Reliable dog recall training tips for walks off lead

As we’ve spent the week exploring the beauty of dog walking, it makes sense to talk about off lead walks - a style of dog walking that gives pups the opportunity to roam free. 

There’s no doubt that dog recall training is one of the most important commands a dog can learn for off lead walks. Incorporating recall into your dog’s training will help keep your dog safe, while keeping your own stress levels low. 

Teaching a dog a reliable recall isn’t always easy, and there’s no shame in not feeling confident enough to let your dog off the lead. There are plenty of alternatives to off lead dog walks, such as using longer, double ended dog leads that give dogs more range to explore their surroundings. 

If you are interested in teaching your dog recall, training classes are a good option to learn this all-important skill. There’s also lots of information to soak in online, and this is something we can help with! 

Improve your recall with our top tips:

What does recall mean in dog training?
Why is recall training important?
At what age should a dog recall?
What you’ll need for recall training:
What are good recall words for dogs?
How to train a dog recall:
How long does it take to recall train a dog?
Top training tips:

     Dog Owners Engaged in Dog Recall Training with Golden Retriever


    What does 'recall' mean in dog training?

    In this instance, ‘recall’ essentially means come back to me. During dog recall training, dogs learn to return to their owners when called. It is an essential part of training for dog owners who want to let their dogs off lead in public places.


    Why is recall training important?

    There are lots of reasons why dog recall training is so important. First and foremost, safety. 

    When you are able to reliably call your dog back to you, you are preventing your dog and others from getting into potentially dangerous situations. It can also mean the difference between life and death in high-risk situations, like taking your dog swimming in the sea.

    Off-lead dog walks can be unpredictable, and when a dog begins to stray towards hazards, the ability to recall your dog can be the difference between life and death. 

    Recall training can also help to give you more confidence while out and about with your dog. When you feel like you have more control over your dog’s behaviour, it can be easier to relax and focus on enjoying the walk. 


    At what age should a dog learn recall?

    You can start to teach a dog recall during the puppy months. However if you have an older dog, it’s never too late to start recall training.

    Experts have different opinions about what age is the easiest age to train a dog. Some people believe adult dogs are easier to train because they have more control and focus than energetic puppies.

    On the other hand, younger dogs are a blank canvas because they don’t have already learned habits or behaviours that need to be changed. 


    What you'll need for recall training:

    • Treats
    • Whistle (for whistle recall training)
    • Long lead 
    • Distractions 
    • An enclosed space
    • Collar and harness


    What are good recall words for dogs?

    The best recall words are clear and concise - with commands like ‘come’, ‘here’ and ‘back’ being the most popular. It’s also important for your dog to be able to recognise and respond to its name.

    Some people also choose to use a whistle blow as their recall command, and this can help to standardise the command sound, and be better heard by dogs over further distances.


    How to train a dog recall:

    Step 1: In the beginning, it’s extremely important to make sure that you’re training in a closed off area such as in the house or in a garden. As training progresses and you want to practise in a more open space, choose a quiet area of a park or field, keeping your dog on a long lead for safety. 

    Step 2: Decide on your recall word or whistle. Once you choose a command, it’s important not to change it during training sessions. Consistency is key for success! You also need to find a reward that your dog values highly, but doesn’t get to enjoy very often. By choosing a special reward that is only associated with recall training, you will increase your dog’s motivation and focus.

    Step 3: Get your dog’s attention by calling its name, then start to encourage your dog towards you using your chosen recall command. At first, you should stay within a relatively close distance, and wait for 5 - 10 seconds before repeating the command. As soon as your dog comes to you, be sure to reward with lots of verbal praise and a treat or toy. This step needs to be practised over and over again until you’re certain your dog has a basic understanding of the command. As time goes on, you can move further and further away and practice the recall in different parts of the house.

    Step 4: Start to introduce distractions that could deter your dog from listening to your command. Then, whenever your dog successfully returns from a potential interest, you should give lots and lots of praise (no matter how long it has taken them to return). Body language and tone of voice is important here, so be sure to welcome your dog with open arms and plenty of excitement.  

    Step 5: Before allowing your dog off lead during walks in public spaces, lots of dog trainers recommend continuing training using a long lead. These leads can provide an opportunity for you and your dog to practise recall at a further distance, without running the risk of your dog not yet being fully ready and running off. However, whenever you use a longer line lead, you must attach it to a dog harness to prevent injuries like whiplash from occurring.


    How long does it take to recall train a dog?

    As with any aspect of dog training, recall is a skill that will take time for your dog to learn. The length of time it takes will vary, and largely depends on you, your dog and the frequency at which you practice. 

    Generally speaking, with regular training a reliable recall can be developed in 3 - 6 months.


    💡 Top training tips:

    • Avoid overusing your recall command
    • Reserve a high-value reward specifically for recall training 
    • Provide plenty of enthusiasm, encouragement and praise 
    • Practice as often as you can, ideally on a daily basis 
    • Increase distractions gradually, don’t rush the process
    • Never get angry with your dog, punish them or create fear
    • Work on developing your bond and connection with your dog



    Whether you want your dog to return to you while playing fun games in the park, or you need to make use of emergency recall for dangerous situations, dog recall training can be hugely beneficial.

    Our tips provide a great starting point for your research, but it’s always a good idea to learn as much as you can before you get going. If ever in doubt, consider reaching out to a qualified trainer or dog behaviourist for help.

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