It takes lots of practice to build a reliable recall and these are the foundations. Take your time and enjoy your dog!
STEP ONE – making a specific word or noise meaningful for the dog
Use something yummy like Possyum, Superior Chunky dog roll, roast chicken, cheese or sausages as treats for training. Recall isn’t often naturally exciting for dogs, but it is something that’s really important to us, so we want to pay the dog for their hard work and make it worth their while!
With your dog beside you, use a whistle or say “come” and then immediately feed them a small, delicious piece of food. We want the dog to think “that noise means something super exciting is going to happen for me!” so that they start paying attention to it.
Repeat this 10 times twice a day for several days
STEP TWO – training a hand touch
A hand touch is a specific behaviour to train your dog so that they know a “recall” means “touch my hand with your nose” not “come within 2 metres of me but don’t let me touch you” or “run really fast towards me….and continue on right past”
Put one treat in between your fingers and count out 10 more treats
Present your palm out to the side of the dog’s face
Dog will investigate
Use a clicker / say “yes” when the dogs’ nose touches your palm
Reward dog with a treat from your other hand.
Repeat the above steps until you’ve used up your treats
Have a break and count out 10 more treats
Now this time present the dog with your hand, but without any food in between your fingers, and repeat until you’ve used up your treats
Have a break and count out 10 more treats
Now this time when the dog touches your hand, rather than feeding them a treat directly into their mouth, throw the treat on the floor away from you. Tossing the treat away increases the energy and makes the game more exciting
Wait for the dog to turn around to look at your, then present your hand out to the side, wait for them to come back and do a hand touch. Repeat until you’ve used all your treats
STEP THREE – combining the whistle and hand touch
Whistle / say “come”
Present your hand
Click/ say ”yes” when dog touches palm
Reward with treat
STEP FOUR – using this in daily life
Whistle + hand touch = dog gets dinner
Whistle + hand touch = dog gets to go outside in the garden to investigate
Whistle + hand touch = dog gets to play a game with you
STEP FIVE – practicing an actual recall in low distraction situations
You can start setting up situations where you practice recalling away from something that the dog finds semi-interesting, like having a good sniff in the garden or the lounge room. You whistle, they touch your hand, they get a treat, and then they can return to enjoying themselves sniffing. Start with easy, low distraction situations around the house and the back garden. When you can reliably call your dog back to you at home you can start practicing the whistle and hand touch on lead in low distraction environments in public. From there you can progress to using a harness and a long-line to give you dog some more freedom to explore while still being safely attached to you.
Points to remember:
Your hound may not respond to your whistle or verbal recall for several reasons. You may need to go back a repeat the training for a couple of steps to strengthen the association between the whistle = good things. You may need to experiment and find out what is really rewarding for your dog. Certain foods? A game with toys? Try and practice in a less distracting or exciting environment such as the lounge. Your dog may be stressed, anxious or fearful in which case they are not in a learning state and you will need to take a break and give them some time to relax.
If your hound isn’t listening to you, rather than keeping whistling or asking your dog to come, try and encourage them over by crouching down, making excitable noises and moving backwards slightly. If this doesn’t work, walk over to your dog and clip them on lead.
We want recall to mean good things for the dog, so ensure you’re not accidentally punishing them for coming back. For example, if the only time they get recalled is to come inside from the garden, they may not think it’s worth their while because investigating is far more interesting that having their fun ended and being stuck sitting indoors! Recall your dog, release them to go back and sniff for a bit as a reward, then go over and clip them on lead to walk back indoors.
This is a great video if you'd rather watch than read: