog, who hasn't missed a recall command in five years despite huge distractions spooked a Hare in a local field and proceeded to chase it over hundreds of yards, all but ignoring my two recalls other than a quick lift of the ears before deciding to carry on. Dogs are not robots and sometimes management is a better approach than relying on an animal to perform with perfection (meaning, when distractions are high, don't chance it, just put your dog back on the lead so it can't practice not coming back)

Back to the topic in hand;

The 3 causes of recall issues in order of importance -
1 - Lack of engagement with the owner over a short distance - If you cannot gain your dogs attention when it is 2 feet from you in the real world than you have no chance of gaining its attention when it is 5m away let alone 50
2 - Over socialisation - generally most people have recall issues around common distractions such as other dogs (wanting to play) and other people (wanting to meet strangers) this is caused by excessive socialisation. Essentially, if your dog finds other dogs or people more rewarding than you or your rewards you won't get a recall
3 - Lack of foundational training - again, if your dog cannot recall at 50m in an empty field free from all distractions then don't expect it to recall in a busy park at 5m.

The three common handling errors, again in order
1 - not shouting loud enough - I have found that most members of the public naturally have a much lower volume of shout than the average good dog trainer who has spent many years developing voice control. When recalling your dog, you do not only have to overcome distance but also wind direction, surrounding noises (such as a busy road) and 'tunnel vision' of distractions. I have found the best way to overcome this is to accept that most people can't shout and incorporate a whistle into training through pavlovian conditioning first in the home, then out and about.
3 - calling in a relaxed manner - when the chips are down and a potential accident is looming you want your dog to recall in a split second, try to never call your dog in a relaxed manner. Your dog should always respond immediately and without question. Its very common for people to reward lazy and slow recalls when in a relaxed setting which confuses the dog. The dog cannot differentiate between an emergency and you just wanting it over for a cuddle in the living room. If you call your dog, always make it an urgent call.

The three 3 character traits - in order
1 - lack of audible sensitivity - in order to cut through distractions, surrounding noise and the fact that most owners will not shout loud enough a dog which is audibly insensitive is much harder to train in all areas but especially recall. If the dog can't hear you it can't respond. The ideal dog is audibly sensitive enough to hear a loud clap at distance but not so sensitive that it is scared of fireworks or skip lorries - unfortunately most dogs lack audible sensitivity - especially gun dog types because one that can't cope with bangs overhead won't be bred from. This can be developed but as far as I know, not many people are aware of how.
2 - Lack of physical sensitivity - in the same way that we want a dog which will hear a load clap, we also want a dog that is physically sensitive so that it takes very little to create a 'consequence' whenever your rewards offer less motivation than the distraction. Another contradiction - the ideal dog is one that is physically sensitive enough that nearly no physical corrections are needed whilst being resilient enough that a child falling on the dog won't get bitten. Unfortunately, again because of their working roles Labs (and most dogs) have a lack of physical sensitivity.
3 - Prey drive - the dogs desire to hunt, chase and catch either on sight or through sent. The ideal family dog will have very low desire in this area. Unfortunately, people are drawn to impressive pedigrees full of field trial champions (dogs bred from parents who work 10 hour days hunting game) and then we wonder why the dog is always full of energy and chasing animals - whats good for the field is not good for the fire I'm afraid. Again, this trait can be brought under control but will need expert guidance.

I realise I haven't given any training tips here, its hard to do so without meeting the dogs but my parting words of wisdom are;
get a long line, increase motivation, decrease failure (using the line), when you think its trained the dog is only just grasping the concept (carry on for two more months) don't be afraid to add small negative consequences as training progresses (get help if you are unsure) and finally, don't ever expect a recall away form another dog if your dog pulls to see them when on lead. A pull towards a dog on lead is a run over to a dog when off lead. You need excellent lead work to have a good recall and impeccable lead work to achieve an excellent recall.

Hope this helps.


BigGreenApple Sat 25-Mar-17 08:43:13

Reading this with interest.
Our cocker spaniel is just over one - great recall when their are no distractions, but as soon as their is a hare or pheasant (we live v rural so this is frequent) she is off like a bullet, and doesn't come back until she loses the scent.
I'm so worried she will get herself shot one day!

After one of these incidents I tend to keep her on the lead for a few days, and she can be immaculately behaved some walks. Then at other times she just shoots off.

She is slightly better for DH who is a bit stricter with her, so I think it's definitely something I need to work on with her.

OldTownNew Sun 26-Mar-17 09:17:06

BigGreenApple I worry that mine is going to get like that, sometimes when we're out walking he'll sick his nose to the ground and bolt! Thankfully he does come back when I whistle for him but it is worrying when he does it!

Greenkit Sun 26-Mar-17 12:53:32


Great tips thank you

ladyface69 Sun 26-Mar-17 16:48:10

Placemarking, and sympathizing.

Boudicca's recall is around 80% off lead whether we're at home or out in the woods/on walks. But if there's another dog nearby she won't come back. I end up having to go over and grab her, which I know is a bad habit to get into.
I use a gundog whistle, four sharp pips on it whilst she's already running towards me along with shouting her name during the walk to condition the response. And a tasty thin slice of hotdog/chicken breast as a reward.
Think we might need to invest in a long line too but I can see it getting tangled up between the trees when we are in the woods!

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