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Teaching A Default Recall As A Behaviour Modification Tool - Simply Behaviour - Applied Behaviour Analysis

Teaching A Default Recall As A Behaviour Modification Tool

Teaching your dog to come back to you is probably one of the most important tools you could train. The reasons are many!
Firstly, if you have not trained a specific word (or whistle or any other cue) then it is quite likely that your dog is not trained to return to you on cue. It might be that he comes back when you just say his name?? Or, it could be that he comes back ONLY when there are no other dogs, people, water etc around. Saying your dog has a great recall but you cannot call him away from other dogs is not really a good recall. A good recall is one that has been proofed around cars, animals, people, cats, dogs etc and only when you are confident that he can be called away from other dogs should he be let off the lead.

From the perspective of behaviour modification one of the questions we urge you to ask in your training is not to focus on what he is not doing and trying to prevent that, but rather what would we like him to do instead. Replacing a behaviour with one that is reinforced will help break that cycle of behaviour. We urge you to find a suitable trainer that will work through this issue with you. We cover the basics in our recall courses. Our instructor course covers reinforcement schedules, learning theory and how to set client dogs up to succeed.

Please go to:

If you are a dog owner

If you want to be a recall instructor
Recall Instructor Course

If you would like an introduction to the neuroscience of behaviour please watch the following seminar:
Introduction To the Science Of Behaviour (Beginners) Seminar

If your dog bounds up to another dog that is on the lead to say hello, it might be that the other dog is on the lead for a very good reason. That reason might be that the other dog is so frightened he might use his teeth to make your dog go away! The laws are now changing with respect to the way dogs are managed and how they behave and if you have an unruly dog that runs and bounds up to everyone and jumps up etc then it is only really down to the other persons interpretation and that could end up with a hefty fine.

Around 80% of dogs that are euthanised under the age of 1 year are done so through lack of training. So, this is why it is very important to put the work in early. Taking your dog to one short training course and expecting him to be trained is a little unrealistic. It is good to do yearly training refreshers with your dog through out his life. If you progress his training quickly and then it seems to regress, just go back a stage for a few weeks (or longer depending on how long he has had a chance to practice the behaviour, this can take considerable time if he has had a chance to practice unwanted behaviour) and implement some of the basics and then progress it again when you are both ready (our courses are valid for life, so you can always go back and view again at any time)

From a behaviour perspective and the way we set up the recall training (using the value of reinforcement and great techniques to keep him interested and listening to you) it is a great tool to get your dog to defer to you in situations that he might feel uncomfortable. If your dog is already at the stage where he runs forward and barks or he runs up and bounces other dogs, then getting him to come back to you before he does this and making that the most reinforcing less expensive behaviour (less stressful), could be a life saver. Teaching him that in the presence of distractions, its a great idea to come automatically to you is ideal. This gives you time to converse with the other person about their dog, children etc and if he is sitting with you, nice and safe, then you can make the judgement on whether it is safe for him to be let off the lead or not.

Training a recall with a nice sit and wait, that is highly reinforced and valuable to you and your dog will strengthen the trust, build the bond and help him feel safe to explore. You always reward him for returning to you (even if he does not come straight away- more about that later). From a behaviour perspective, people can prevent unwanted behaviour problems simply by putting the right foundations in place. Having him run to you and sit when he sees other people, dogs etc not only enhances his perception of them approaching (because nothing bad happens) but it also provides a safe framework that means he is reinforced for doing what is actually the safest behaviour and if he is a little unsure, he has the choice as to whether or not he wants to interact.

Please see the ladder of aggression below to give you an indication of a likely pathway to aggression. Remember, fear happens when we have somewhere to go (you-treats-happy place-reassurance) and aggression happens when you have nowhere to go (even in a large space this happens because psychologically the animal feels he has nowhere to go). We are teaching him and rewarding him for making great decisions.

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If you would like to use the dog trainers resource pack which contains posters, handouts, schedules and charts please go to:

So, observe your dog, how does he respond to new people and things? Does he go forward and make a noise or does he run and hide? Does he lick his lips (a sign that he could be uncomfortable), yawn (trying to calm himself down), scratch himself (a displacement behaviour), go somewhere else and sniff (a cut off, displacement activity), turn his back (avoidance) turn his head away (cut off signal) or does he freeze? Remember these behaviours are contextual so it might be that he is just licking his lips, but it is useful to be aware of his body language. Are his hackles up? This is a sign of arousal, this is not necessarily good or bad, it is just a sign. This is something to be aware of.

The 7 day recall survival guide covers everything you need to know to set your dog up to succeed in many contexts. It is only £10, access is for life, you get a short video each day, a training schedule, and tips on equipment, how dogs learn, a step-by-step dog-dog socialisation (video) which explains body language in context and a certificate at the end of the course to show you have survived!!

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The course covers:
Sit stay
Adding distance to recall
Recall away from objects, dogs
Building up distractions
Emergency stop
The whole car journey from start to finish to help keep him calm, safe and how to make it stress free!!
Release cues
Handling the equipment
Teaching him to like his equipment
How do have value in highly distracting environments
Proofing your training
Putting it all together

Courses & Seminars:

Our Employers: Marmalade & Tango

positive reinforcement training in dogs

 Please Click On: Authors Biography, to find out more.

Upcoming Articles:

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Upcoming Courses:

  • Neuroscience Of Puppy Development- A short course to cover the neural mechanisms of puppy development.
  • The Neuroscience Of Emotions In Training/Behaviour – A course covering the basics to help you understand and consider affective states to help you approach your training from the emotional perspective of the animal.
  • Clinical Aggression (protocols, understanding, training) A practical course, covering all of the latest research to give you a science based approach to understanding these challenges.
  • 6 Week Gundog Course- This covers the basics to set your dog up with the foundations. This will get him ready to go into the field. We use clicker training and science methods only. We help you build your dog from reliable foundations of trust and a solid bond.
  • How To Market Your Animal Business- How to win, maintain, grow your business with effective marketing & business development strategies. How to work as a team with your client to build solution based understanding and employ realistic & effective protocols. We will cover an interactive role play (workshop) to help develop your “influencing” skills and to help build your confidence in client based environments. How to go that extra mile but making sure you get a return on your efforts and reduce time wasted.
  • Resource Guarding- A working protocol with practical tips. This will cover dog-dog & dog-human resource management and modification techniques to build trust and build positive associations


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