Charlottetown & Summerside, PE

Recall Training: What You Need To Know

Golden Retreiver off leash walking in a park on a sunny day

Q: What is Recall?

A: The elusive recall – when we want our dogs to come back to us when we call them, every time. For many experienced dog parents, it can seem like a distant dream, and for good reason. Installing a solid recall takes months of hard work and consistency to prepare your dog for recalling away from environmental distractions.

Q: Why is it important?

A: What is most important is that you understand the process, and that it does take time. The biggest mistake that people make is putting their dog in much too challenging situations before they are ready. The second mistake people make, is using their name or recall repeatedly while your dog is unaware, too enthralled by the enchanting distractions of the world around them, and seemingly ignoring you. The reality is, they’re not purposely ignoring you, they are just not ready for that situation. 

Q: What tips can I follow to be successful?

A: To create a strong recall:

  • Never be caught without HIGH VALUE food rewards if you plan to let your dog off leash.
  • Reward them every single time they come back to you, no exceptions. 
  • Reinforce automatic check-ins that your dog does without you asking.
  • Always practice recall on a long line if you are in an unfenced area.
  • Food is usually the best reinforcer for most dogs, but you could also use toys, or a game of chase or tug with you as a reward.
  • Download our free “Emergency Recall” handout for a written protocol to teach an exceptional recall cue, for which you prime your dog with extra-high-value food in order to use in the utmost important situations.


  • Punishing/getting upset for a slow recall or if your dog doesn’t respond. You will only teach your dog that you are scary and angry and run the risk that they might start avoiding you altogether.
  • Expecting too much before the dog is ready; in very distracting environments such as the dog park, new places or around squirrels, or things your dog finds more interesting.
  • Only practicing recall out of a “stay” position. In fact, we recommend against this – this is a great way to build a dog who breaks out of Stay.
  • Practicing recall on every walk – the dog will tire of this quickly and if they find it boring they will lose enthusiasm.
  • Calling your dog only to leash them up or come in from the yard. Calling them and then immediately “ending the fun” can work against you.
  • Using the same food rewards will get boring. Make sure you change what you use frequently.
  • If you want the recall to stick, pay them very single time – don’t phase out food rewards too fast for this one. It is your most precious skill. 

Q: No matter what I do, my dog will not listen when I try to recall him. How can I make this a less frustrating process. Are there any training tools I should be considering?

A: This should not be a frustrating process – it should be fun because you are building a relationship with your dog. If your dog does not have recall, the answer is simple – you need a long line at all other times when it is not safe to let them off the leash. Even if your dog has 90% great recall, don’t take the risk. By the way, an electric collar is not a leash.

Take it from me, before I knew and appreciated the potential for any animal to become distracted, I personally lost my soulmate dog because I had him off-leash in an area that I thought was safe. He was an extremely well-trained therapy dog who brought joy to thousands of people and one day on a very normal, routine walk, his pointer instincts took over and he took off after a bunny, straight into traffic and I was never the same. This tragedy could have been avoided had I simply had him on a long line. I’m so grateful for my education and what I know now, I can teach clients with a very realistic outcome. I will never promise you a 100% guarantee perfect recall because that does not exist.

If you are looking for a long line, we sell our favourite – Mendota 15′ Long Lines, and I also proudly recommend; if you prefer a custom-made biothane long line you can check out Two Beggars in Founders Hall, Charlottetown.

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