There are many ways to train a recall, and I occasionally use different techniques with different dogs. But by far my favorite method of teaching recall is using a hand target – teaching the dog to come and bump their nose against your hand when you call them. This gets them to come all the way to you, make contact with you, and makes it easy for you to grab their collar in an emergency. It also gives them a very clear goal – come *right here*.
Here is me teaching Sinclair the beginnings of the hand target recall. He has done some recall work in his past life (come and sit front, I think … he offers it sometimes) but has never done a hand target recall until I turn on the camera. You’ll see him get confused a few times, offer a paw (awwwww), stare at me blankly. Watch what I do when he “messes up” (he’s not messing up, he doesn’t know what I’m asking him yet!): I hold the hand in the same spot for a second or two, then remove it, wait a second, then present it again, slightly closer if possible.
Once he seems to be more purposely touching my hand, I add some movement and distance. He’s still on the very beginning steps, but he learns fast!
Kyra has been doing hand target recalls since she was 2 months old. You can see how enthusiastically she responds! I haven’t worked with her on this (or anything, poor neglected dog) for quite a while, but she still remembers how fun this game is. I added in a distraction – some treats on the white towel that she needs to run past to get to me. Once she comes, I release her to go eat the treats. You can see I made it a little too hard too fast – she cheats at one point! Whose fault is that? Mine of course! So I go back and make it easier for a while. I could also put her back on the leash to keep her from being able to self-reward like that. If your dog doesn’t have a good “wait” like Kyra does, you can use a leash or have a partner who can hold them until you call them. You can also do something similar where your partner holds treats in their closed fist, and you call your dog away from sniffing their hand. Once they come to you, they get to go back and eat those treats! I’ll try and get video of that exercise, too.