Here/Recall Command

Introduction to teaching the here/recall command:

The here command, while simple and basic, is vitally important. It is important because it is a command that must be obeyed every time. Why? Because obeying the here command, is the difference between a good canine citizen and an out-of-control potential menace. Obeying the command could be the difference between life and death for your Dog. Quite a few hunting dogs have died because they chased some animal, usually a deer, onto a highway and was hit by a car. The instances I personally have heard about, the owner couldn’t get the dog to stop.

It is a fairly easy command to teach. It can be tricky to get obedience every time the command is given. Your dog can find plenty of incentive in the world to ignore a recall command. The real work lies in teaching the command to be obeyed consistently with distractions. There are always distractions to lead your dog astray. So, it’s best to train the dog to ignore distractions.

The goal is to train near perfect compliance into the dog, using positive reinforcement to teach the command. Negative reinforcement (electronic collar) is used to get near perfect compliance.

How to train the here/recall command:

I am going to begin this section with the assumption the reader has never trained a dog before. So, we start with the basics.
Items needed: Treats, Clicker (Optional) 20 ft check cord, taWhistle, Electronic Collar for Proofing
The Process:

1. Begin by putting a check cord on your puppy’s collar. Say Here in a friendly tone and give a light tug on the check cord.
2. Click and treat when the puppy comes close to you. Check out my Blog post on Canine Learning Theory for why using a clicker is useful.
3. Let the puppy wander away and repeat the Here command, click and treat again. Try to get four or five repetitions during a five-minute training session. (Five minutes max for the very young puppy)
4. Take a break, let the puppy get a drink and play. Repeat the five-minute sequence. Your pup should begin to associate the Here command, with getting a treat, when it comes to you.
5. Repeat lesson over the next couple of weeks twice a day. Continue to use the check cord. the objective is to reinforce the association between the command and reward. The check cord assures compliance.  The consequence stage for refusing to obey comes later.  Keep lessons short and positive every time.  If you are using a clicker, click every time the pup comes to you.  However, after the first couple of days lessons, begin to randomly reward with a treat.  Random rewards reinforce compliance.
6. When you are interacting with your pup outside of training time, avoid using the Here command until the pup is reliably responding to the command during training. Keep in mind that a pup who reliably responds at home, probably won’t be reliable in a different setting.
7. Once the pup responds to the Here command reliably at home, take the pup to as many different settings as you can. Do this over a period of weeks. As puppy’s mature, they hit periods where they become obstinate. I would keep using the check cord until the pup is ready for an electronic collar.
8. As you take you pup to different areas; this is as good a time as any to introduce the whistle. Pick out the whistle you will be using for the Here whistle cue\command. Different whistles have different sounds. I use an Acme T2000 Cyclone type whistle for Here because its sound carries well. Remington sells a clone of that whistle as well.
I ran into trouble at a Navhda test when I couldn’t find my whistle that I had trained the dog on. I substituted a different whistle with a markedly different sound and my dog acted like he never had been trained to Here. I believe he was locked into the sound of the training whistle and refused to or couldn’t relate the new sound to the command. I use a different Acme type of whistle to whistle the Whoa command. He has no problem knowing the difference, but then he was trained to one specific action with the second whistle.
The point is that it might be a good idea to train with different whistles as well. Since I’m on the subject of whistles. It would be wise, if it’s your first puppy to decide on what commands you will use whistles for. What type of whistle or whistles? How many blasts for what command before training starts? Another situation I ran into was the whistle I used for the Whoa command was the same whistle someone else used for their dogs down command. When I blew my whistle to Whoa my dog, theirs dropped to the ground. Much to my surprise!
9. Introduce the whistle by blowing the whistle and immediately giving the Here command. When the pup responds continue clicking and randomly treating. By the time you have worked with your pup in several different locations, your pup should be associating the command Here, the whistle, and the action of coming to you; reliably 80 to 90 percent of the time regardless of the location.
10. If you started this training very early in your pup’s life, say 10 weeks, you will want to go into a holding pattern once the preliminary Here command-conditioning is done. Wait until the pup is ready to be E-collar conditioned before proofing the command. Proofing the command, means to use an E-collar to reinforce the command, with the dog off lead and in various situations of temptation. See my article on how to E-collar condition your dog. During this period cut the treats to just an occasional treat when the pup comes.
11. Recently I found some good advice on the Here command. When and when not to use it. Use the Here command when you can enforce compliance. If you have any doubt that your pup or dog will comply to the command, and you can’t enforce the command, use a throwaway command such as come instead. I wish I could credit the person who gave this advice, but I don’t remember where I saw it.
12. How to use the E-Collar to Proof the command. It is assumed your Pup has been deemed mature enough (typically 7-8 months) to have been collar-conditioned and has had some field work. Begin by setting the E-collar transmitter just a level up from the minimum training level. Sensitivity of the stimulus adjustment varies a lot from transmitter model to model. You will have to set the stimulus level up enough to get the dogs attention, without undue pain.
Next take your pup out to some different training areas. For the first few lessons with the E Collar, use the check cord to make sure the dog comes to you, when you use the Collar on it. The sequence of actions are as follows in quick succession. 1. Blow Whistle. 2. Say Here. 3. Hit the pup with the E-collar. 4. Pull pup to you with the check cord. 5. Stop the E-collar stimulus.

Start with areas that have little distraction. Work up to places with lots of distractions. Blow the Here whistle and give the Here command after the pup has run around a bit. If the pup responds and comes to you great. Praise and send it out again. Once it is clear the pup knows it can turn off the E-collar by coming to you, without having to use the check cord, it is time to change up the sequence.  Keep recalling the dog periodically, without using the E-collar until it decides it’s not going to come to you. When that happens nick the pup with the E-collar.  You will have to set the stimulus level up enough to get the dogs full attention, without undue pain.  You want the pup to be uncomfortable, without it being tortured. That feeling of discomfort is what is going to motivate the pup to comply with the command.  When it comes praise it and repeat the sequence for about 10 minutes.
I usually wait a couple of seconds before nicking the pup. If you wait to long the dog will quickly learn how much stalling it can get away with. Usually, one nick will do the trick. If it doesn’t either nick again or go up a little on the intensity level. A pup with good foundation training will quickly decide to comply. Also, you can drop the verbal command or use it randomly after the first couple of sessions.
The way to proof any command is to repeat the command until the dog refuses to obey. Then correct the dog for the refusal. This process teaches he dog that it must obey at all times in any situation.
As the pup is taken to places with more and more intense distractions it will probable decide to refuse to come sooner than usual. However, it should be responding to corrections much quicker as well.  This is due to the excitement of whatever is going on around the pup absorbing its attention, leading to noncompliance. But the learned knowledge that non-compliance won’t be tolerated, when it is hit with a E-collar correction will cause a return to compliance.  Eventually the dog will become so conditioned to responding to the command that only an occasional correction is needed.
Put the necessary time into the training and you will get a hunting companion that you friends will be envious of, and the security of knowing no matter what happens, you can recall you dog from a dangerous situation.