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

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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

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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.
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The Focus on Me Method

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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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
winnie
Goldendoodle
5 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
winnie
Goldendoodle
5 Years

comes perfectly when not distracted. when we take her to the dog park if she is bored she comes right away. when she is busy playing she wont. we have tried all sorts of training methods, but shecomes perfectly most of the time.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
424 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Practice the Reel In method at parks, outside the dog park, around friend's well-behaved, off leash dogs, and in other environments around dogs. Do not practice this inside the actual dog park though because having a dog on a leash in a dog park can lead to fights - instead recruit a friend with one or two well behaved dogs and go to your own fenced in area and practice your recall and training around each other's dogs - using the reel in method. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall You can also teach an e-collar come but the Reel In method still needs to be done first. The e-collar is just layered onto previous training around distractions to make the command more reliable form a distance. Good e-collar training is done at a dog's working level - which is the lowest level that a dog will respond to on an e-collar with at least 60 levels. Only use a high quality e-collar like E-collar Technologies mini educator when e-collar training. Most dogs will respond well enough without e-collar training just by using the Reel In method around distractions a bunch. A great come requires hundreds of repetitions so expect to practice this intentionally. For advice on teaching e-collar recalls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtJxSXu4rfs&t=331s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lucy
Labrador Retriever Doberman
7 Years
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Question
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Lucy
Labrador Retriever Doberman
7 Years

I adopted Lucy recently. She is very sweet, gentle and obedient in most areas...but she is a runner, and will take off sometimes, if she’s in the right mood...it isn’t always, but she gets a look in her eyes. If you chase her, or even think about it, she will run faster and farther away, and it becomes a game to her. I believe she learned bad habits previously, and I also think someone hit her in her past...she is a high energy dog, and gets a lot of joy from running free- and I think her previous owners did not give her the exercise she needed. I have a feeling that when she escaped, she would get in trouble, and it would create fear in her people, which made Lucy run farther...in the few times she has run off on me, I have found that if I ignore her, or walk in the opposite direction without giving her a lot of energy, it is the most effective way to get her back. I know how much she loves being free and off leash, and I really want to give her that freedom...am I dreaming to think that I can retrain her to come consistently enough that I can safely let her off leash? I forgot to say... when we are at the house, or in the yard, she is very good at coming to me...she will come running on the first whistle for her. It’s just when she’s off leash and distracted and aware of the freedom she has when she has escaped, that she runs like the wind and pays absolutely no attention to her people, like she’s in a complete world of her own.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
424 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, Check out the Reel In method to practice come in places outside of your yard closer to distractions - don't give her too much leash at first though because you don't want her to pull you over. As she gets better at responding to you, you will let her venture further away on a long leash before calling her back. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for the next steps for getting a dog from basic Come to an off leash Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Getting to an off-leash level starts with teaching a dog the meaning of Come - which she knows, then progresses to practicing on a long leash around distractions (the reel in method), then using the Premack Principle (mentioned in that second article I linked below), and ends with e-collar training. Some dogs can learn Come using just a long leash, lure reward training, and Premack principle. Some dogs need e-collar training to become reliable though. I suspect you fall into that category but she may respond well to the leash and the Premack principle alone. You won't know until you get her training to that point and can see if she is still unreliable. If e-collar training is needed, check out the video linked below for an overview on how it should be done, then look for a trainer who can help you teach that part once you get to that training level - don't skip the leash work or premack principle training - e-collar training just makes those things more consistent; it will not train the dog for you though, the repetitions of leash work and premack principle have to be done still. E-collar come training overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtJxSXu4rfs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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