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Taking control of recall

Understanding the Challenge of Recall in Dog Training

One of the main things I have as a gundog trainer is recall and the lack of it. Recall, is a fundamental aspect of dog training. However, it can be one of the most challenging behaviours to teach and maintain, especially if a dog consistently fails to respond to their owner's. There are several reasons why a dog may struggle with recall. Lack of correct training Often, dogs may not reliably recall because they have not been trained for this task. Training recall requires consistent practice in various environments and with increasing distractions. If a dog hasn't received proper training or if the training has been inconsistent, they will not understand what is expected of them when called. Shouting your dogs name when its running away is a big no no with me. You are just celebrating the fact that its running off, keep your mouth shut until it does come back, that’s when we need to use the name of the dog.


Dogs are naturally curious animals, and owning a gundog breed only adds to this, they want to quest for smells that you and I cannot see, or smell. they can easily become distracted by their surroundings, particularly if there is game sent, other animals, or interesting sights and sounds. When faced with distractions, a dog may prioritize exploring or engaging with the environment over their owner's call. You have to make yourself be the most attractive in these situations, and that does not mean wear brighter lipstick, especially the men.

Negative Associations

If a dog associate coming back when called with negative experiences, such as punishment or being deprived of something enjoyable, they will be reluctant to respond to their owner's call in the future. This can happen if the owner inadvertently punishes the dog upon their return or if the dog is consistently called away from activities, they find rewarding. We should also know locking down the dog i.e. putting it back on the lead and locking it down is also a negative action.

Lack of Motivation

Dogs are motivated by reward, including food, toys, praise, and opportunities for play. If a dog does not find the reward offered by their owner enough, they may choose to ignore the recall. It's essential to identify what motivates each dog and use high-value rewards during training to increase their willingness to respond. I don’t use treats as I think they associate you as a vending machine and do not come for you just the food. Yes you can be successful with food but it would be better if the dog came for you not just food.

What Works Best

Get to a safe field where your dog is not at any risk to danger, being in the middle of a shoot or next to big distractions will not be good for results. Put your lead away, this will be associated with lock down so don’t be stood there waving it at the dog. Once you let the dog off the lead it will then fly off and find what it feels is fun. Let it, a dog needs freedom. Let it have fun but don’t be shouting your dog. Walk in the opposite direction and the dog will eventually notice you leaving. It will then run towards you and also pass you. This is good and you must remain relaxed. When it does don’t say anything and turn in the opposite direction. It will happen again and again with you changing directions without any interaction with the dog. The dog will soon wonder why is mum or dad not calling me. This is when the dog will get closer and closer. Eventually coming up to the owner and looking at you for interaction. When this happens, this is when we reward the dog with our happy voice and praise. Let it go again with a command like go play and do it again. I have seen success in this method in one hr lesson and sometimes shorter. Once you are happy with the results, put the dog on a lead, take two steps then let it back off and repeat this process. ,

Darren Kirk Kirkbourne Spaniels.


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