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The Million Dollar Recall pt1

The Million Dollar Recall pt1

I see new puppy owners every week, they teach their dog to sit and roll over, but I say focus on the recall. If your dog can do nothing but come when called, anywhere, any time, you will have a great life with your dog. If you don’t have a dog that will come when it counts, you will live a life of restriction, risk and frustration. Think about that…

It is very worthwhile to set aside a unique cue for the recall, a word you don’t use in everyday language or say it in a tone you don’t use often. You don’t want to be giving this cue in this manner for quite some time unless you are going to give huge rewards.

Here is a video of a Restrained Recall with one of the pups I bred.

Having that said, I have two ways I call Venom, and I want you to draw on the Premack article to understand them.

Recall 1

CUE: Come ear

Dogs expectation: affection

Response: he trots over to me (well it is a level 3 response but Venoms number 3 is most dogs level 2000000.

Reward: affection.

Watch it here

This response as you can see presents the need for two recalls, as this is the low drive recall, you can’t imagine the path he blazes coming at me if I give him a high drive recall cue.

Recall 2


Dogs expectation: Prey drive (tug, ball, biting)

Response: Explosive drive at highest level

Reward: Violent tug, biting or ball bopunced hard into the ground.

See it here

One of the most common reasons for dogs not responding to the recall command is over use of the command coupled with under rewarding of the desirable action.

In other words, you call your dog 100 times, reward 20 times. This is also known as a low rate of reinforcement.

Another problem is that they hear the word come for example so many times a day, they become desensitized to it, just like their name.

To train a reliable recall to a puppy there are many steps, I will cover the basics here but you need to know your puppy, take from all the other programs I have given you and learn “how to train your dog”.

Here is a cool video of the B Litter Pups

Before we start training, think of how much your dog must think of you to choose you over a big wide world full of distractions…

I always think it is such a privilege when a dog dumps everything for me.

There are 5 elements of this program: –

1. Recall down the hall

Controlled environment is great for a baby puppy and great for teaching the behaviour, labelling the behaviour and rewarding the behaviour.

2. The Restrained Recall (adding drive through opposition reflex and frustration).

Put some speed, reliability and drive into your recall.

3. Control over distraction

Have your training partners ignore attempts by the puppy to gain rewards. Example here

4. Mark the elements of the recall

This is particularly important for gaining instant and reliable response.

5. Build reward credit

People stop rewarding recalls and stop getting recalls. Simple.

This article will only cover steps 1 and 2, we will cover the rest in later weeks when reinforcement is stronger.

1. Recall down the Hall….

This is a two person training event, you don’t have to run it a million times so if you don’t have someone to help you at the drop of a hat, ask anyone to help. The helpers role can be minimal.

Start with a puppy that is hungry and energetic, after toilet time in the morning is excellent.

Have the harness fitted, you should use the harness in all recall training until your at the final distraction level.

Have all doors in hall closed and secure any objects that cal fall, you can make a hall with two lounges if you like, any place that there are no side exists will be fine.

Sit at one end and have your helper sit at the other, with your puppy. I think that you should hold the two front straps of the harness, one in each hand. I usually have my legs wide apart, feet touching the walls.

At the other end of the hall is you with a toy or some food.

Now before you start you need to discuss with your helper the cues that you will use and what the helper needs to do when hearing them.

This is what I will tell them: –

  1. Hold puppy with no emotion or communication
  2. When I say “ready”, expect puppy to get excited.
  3. When you hear me say “yes” or click the clicker, release puppy.

Now get the puppies attention, use your trigger cue “ready”, Behaviour Interrupter etc and when you have the attention, slap the ground or your thigh with your hand. Make some noise.

You want your puppy excited, wriggling and trying to break free from your helper who is holding the harness.

Pick a point of excitement and mark yes so your helper will let go.

As soon as puppy is free present reward and celebrate with enthusiasm as puppy comes at you.

At no time ever end this exercise by raising the food and making puppy sit at the end of the recall.

This is probably the most common end to the recall and it kills speed and drive.

If your helper is a family member then when puppy gets to you at end of the hall, you can reward the puppy then turn the puppy around, your helper can then run the same steps with puppy running to them.

In each session you want to do about 3 – 4 recalls, don’t burn the exercise by running the pup until its fatigued.

After you have run this exercise a number of times, you are now going to label the behaviour. Behaviour labelling is when we already have a behaviour in place by another method, such as luring the dog with food, shaping or similar.

To do this you will run the training the same way, but re negotiate with your helper and tell them that they are to let the puppy go only when you say “your recall cue.”.

You might use “come” or “here” or “close” or any word you wish to use when you call your dog. Remember that it wil be of great benefit if you reserve a special word for your high drive recall.

So it is now..

Ready > puppy gets excited > HEEEYYAAAA> helper lets go > puppy starts to run > yes (to mark the behaviour) and then present and give reward.

You again want to do this a number of times stopping well before your puppy has had enough.

It is very important now not to use the recall cue or label in times when you either; know the puppy won’t come or when you have no reward.

The above exercise is just to set what a recall is, what label you will give it and its taught where the options are none but to come.

2. The Restrained Recall …

The restrained recall is technically excellent in the terms of training reinforcement, done correctly it can produce super results. Many people train the restrained recall but don’t truly get all of the elements correct. So were going to try and get it super perfect here.

The premise is to capture the dogs drive and pair it with the recall cue and action, then reward it as well, here is how.

It is best if you have a helper but it isn’t essential, I have described the helper method here.

Let your helper know what the cue is, let’s say for now its “Here”, I say this like HEEYAAA.

Now fit the harness to your dog and attach the long line to one of the leash rings and hand the line to your helper. Allow about 1 – 2 metres between the back of your dog and the helper, it is wise at this point to throw out the extra line in front of the helper so no tangles.

  • Your pup must be used to the harness, this happens when the pup wears it a lot.
  • Your pup must have already started the Back Tie work.
  • Your helper must be an unemotional post, they can’t communicate with the dog in anyway, just hold the line and watch you and release on cue.

Begin …

Tease your dog standing just outside of your pups reach so your dog starts to get excited, amplify this by now running away, say 20 meters.

Call your pups name, say anything you can to get your dog excited, show your pup a toy, food or whatever you need to do. The only thing you cannot do is use the recall command.

Watch your pups drive level escalate, when you see a good increase in drive now give your recall cue “HEEE YAAA”! (This needs to be pre arranged with your helper as the signal for your helper to drop the line.)

When your dog is released, run backwards clapping your hands (careful not to fall over!).

When your dog is 6 feet from you, pull out the reward and let your dog come to you to get it.

If this is food, I would give your dog three or four cubes of food, if it is a game of tug, keep it short, like three seconds.

At this time whilst your playing with your dog have your helper approach and grab the line again, which should be on the ground.

Start moving away from your dog, your dog will follow and then find the end of the line, as soon as your dog is aware of the line, run away again and repeat.

You want to see your dogs excitement level increase every time.

End this when you have done three restrained recalls, don’t overdo it, no matter how well it has gone.

Call this session, “implementation”.

Now the next time you’re going to train this, I would recommend leaving somewhere between 4 hours later and 24 hours, not days apart.

You need to run one repetition of the Implementation steps, in other words, exactly as in the first session.

NOTE: If you notice that your dog is blasting with excitement in one rep, we move to upping the reward, if not, then run this whole session as 3 – 4 reps of implementation.

Marking the recall…

This is where we need to be going when we have noted that the first rep of the restrained recall is in full power.

The steps are the same, with helper, harness and line except your role is a little different now, you’re going to be adding a marker that we will use later and also paying the reward over more time.

This is how.

Your pup is bursting to get to you, you give your recall cue, your helper lets your pup go, and your pup leaps forward and is heading toward you. You can see that your dog is coming to you, committed to the recall.

Now mark “YES!” and then pull out the reward, letting your dog come at you to be rewarded.

The change here that is important is this.

Food reward, instead of handing your dog 4 cubes of food, have 6 in your left hand say, and when your dog gets to you, give him one from your right hand, then take another from your left hand and feed again, do this six times, therefore extending the reward duration now. Move the food like we have been doing so this is an awesome reward that is hard to catch!

Tug Reward, instead of presenting tug and playing tug, make your dog miss on the first lunge and catch on the second, then play tug for 1 second, freeze, play tug again, freeze 1 second play again.

This stage needs to be carried out around 10 – 20 times with most dogs over 8 – 15 reps, two to three weeks.

This next stage is called “Setting the criteria” and it is an important part of making sure the recall is what you want it to be.

Now you have been training this for a couple of weeks, I am going to make some changes and you should be able to keep up.


  • Never recall to punish
  • Reward every recall for as long as you can, for ever
  • Never run two recalls that end the exact same way
  • Don’t make the majority of your recalls be calling the dog away from fun

Ok so here is my challenge to you, you have seen my dog, lets see yours…

Not only does he come, he cant see a reward on me, I use no body language, I use no correction, he responds as fast as he can, he races to me all the way..

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