Sheepdog Training 09 – Getting a Good Recall on Your Dog

How to train your dog to have a good recall

a good recall is essential for a sheep or cattle dog
"Big" Ezra's always had a great recall, but not all dogs are the same.

So what should you do if you're out with your dog somewhere and he won't come back to you?

Well, first, you shouldn't really be releasing a dog that you can't trust but let's imagine you thought he'd be OK (after all, he comes to you straight away when you're at home in the garden).

Well, first, only take the dog to fairly small, enclosed spaces that he can't escape from (not onto a road or amongst someone else's sheep for example). Then you should let him go - and if he won't come back when you call him - walk away (and keep walking). He'll soon realise you've gone and come looking for you.

OK - OK every dog's an individual and there's always the exception to every rule, so let's say the disappearing act above didn't work. The chances are, you gave-in too early, but just supposing you didn't - you spent what seemed like hours trying to catch him and missed your favourite TV programme.

What can we do now? Well, we need to go back to the garden and make absolutely certain the dog's coming back 100% of the time.

Not when he feels like it - I mean straight away, 100%.

Now we put him on a long leash or cord and take him to the enclosed space we talked about.

Still coming back 100%? . . . Lengthen the leash.

Still 100%? . . . Release your end of the long leash.

He'll feel it pulling on his collar as it drags along the ground and he'll think you still hold the other end (and therefore, "absolute power").

Still coming back 100%? . . . Go back to a shorter leash but release your end so the pull on his collar is reduced. If he defaults, go back to the previous stage or even the one before that - and so on - I'm sure you get the idea.


3 Replies to “Sheepdog Training 09 – Getting a Good Recall on Your Dog”

  1. Thanks Andy. I’ll get cracking with the training. She seems to be getting better on the lead. I appreciate your opinion. Cheers.

  2. Hi Andy

    I am thoroughly enjoying your videos. They are very inspiring. Thank you.

    I have a 5 month old border collie who I am hoping to begin training with sheep in the next couple of months. It is my first time training a collie. I’m currently concentrating on lead training and recall while also building my training pen.

    I am having a problem with recall. Just as you describe above, she is great in the back garden, but when I take her around the farm and into fields she often ignores me when I call her back. She is very keen on sheep, and quite a strong willed pup. Indeed, I have had a couple of extremely traumatic incidents when she wouldn’t come back and drifted over two arable fields (with me frantically chasing her) and into a neighboring field of sheep.

    My plan to resolve this is to lead train her and work intensively on recall while trying to develop our bond. However, until her recall is 100% she is permanently attached to a lead. I no longer let her run freely off the lead as I can’t trust her yet not to run away and head towards the sheep. I now walk her on a standard lead around the farm and on the road, and in the fields she is on a 40′ cord.

    My question is, does having her permanently attached to me do her any harm? She is often at the full length of the long cord, and while this gives me a good opportunity to work on training her to stand and come back to me, she seems to get very frustrated, biting at the cord etc.. I am worried that it may be doing her more harm than good, but what else can I do? What do you think?

    Many thanks


    1. Your dog sounds great, Neil! What she’s doing is perfectly normal for a promising young farm dog.

      You’re doing the right thing, but don’t overdo the restraining. If you continually hold the dog back when she’s trying to get at the sheep, she’ll eventually stop trying to get at them altogether, and it will be difficult to get her interested in them again.

      I suggest you spend some time training her to walk properly on the lead (away from sheep) and not pulling. This will strengthen her bond with you as well.

      If you don’t have a small enough paddock to enable you to catch her when she runs after the sheep, by all means keep her on the rope, but don’t let her get the idea you don’t want her to go after the sheep. Simply let go of the long cord and let her run around with that trailing behind her. Then it’s (comparatively) easy to grab the rope as she comes past you. You can even tread on the rope as she runs past you, but be very careful, being brought to a sudden stop when she’s in full-flight, might injure her neck. I suggest you only do it if you can put something stretchable between her collar and the rope to absorb the shock.

      If she was mine though, I’d start training her! She’s obviously ready for some short sessions. Hurry up and get that ring finished!

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