dog retrieving a toy

The Recall

The recall is one of the basic commands for a dog, but it pays to spend the time getting this absolutely right. From the very beginning you must ensure that the dog comes in directly in front and sits square in front with her head raised, in preparation for the later lessons of retrieving.

The perfect recall is for the dog to come at a run straight to you, without responding to distractions such as rabbits being flushed, and then to sit square in front of you, head raised and watching you for the ‘Finish!’ command.

The advantages, besides looking good, is that if a problem arises in the field, you can call the dog away from it straight away. If you are American, and the problem is a bear, you may prefer to practice the send away, so look for that lesson!

The head up position is used to present game to you without you needing to bend (too far). When the dog is watching your face, you can give a facial command to finish. 

How to Teach the Recall

The verbal recall command consists of the dog’s name followed by the Come! call.

Photo demonstrating a recall command

Calling your dog back

The visual signal is arms spread wide – this can be used at a considerable distance without a sound being made to alert game. Some people may use gloves of a contrasting colour with the background so that the movement can be seen more readily – one friend used white gloves and gave the appearance of semaphoring, but if you are happy with it there is no reason to not use it.

The whistle signal that I use (and whistle signals are a personal preference) is four short peeps blown as quietly as the dog can hear.

To keep the dog coming in straight, start the recall in a long passage or hallway, and use food to encourage the dog straight in with head up as it sits in front of you.

Problems with the Recall

Sometimes, (often due to previous tensions with a retrieve) a dog does not wish to come straight in. This is why you can never punish a dog when they do approach you, even if you have spent the last three hours chasing the blooming thing from one end of the shoot to the other.

If you have a fairly hard dog, and you are convinced that he is not worried by the recall but is choosing not to come, you can emphasise that he must come by attaching a long lead, giving the whistle and pulling him in. When he is (forced) to come to you, make him sit, and praise him up (strange as it seems, you are trying to positively reinforce the recall.

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