How do you get bullet proof recall?!!

(43 Posts)
SunnyUpNorth Mon 04-Nov-19 12:19:28

I have a 5.5month old cocker spaniel. I have been letting him off lead in secure places since he was about 13 weeks old and he has generally been really good. But he never really wandered that far from me anyway so haven’t had to put his recall to the test much. If he saw and started to run towards another dog and I called him he would come back.

I always use high value treats like chicken or hot dog when off lead.

He has now found his confidence and a love of chasing squirrels. He keeps an eye on where I am and will keep bounding past me but isn’t coming back to me reliably when I call him.

I feel like it’s a bit of a chicken and an egg as if I don’t let him off lead how can we practise the recall? But I don’t want him to get himself hurt or lost by losing all focus and charging off.

I want one of those dogs that just trots alongside their owner off lead (or even on lead!) but no idea how to get there.

OP’s posts: |
kjhkj Mon 04-Nov-19 12:25:07

It might be an age thing. My 6 month old puppy is completely ignoring me atm. He jjut looks at me and then does his own thing...

BiteyShark Mon 04-Nov-19 12:28:44

My cocker was 100% until we hit the teens at 6 months of age then we went down to 0%.

It took many months of him ignoring me and me trying all the tricks in the book to practice recall before it came back. The biggest thing was to make myself interesting and I stopped walking and start playing hunt the ball etc with him instead. Now he won't wander off at all if I have a ball in my hand grin

Whilst lots of people use long leads when recall goes I braved it without but we walked in open places miles away from roads.

fancyham Mon 04-Nov-19 12:37:51

Practice with a long training lead, (that you can step on) and put him in lots of different situations. Ask a friend with a dog to help out, they can be used to distract him in loads of ways. Also practice in as many different situations as you can think of.

I'm sure you know this already, but never tell him off when he does eventually come back. Some people use Acme dog whistles, but that just seems to encourage my adolescent dog to run faster and faster with his eyes glazed over if he's chasing a hare or something.

There's quite a good book on Amazon called "Total Recall" that focuses entirely on recall.

pigsDOfly Mon 04-Nov-19 12:54:57

Not a cocker here, but I found a long line invaluable when my dog was going through her 'difficult' stage and decided refusing to let me put her back on the lead was the funniest thing, at around 8 months.

I also found chicken liver treats incredibly helpful in getting a solid recall in place, most dog can't resist them.

Other than that, it's just a case of working at it and to just keep reinforcing it, over and over and over.

LadyGuffers Mon 04-Nov-19 13:26:22

During the teenage months we used a long trailing lead. His recall came back to him again as he got older and he could be trusted again.

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Mon 04-Nov-19 14:06:43

At this stage, don't let the dog get too far away from you to start with. Work on recall around temptations using a long line. And keep at it, every day.

Also do heelwork and make it fun - click and treat, pauses for games, sit-stays with rewards and so on.

You will burn up loads of the walk doing this and have a more responsive dog at the end of it. I did it with my young adult dog yesterday, because her recall has slipped recently.


Floralnomad Mon 04-Nov-19 14:38:27

We have a patterdale x and use a slightly different approach in that I trained a completely solid ‘down’ command and then he waits for me to go to him , he’s very stubborn and I’d be waiting a week if I wanted him to actually come back to me !

MissShapesMissStakes Mon 04-Nov-19 16:35:34

I see a 1-1 trainer occasionally and she’s brilliant and so sensible.

I said I wanted my 1.4 year old mini poodle to be like those dogs in the woods that are following their owner perfectly and are really calm about passing people, bikes, dogs etc.

She said to ask those people how old their dog is. And they will always be over 2 or 3 years old. She said those people will generally have worked on recall all the time when they were younger too.

I’m really seeing my hard work on recall pay off at the moment and he’s definitely improved massively in the last couple of months.

I recently got him some bright pink squeaky balls and he loves them. So they are for recall. I squeak as soon as I want his attention and he comes running. He gets a game of chase or a high value treat. It’s great as the squeak is so loud and he literally races back. Hope it carries on like that!

GrassWasGreener Mon 04-Nov-19 16:38:46

Teenager time lol

Good luck. I can laugh because our collie cross is also having a similar phase. Although we can not complain really as she is a year old now and has been a really easy puppy so the teenage phase was bound to happen at some point

BiteyShark Mon 04-Nov-19 16:40:28

MissShapes I agree with your trainer. If you saw my dog out we are one of those where he never leaves my sight but it was so so different when he was younger and we spent the majority of the time working on recall to the detriment of other obedience training but it was worth it in the end (and we picked up the other stuff later on).

missyB1 Mon 04-Nov-19 16:46:54

Im going to stick my neck out here and say something that's unpopular on MN! I don't believe in 100% or "bullet proof" recall. I actually think it's a bit dangerous to believe in it. Dogs are animals not robots and they have natural instincts, and in some breeds in particular the prey drive is very strong <yes I'm looking at you my little schnauzer!>

We used the Pippa Mattison book "Totall Recall" and I would say my dog has 97% recall most of the time but she cannot be trusted if rabbits are in the vicinity!

Jouska Mon 04-Nov-19 16:48:57

Recall starts way before letting them off lead and just calling them back to you.

Magic circle is vital and start this asap. Reward the dog for being near you, at home, out and about, in the garden everywhere you go. No command, don't ask just when the dog in close to you reward and treat.

Interact with your dog at home - get your dog to love toys (not all dogs do to start with so this can take work) play a home, play in different locations (this will be hard to start with) I play in supermarket carpark, by tennis courts, by football matches, in pet shops and garden centres etc. Teach your dog that your are interesting where ever you go. Distractions are great but you are still the main focus of attention.

Prepare your dogs food away from your dog and always call your dog by her name to have every meal - do this randomly throughout the day with yummy treats bits of chicken hotdog etc.

If your dog is happy with other dogs take it on a lead and play tug, treat game magic circle with dogs as distractions.

Teenage stage is when training should be upped, Carry on working through distance, duration and distraction but be prepared to lower the criteria for a while - however the criteria should always be achievable.

you may find that rabbit skinned toys are your friends with a cocker. Never leave it with the dog but play with it frequently rabbit skinned tuggy

Re letting your dog off and practicing recall you are aiming for him always to return to you. So I would not be letting him off lead when you know rabbits are about yet. However you can set up situations so if he can recall to you when someone else is running away and being interesting you are working towards calling him off a squirrel for example.

MissShapesMissStakes Mon 04-Nov-19 16:55:18

Missy - the trainer also said that. And she trains assistance dogs too.
She said there is no issue with quickly putting the lead back on if you see something you think you’re dog will struggle with. Better to do that and it not be needed than to trust your dog and it gets into a situation that’s dangerous or unpleasant for someone else.

Bitey - that’s good to hear.

I am always looking out for dogs on leads and will put mine on a lead too. We do lots of distractions with treats when a jogger or bike is passing too.

He’s doing really well. I now do believe that the hard work will pay off. Eventually.

CMOTDibbler Mon 04-Nov-19 17:01:50

Total Recall is great, and I like that she recognises that things don't always go well. I believe very strongly in finding what presses your dogs buttons and varying the reward so that they aren't always sure what will be waiting - but the base level has to be something they really like. My theory is that if you were chatting on the otherside of the park and I waved a bit of ryvita (kibble) at you, you'd only come over if you really wanted. If I was waving naice biscuits (dried sprats) you'd come unless the gossip was good, but if it was good chocs (chicken) with the possibility that you had a hipflask (sachet of wetfood or stinky liver cake) you'd be over like a shot. But you'd soon be less worried about the choc unless it was changing - and maybe choc and prosecco isn't your ultimate treat. One of my dogs adores a squeaky tennis ball and it will distract him from anything - but is the ultimate prize in my bag

Lots of opportunities to do a good recall is important for young dogs too, so use your whistle round the house.

And they are all tossers at some point. Sometimes the real skill is in predicting what your dog might be tempted by and cutting them off from that

WisestIsShe Mon 04-Nov-19 17:05:59

Another vote for Total Recall by Pippa Martinson. It really helped with my crazy Labrador/miniature poodle cross.

WisestIsShe Mon 04-Nov-19 17:37:24


SunnyUpNorth Mon 04-Nov-19 18:34:10

Thanks all, I will order that book. I bought a longish line but it’s not super long, maybe 5 metres. Don’t they just get tangled in stuff or around people’s legs with a super long line?

I feel really out of my depth with all the training stuff. He is my shadow at home so if I was to treat him every time he entered the magic circle I would be permanently feeding him.
I’m also concerned about how clingy he is to me so in a way the magic circle thing feels a bit counter intuitive at the moment.

@MissShapesMissStakes don’t suppose your trainer is in the north west?!

I’ll try the rabbit tug toy, but generally he is not interested in toys at all. He is completely good motivated.
He gets a sensitive tummy if he has too much food and I do try and use his kibble allowance for training but I’m also using that for getting him used to various husbandry things.

OP’s posts: |
Jouska Mon 04-Nov-19 19:10:12

I’ll try the rabbit tug toy, but generally he is not interested in toys at all. It requires effort for many dogs to like toys but the effort is worth it. Try to get to a Craig Ogilvie workshop you will not look back

You will never get a great recall with just using kibble unfortunately

SunnyUpNorth Mon 04-Nov-19 19:25:11

I don’t use kibble for recall, I use chicken, hot dog and sometimes cheese.

I’ll look up that workshop.

OP’s posts: |
Croquembou Mon 04-Nov-19 19:36:26

Give it 10 years?

More seriously, I have a spaniel (Springer, not cocker, cockers are frankly too much for me) and he turned into a right deaf dickhead from 9-18 months. He settled after that although never ran out of energy.

I would say neat walking is an unrealistic expectation of a spaniel, they're bred to run in ridiculous massive circles so you may want to downgrade your calmly trotting nearby hopes.

MissShapesMissStakes Mon 04-Nov-19 19:40:38

Sunny - sorry she isn’t. But I only found her by asking round. Literally asked people with well behaved dogs in the woods grin

There are plenty around. Look for a positive trainer. No punishments.
Unfortunately it is all about the motivation. But we've had the trainer three times now. She did a home visit first when he was little, the other times it was at home for a bit, then out for a walk so she could advise us. He’s out first dog and we couldn’t manage classes but to be honest I think a good trainer 1-1 on a home visit is worth so much more!

Stealthymcstealth Mon 04-Nov-19 20:00:58

Make yourself more interesting than a squirrel! My method worked for me but it will involve you looking like a bit of a twit whilst establishing recall. I danced and jumped and had my dog chase me, I hid behind trees and squealed and pranced and skipped. A six foot squirrel with a tail made of hotdogs wouldn't of been able to distract him grin He is seven now and still walks right beside me, every so often just looking up at me. Be fun and smother your dog in fusses. I often forget we're out in public and act a bit silly and it's a little embarrassing but less so than a dog that bolts. I've had a few comments on how well behaved/happy my dog is and it's lovely.

pigsDOfly Wed 06-Nov-19 13:37:52

Another one here who did the whole, leaping about like a loon thing when I was training her, and yes, it really does work. I still do it sometimes.

A high pitched excited voice, lots of high value treats and lots of lively movements. No dog can resist.

fessmess Wed 06-Nov-19 15:37:48

Train for a whistle. It pierces through everything and if it's associated with the BEST treats then it works. I call it the nuclear option and NEVER fails.

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