Dog recall training: Six tips from champion dog trainer Ben Randall

Training your dog is not easy — and with the huge recent rise in dog ownership, it's never been a better time to share the best advice. A-list celebrity dog-trainer Ben Randall solves your canine dilemmas.

Dog recall training is a real headache for millions of owners — but why is recall such a bad problem? Why is it so common with all breeds throughout the world?

The main reason is that, from when they are puppies, most dogs have been given too much freedom on walks and they’ve become ‘self-employed’, by which I mean they quickly find their own fun, which is far more exciting than anything their owner has to offer. What’s more, when they do come back, they’re often greeted with a stern word and put back on the lead, hence why the dog is not that keen on coming back when it’s called.

I’m Ben Randall, a multiple award-winning dog trainer — you might have seen me featured last year in Country Life and I’m very happy to say that I’m now here as the canine agony uncle. Choosing a dog is the easy bit compared to training it, but I’ll be using my proven BG (Beggarbush) dog training methods to help explain how to solve all manner of problems.

You can see more of my work on Instagram @beggarbush and on my dog training app, while to pose your own question for this column email paws-for-thought@futurenet.com. And dog recall training is the first of these challenges, prompted by this message:

Dear Ben,’ writes PL from Dorset. ‘I have a young Labrador, who is well-mannered and obedient around the house, but doesn’t always come back when he’s called, particularly when I take him to the park and he’s distracted by other dogs and people. What can I do to ensure he comes back to me every time?

Six dog recall training tips

You can work on your recall training and ensure it doesn’t get into any dangerous situations, by building a better bond, trust and partnership. All dogs (and humans!) love 1-2-1 attention, and following these tips will have them coming back with enthusiasm in no time.

1. Turn dog recall training into a game

Create games that you can play with your dog at home, such as hiding balls or food around the house and asking them to find them. Start in a controlled environment — such as the kitchen or hallway — then build up to more open spaces. Making it fun for them is key.  Think about it — if you were a dog and your master or mistress yelled at you: ‘Come back, Bertie, you naughty boy!’ You might not want to do as you are told, either.

2. Take it outside once you’ve mastered recall inside

Going outside can have associations for your dog that get in the way of recall training. If you let your young dog into the garden to go to the loo 10 times a day and they run wild every time, that’s potentially 300 times a month that you’ve allowed it to find its own recreation outside, and not listen to you.

Once the dog is used to playing recall games in the house, transfer the hide-and-seek games to the garden — after your pet has done its business, the play can start. Using the dog’s natural instinct and desire to find things will help to encourage them to focus on you and see you as exciting and someone he or she wants to come galloping back to.

3. Make it harder gradually — and step back to the basics if you have to

Remember, the key here is to build up this exercise by doing it in increasingly different and more tempting environments. If you make it incrementally more difficult, you should succeed in improving your dog’s recall. However, if you do encounter problems, go back to basics and concentrate on an easier game that your dog can easily achieve, before trying again in a place with more distractions.

4. Build dog recall training into your walks

These games can then be used while walking your dog — whereby you hide balls, dummies or food for them to seek out. Anybody can do this with any dog, no matter what breed it is — they don’t have to be a working type — as all dogs love to eat or to smell. But don’t rush getting to this stage: trying to bribe your dog with a treat is less likely to work when you’re out and about because smells — such as the scent of game or squirrels, other dogs, livestock and people — are far more tempting than a piece of cheese.

5. Mealtimes can be a great time to work on recall

Feed times are also a great opportunity to teach all sorts of commands, but are especially helpful when it comes to good recall, as we can encourage the dog to learn its name and respond to whistle commands. Blow the whistle (three or four individual pips) every time you prepare your dog’s food. Then ask it to follow you around the garden, while you’re carrying its food in the bowl, all the while saying your dog’s name or pipping on the whistle, a bit like the pied piper.

6. Use rewards sparingly — build the bond and the trust

You can also build a better recall by giving your dog a food reward or praise each time it comes back when it’s called. However, don’t reward it every time — it’s important that the dog recalls multiple times and knows it has to work super hard as a team with you, to build that trust in the knowledge that he or she is only rewarded for consistent good behaviour.


For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk

For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit www.gundog.app/trial 


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