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Monday, March 7, 2016

Recall Training Games

Let The Games Begin!

This month's positive pet training hop subject is recall, I thought I had covered this issue when we had Jack our former foster but as I searched through my blog posts I realize that while yes I talked about it I didn't really explain to you guys how I did it. SO here goes!

In our experience of working with, training, and fostering dogs Jack holds a very special place in our hearts. He is extremely intelligent, and he was quite a training challenge due to his dumpster diving, counter surfing, and runaway issues. Jack was a bolter, and it took some creative genius, time, lots of patience and consistency between Dz Dog dad and myself to get him to where he is today.

Sneaky Jack slipped out the door on more than one occasion, a couple times he did it to me as I was getting ready for work - on a good note my boss was always laughing at the latest Jack shenanigans.

Step 1 with Jack was to pick up a very long lead line, we found a 100 foot leash that worked perfectly for our needs and the space we were using to train.

Recall Games

*Not all dogs are good candidates for being off-leash! It has to do with personality and training.*

The rule at our house is that if we have a dog that runs away or doesn't come when called then they do not get to be off-leash. In Jacks case, it took him 7 or 8 months before I could actually trust him to be off leash, and even then I wouldn't allow it unless I had a high value toy or treat to reward him with for coming when called. Training With Jack

Baby Steps to Success - 
  • 100 foot leash
  • Carabiner
  • Bag of VERY HIGH VALUE treats
  • Favorite toy
  • Clicker if you want to use one

Work in a low distraction environment.
Remember your job as a trainer is to set your dog up for success. Being in a low distraction environment allows you to be the most fun thing in that environment, get your dogs attention and engage with their brain!
Start indoors if you're successful there then try your yard, keep practicing, as your dog succeeds slowly increase the level of distraction.
Our low distraction environment happens to be a field that we regularly play in, the dogs are used to is and it is not a new place with new smells.

Be Fun!
Training should be fun for both you and your dog, if you are frustrated or not having fun go home. Train when you are in a good mental state and can be patient. What you DO NOT want is for your dog to associate being called with bad things, or being in trouble.

Taking Jack out to the field I would attach the leash to Jack and then to myself via a carbiner on my leather belt (NOT BELT LOOP), don't attach your dog to something that might break. I liked to allow him to sniff and roam around while I just casually walked through the field. If the leash became tight I would stop and wait for him to come back to me - reward him with a treat any time he willingly came to me, and then continue walking so that he would start sniffing again instead of just harassing me for more treats.

Game 1- Reward attention
One fun game I liked was to say his name, "Jack!" And when he looked at me throw a treat in his direction.

"Jack!" = treat in his mind.

Game 2 - Catch me if you can!
Another game I would play with Jack was to say, "Jack come!" Whip out his toy which was a tennis ball in this case, and take off running! As soon as he caught up to me I would reward him with a treat, either *click reward, or say "yes!" and reward with the treat, then toss the ball for him.

Game 3 - Collar Grabs
Our agility trainer taught us this game and it is great for teaching your dog to trust you. And teaching your dog that good things come when you grab their collar.

Yelling "Jack!" running straight at him, grabbing his collar and then rewarding him. This game is great if you need to grab your dog to prevent them from injury, or teaching them that being caught isn't a bad thing in general. Start small though, we began this game right next to him. Say his name, grab his collar, reward. And slowly increased our distance to the point where I could sprint up to him without him running from me. More in depth description of this game - Success Dogs, Jean Cote

Game 4 - Nose Touch!
I love this game! My dogs think it is amazing and it means a super big bonus for them. In fact right after getting to his new home, his family left the front door open and Jack slipped out and took off down the road! Thankfully all our practice paid off, the family remembered what I told them. Hand straight in the air, yell "Jack!" As soon as he turned and looked they dropped their hand yelling, "TOUCH!", and he came running!

Don't Poison Your Cue Word
I've heard of some dog owners having to change their verbal command because it was ruined through over use or some other means. If your dog is not paying attention to you, and you know you are going to have to repeat yourself, simply go get them or wait until you have their attention before calling otherwise you run the risk of poisoning your word. I hate repeating myself anyways, if you yell multiple times "Come, come, come, come..." and then reward your dog when they arrive - you just taught them that when you say it four times is when they are supposed to return to you.
More on Poisoned Words - HERE.

Using the Long Line.
A long line is an awesome tool, but keep in mind it is just a tool and it is not a replacement for lots of training.
Jack on the long line.
As Jack improved I started to allow him to drag his 100 foot leash around in the field without having it attached to my belt. This allowed us to play some really long games of fetch and for me to test his recall in a controlled manner. Using the field with is tree line and long neighbors fence I essentially had a box with two walled sides, placing my back to the open end I would toss his toy towards one of the fence lines so that he had no where further to go when he chased after his toy, and to successfully make an escape he'd have to run past me while dragging line.  If you have a friend with a fenced in field/pasture or empty dog park you could use this same method. I'm not a fan of dog parks however I have used empty dog parks for training as a higher level of distraction environment.

Eventually I worked us into using a normal 6 foot leash that he dragged around, we also did a lot of practice in our front yard or super short off leash sessions in the front yard. As he succeeded we slowly increased the amount of time he spent off leash, and slowly increased the distractions.

Rewarding Eye Contact & General Training
The more you work with your dog the better everything gets, when we walk I reward eye contact and focus. By conditioning your dog to regularly check in you are increasing your relationship and your bond. Ziva naturally gives amazing eye contact.

Here we are practicing, "Look".

When he first came to us Jack hated direct eye contact, it made him very uncomfortable. He was also very aloof of people, by teaching him different tricks he learned to associate us with fun things and he was able to bond with us. The stronger he bonded with us and the more we were able to channel his natural desire to work, the better his recall became.

Jack the #offleash wonder dog! On a more serious note.. Please don't just let your dog off leash, if you can't control your dog then they do not belong off leash. A leash is not only for their own safety but for the safety of other people and dogs. We have worked long and hard on this with Jack, and I only let him off leash in environments where I know we can safely train/play. He can't resist other dogs yet so we play super early in the morning and I'm always careful to watch for anyone with a dog. Having a reactive dog (Ziva) I know how frustrating it is when another dog runs up on you when you are out on a walk minding your business. I don't want to be THAT person. 🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾 #dontbeajerk #dontbeirresponsible #beresponsible #trainyourdog #positivedogtraining #positivereinforcement #playtime #offleashtraining #offleash #jack #happyhound #houndmix #mutt #brindleicious
A video posted by DZ Dog Mom (@dzdogadventures) on

Eventually we were successful! Keep in mind though training never ends, you have to keep practicing your skills or like any learned thing you'll lose it.

How do you train recall?

More Jack Training Stories:

Unleash the Hound
Jack's Loose! (Leash Walking)


  1. We play the eye contact and focus game too. I also reward Mr. N for checking in with me. Thanks for joining the hop!

  2. Excellent subject! Great job at explaining

  3. To have a dog with eyes like that who hates eye contact... kind of a cruel joke, right? So happy to see his picture again and learn about his training.

    The collar grab is very important. A lot of bites happen that way, when a dog doesn't expect the collar grab. Good job, Jack!!

    1. Definitely a cruel joke! On a good note he's loads better now although he still doesn't like it much when strangers do it. :-) I'm glad to see he's being really awesome for his family, they only had to chase him twice in the first week that they got him and now they don't have any more issues with him bolting. I think he just needed to make sure they knew the rules. Hahahaha

  4. Wow I just realized I haven't taught Laika "touch." I know what we're working on tonight :)

    I love your tips, and as you mention it's important to realize that not all dogs are good candidates for being off leash - especially if they haven't been taught the basics yet.

    1. Have fun teaching Laika!! It's one of our favorite games. :-)

  5. Fantastic advice! Eye contact is huge around here, along with "touch". I'll often run a bit ahead of Nola when she's off leash and ask her to target my hand - gives her a little running hop to reach it, and it amps her up like crazy.

    1. So much fun!! Dante and Ziva get all amped about it too!

  6. I'm following along your Training Hop and learning so much from everyone. Now I wish someone could come by my house to watch me and my dogs to teach me what I'm doing wrong.

    I've opened up Amazon and ordered a long leash and whistle. Now I need stinky treats - thankfully, I have quite a few green tripe treat connections and one sent me a bag the other day. Guess what we'll be working on every evening?

    Thanks for the treats.

  7. Great post with lots of wonderful training advice! Mom said we need to do some more recall games.

    Keep Calm & Bark On!

    Murphy & Stanley

  8. You did so great with Jack! Our trainer taught us to pair our "here" command with putting our hand down so that Luke would come touch our hand as part of the process (we had ruined the word "come" with him, before we knew better). It has worked well with him, but we do still need to work on this more. I'd like to get a long leash. We'll have a lot of land to work on at the new house, and I'd love to take it outside the fenced in yard.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. I can't wait to have more property!! I want to put dog treats by the door so that everytime they come when called they get a treat. :-)

  9. Ooh, good call with the collar grab! Nice to have the dog come when called, but nicer to have them catchable when they arrive.

  10. Collar grabs are so important! I'm not brave enough to teach Nala not to move when I run up to her--she's so sensitive to body pressure! But she does enjoy a game where I creep and "stalk" toward her, tag her, and run off--so maybe it's not impossible for us.

    Jack seems like such a cool dog--I'm so glad you guys were able to help him be a happier, more comfortable dude.

    1. We had to build up to the collar grabs very slowly, Jack didn't trust us much at first. :-) It would be a good game for you to work on in case Nala ever gets lost and someone tries to catch her for you.

  11. Such a great post and I wish more owners would read this as I see too many out of control dogs who are at risk to themselves and a risk to others, especially farm animals. I have never heard of the collar grab method before and will remember this is we get another dog. I have always used long leads/ropes as a back up for when things don't quite go right every tie - and with a stubborn Husky x GS who we got from a refuge, there were many failures along the way!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! The collar grab was really helpful to teach Jack since he didn't like to be caught, by associating it with good things/treats he became much easier to catch since he didn't mind it anymore. :-)

  12. I love this, there is so much here I can take away to work with Delilah on. She loves to run but she does tend to gravitate towards homes. SO, I have to be careful WHAT areas I let her off leash in. She knows where the houses are and if we are close, she has taken off on me.


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