How to Train an Older Dog Recall

Medium
3-6 Weeks
General

Introduction

Training your dog to recall is one of the most important skills your dog should master. It’s critical to teach a young puppy recall as soon as practical, but what about older dogs? Are they able to learn to recall too? Maybe you’ve just adopted an older dog from a rescue or shelter, or perhaps your dog is up in years and needs some refresher training, but regardless of the circumstances, an older dog can learn new tricks. It will just take more effort, time, and commitment.

Recall is vital for all dogs to learn because your dog needs to listen to and focus on you no matter what distractions may abound. For the safety of your dog, yourself, and anyone in your immediate area, you need your pup to come when he’s called the first time. These training methods will put you and your senior canine on the road to a better recall.

Defining Tasks

The challenge with recall is making it more exciting for your pup to come to you when called rather than investigate the rabbit in the next yard over or the dog across the street. While we all want to let our dogs run free, we also don’t want them to run into danger or cause difficulties for other people or pets. Therefore, a proper recall can allow your dog some freedom while he remains responsive and under your control.

Older dogs may take longer to pick up on the recall especially if they were never taught this skill or were taught differently or incorrectly. Patience is essential in this situation, as is consistency. Above all, keep it interesting for your dog, so he doesn’t get bored with you and let his attention wander. Ultimately, you want your dog to return to you on cue because what you offer is better than anything else out there.

Getting Started

Have some high-value treats on hand, preferably ones that you don’t regularly give to your senior dog. That will make the treats seem special and help prevent boredom on your dog’s part. Change those treats up frequently so he doesn’t become accustomed to what reward he will receive. If the dog is not food-driven, consider having a new squeaky toy or ball to use as a reward for recall.

For the best training results, use a long lead line consistently as this allows your dog room to move but you are in control at all times of his movements. Long lines can be dropped on the ground and dragged behind the dog but can quickly be stepped on or picked up by you if necessary. Choose lead lines in bright colors as they are easier to see on the ground outside. Do not use retractable leashes for training.

Start each of the following training methods in a low-distraction environment such as a large room in your house or a fenced-in backyard. Once your older dog masters these levels of recall, you can begin to work in larger spaces on walks or in dogs parks or on trails.

The Happy Recall Method

ribbon-method-2
Most Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Energize your recall command
Whatever word your choose as a recall command, deliver it with a voice full of happiness, energy, and excitement. When your dog responds by coming to you, reward him with a treat. Do this for a few minutes so he associates coming to you and staying next to you as a pleasure.
Step
2
Run and reward
With your dog by your side, say "Come!" cheerfully, then run for ten to fifteen feet. Stop and reward your dog. Change up the reward between a treat or toy to keep your dog guessing.
Step
3
Practice Steps 1 and 2
Continue to practice the first two steps for at least a week before moving to a larger area.
Step
4
Try longer distance recalls
Using a long lead line, practice Step 2 when your dog is at a farther distance from you. Again, when you stop running be sure to reward your dog enthusiastically.
Step
5
Add some helpers
Once your dog has done well on recall from longer distances, ask some friends or family members to help with the happiness and provide some new distractions to challenge your pup. Then, start the process over from Step 1.
Recommend training method?

The Long Line Game Method

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Pick a recall command
Choose a command word for the recall and use it only when your dog is running toward you. Avoid using your dog's name as the recall command.
Step
2
Use the long line lead and demand his focus
Hook the long line lead up to your dog, then take the first few minutes to play and engage your dog.
Step
3
Invent some fun games and use the recall command
Be creative and come up with some fun games to keep your dog interested in focusing on you. Toss a toy up in the air when your dog isn't expecting it, or roll some treats on the ground. Then give the recall command.
Step
4
Run and chase
Deviate your direction and run away from your dog while giving the recall command. As soon as your dog catches up to you, reward him.
Step
5
Practice longer ranges and different directions
As your dog improves his recall skills, switch things up on him to keep him on his toes. When he gets to the end of the lead line, switch directions and give him the recall command. He will learn to pay attention to you so he doesn't lose you.
Recommend training method?

The Focus on Me Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Get your dog's attention
Practice spending time getting and holding your dog's eye contact. Reward your dog by saying his name and giving him a treat after a few moments of eye contact. Lengthen the time frame and move about the room once the first goal has been mastered.
Step
2
Teach your dog a recall command
Choose your recall command for your dog, such as "Come" or "Here."
Step
3
Deliver the command consistently
Make sure that each time you use your recall command word, you do so in the same way each time.
Step
4
Practice the recall
Give the recall command to your dog, and when he responds correctly, offer him a unique, high-value reward.
Step
5
Introduce distractions
When your dog successfully masters the basis recall training, move him to a larger space with more distractions. Ask a friend to bike or run by your house, throw a ball over your dog's head, or ask a neighbor to let his dog out in his yard. Continue this practice until your dog is focused on you and you alone.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Erin Cain

Published: 04/23/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Dennis
Labrador cross
16 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Dennis
Labrador cross
16 Months

Rescue dog. Won’t come when called off or on long lines

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
945 Dog owners recommended

Hello Michelle, Check out the Reel In method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall If you don't find that method will work either, check out one of the other methods where you run away from pup to elicit a chase response so they will come. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Leia and Athena
Labrador Retriever
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Leia and Athena
Labrador Retriever
1 Year

Hi there, our two labradors arrived from South Africa two months ago as we have just moved to the uk. They were good at their recall before but we have been struggling in the last couple of weeks. Problem is because there are two of them they often run off together and then when we call they often take their time to come back. Do you have any advice with training two dogs to come back?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
945 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicoletta, First, start working on a reliable Come. Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall More Come - pay attention to the PreMack Principle and long leash training sections especially once pup has learned what Come initially means. These need to be practiced around all types of distractions while on a long leash before attempting true off leash. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ For your setting, with lots of off leash space, you may also find this trainer's videos helpful also. https://www.youtube.com/user/taketheleadvideo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Stan
Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Stan
Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla
2 Years

When playing with other dogs, won't come back!

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
240 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to give you information on how to teach recall. You will want to practice these exercises in distracting environments so he learns to come to you despite distractions. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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Question
Diezel
English Springer Spaniel
26 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Diezel
English Springer Spaniel
26 Months

My dog is a leaf chaser. Pulls to anything that moves. Is nervous of strangers and will howl if a stranger try’s to go near him. He’s the runt of his litter, and hasn’t been trained that much.
He sits, waits and will sometimes lay down. On command.
I want to try and recall train him but I’m afraid to lose him or he not come back.
I have treated him as a baby since I got him.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
240 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to give you information on how to teach recall. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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Question
Fig
Mixed
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Fig
Mixed
9 Months

My dog Fig is a rescue. I got her when she was 6 months old and she's now 9 months.
I've been doing games with her to keep her interested in me. And whilst She is food motivated, it seems she also can not care about the food when needed.
Shes good at learning many things and is gentle on the lead. But walking her has been a struggle to get her following me, even on the lead. She doesn't pull but she does want to be in front. Basically, she doesn't see me as alpha.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
945 Dog owners recommended

Hello Izzy, Sometimes other distractions will trump a food reward for a dog. At this stage I recommend methods that also require calm consistency - and pup is rewarded when they obey but through your persistence and consistency there is always follow through with you. Check out the Turns methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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