Day 43 Fast & Fun Recalls

Welcome to Day 43 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!


Fast & Fun Recalls

At a glance:

  • building enthusiasm for recalling
  • teach your dog that their recall cue makes the magic happen
  • the amount of training to build a 100% rock solid reliable recall is vastly underestimated by most pet owners and pros…better get started working on it now!
  • cognitive based enrichment
  • while children might be able to participate with some of these exercises, there will be lots of canine excitement and activity so might not be safe for kids
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • training exercises can be practiced in individual sessions of 1-2 minutes at a time; have as many sessions as you can!
    Because today challenges will be pretty exciting, make some time, after each session, for some lapping and chewing on stuffables.

What do you need?

  • food rewards – you can use your dog’s regular food, a training mix, commercial treats, home prepared treats such as cut up meats, cheese, vegetables or homemade treats such as liver or tuna cake
  • favourite toys
  • stuffables and lappable/lickables
  • if you are working in an unsecured area, use a long line for safety and to prevent your dog practicing not recalling and having lots of fun, in the environment, with out you
  • you might need a new recall signal or cue!
    If you don’t have a 100% rock solid reliable recall, it’s best to start afresh, with a new cue that you can condition from the beginning.


A recall cue can be anything that will get your dog’s attention easily in a variety of situations. For the most part, words and whistles work best, but individual variation may apply.

Your recall cue should mean, to your dog:

  1. that there will always be the best reward available, once they hear their recall cue
  2. that their recall cue means they get to return to whatever you recalled them from

We condition the dog’s recall cue to mean wonderful things so we mind it so it always means good things will happen.

This is what your recall cue should mean to your dog – recalling makes the magic happen!

Enrichment Goals:

  • associate fun with the recall cue or signal
  • to teach the dog that recalling means you make the magic happen!
  • to teach the dog that their human will ask for behaviour and will make sure reinforcement is available – this reduces stress by improving predictability and controlability
  • to build that bond between dog and human
  • to have a fun and rewarding experience in social situations, between dogs and humans
  • to learn about learning – this is just another puzzle to your dog…”how do I train the human to make rewards available?!“…it’s all human training, for dogs!

While training exercises certainly fall into the cognitive enrichment category, they can provide so much more.

Providing dogs with cues allows for a complex level of communication between two species; you are merely requesting that the dog perform behaviour (he already knows how to do the behaviour…they can already run to you) and that request comes with a contract. Respond appropriately to this signal and rewards are coming your way. That’s the deal…that’s what being a good teacher is about – keeping your word and making it easy for your dog to train you.

This forges the most healthy of relationships between our two species. This is a level of social enrichment that’s tricky to replicate.

When we talk about enrichment being enriching, this is never more clear than when we start to teach behaviours intentionally. It’s the human’s job to set the dog up for success by making sure the behaviour is doable and that rewards are fast-flowing.

There’s no test at the end of this and you and your pet are not under any pressure. Learn to enjoy the time together, whether you achieve the goal behaviour or not. That’s what’s enriching here…the social and cognitive outlets such exercises provide (for both species).

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?


Whiplash Recalls from play don’t come naturally to dogs! But, they are a foundation behaviour for our playgroups so that everyone stays safe and to keep interactions and play beneficial. Everyone develops a whiplash turn recall from play; here are just some awesome whiplash recalls from play: clip, clip, clip, clip, clip, clip, clip, clip, clip, clip.

Here’s an interesting recall-related thought-experiment: how might you effectively teach a dog NOT to recall to you each time you call?

  • don’t reward them and largely ignore them when they return to you
  • ignore their check-ins and voluntary eye contact
  • take them away from the fun and sniffing each time you catch them
  • scold them when they get back to you eventually or when you catch them
  • be pretty boring and not very interactive when out and about
  • just expect them to do it
  • don’t spend much time on effective, structured recall teaching
  • allow them to run away, run up to other dogs and people or chase animals, without too much input from you

….hmmmmm anything there sound familiar?


How much work are you putting into your dog’s recall? Recall is an ongoing project:

  • to teach a new behaviour, in each context, will take you about 10,000 reps so you can build up a reward-account for that behaviour; each time there’s a withdrawal (your dog has fun away from you, or your dog doesn’t recall), add another thousand
  • reward recall EVERY time with something your dog LOVES
  • only use your recall signal when you are sure the dog will be able to come to you
  • build value in recalling when everything else is boring
  • recall your dog on average every two minutes
  • recall your dog, reward him or her, and then let them go again – recall/reward/return
  • practice at least ten recalls everyday around the house and garden
  • play games with your dog every day – five 30 second games each day minimum
  • be fun and a source of good things so that you can compete with all those distractions like sniffing and chasing and playing with other dogs

Today’s challenges will be about building speed, enthusiasm, and most of all, fun, into recall games. Your dog’s recall cue will cause him to anticipate feeling that way so they will want to recall, will want to get back to you quickly, regardless of what’s going on.


For this to work, you gotta bring it! You need to compete with all the things your dog would rather engage with, than recall to you. YOU must be more fun then poop, pee and other dogs’ butts!

How can we achieve these goals?

  • although you can use any reward that your dog will work for, using small food rewards that are quick to eat are best for these exercises so we can have lots of fast repetitions
  • keep it simple and split behaviour – reward approximations toward the final behaviour, rather than hoping that your dog will offer the goal behaviour quickly
  • take your time and work in many short sessions
  • try for a couple of minutes at a time, 5-10 rewards each session, and then take a break
  • plan each session – what behaviours are you looking for and rewarding?
  • watch the clips and try out the exercise
  • portion out your dog’s daily food and allot some for training exercises


  • make a training mix by adding in something yummier and leaving it all to ‘cook’ together in the fridge; the smells will mingle, harder foods will soften a little, and everything will become more valuable


  • remember to adjust your pet’s diet accordingly to accommodate the extra calories from treats added, where relevant
  • split your food rewards into little bowls with just the right number of rewards in each bowl so that you are ready to go; stick bowls of rewards in places where you may need to teach and reward behaviours so that you have rewards ready to go


Build excitement and movement, we will be using rewards that you can toss easily.

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of fun & fast recalls:

Dog training is discussed, most often, from the human’s point of view. We teach behaviours that, invariably, make it easier for us to live with dogs. #100daysofenrichment is about filing those gaps so that our dogs have lots in their day to day life, just for them.
But, we can apply that same thinking to ‘training’. When we teach, why not teach them behaviours that prioritise their needs – training that’s really enriching.

Our species is obsessed with control, obedience and dominance. Instead, let’s think in terms of providing our dogs with experiences, rather than just training exercises, that help them navigate this world, teaching them behaviours that will truly benefit them, day to day. At the same time, making sure their needs are met, that they have outlets for their most doggie of dogginess.


While we might insist that because we teach lots of behaviours with a reinforcement based approach, that they will be enjoyed by our dogs. And as much as that might be the case, it’s still about us.
I am guilty here too. I teach behaviours, to my dog, for the sake of teaching, for the love of teaching. It’s one of the reasons, I don’t really like “trick” training – it should all be tricks to the dog! But more so, it should be valuable, applicable and useful to the dog.

When I help people professionally, I am prioritising behaviours that help the dog live happily with their humans, so that they stay in their home.

Next time you teach a behaviour, next time you think about behaviour you would like to do, stop and ask, who really benefits from this behaviour?

Our fast and fun recalls should allow our dog more freedom, give them joy in interactions with their humans, help them choose to engage with their human to keep them safe and happy. Reframe it. How will this benefit your dog?


Enrichment Options

Today’s recall games will emphasise building fun and enthusiasm. We have looked at some exercises that can help with recall before:

  • on Day 3 we worked on collar handling exercises to work them into Collar Grab Games and Runaway Recalls
  • on Day 15 we introduced different targeting exercises. Hand/nose targeting is a wonderful foundation in recall training.

Add lots of enthusiasm to those games, and you are on track to cover today’s challenges too!

Take care of your recall cue. Don’t use it unless you are pretty sure your dog can respond and make sure to say it just once!

Game 1 Elastic Recalls

This is one of my favourite ways to build speed in responding to cues that require the dog to reorient to their human.

This is also a great rainy day game and can be played anywhere, any time.


Play using your recall cue (“Come Here!”) and a reorientation cue; “Ready!” is Decker’s whiplash turn cue:


Get your timing and sequencing right for this one.

Toss out the treat and allow your dog to eat it. When they have finished eating it, say your cue, using a lively tone.

Wait for your dog to look toward you and as soon as they do, toss the treat out the other side.


Game 2 Recall is MORE rewarding

For this game, you need rewards of two different values: one higher value, one lower value.

This might be two different food rewards, two different toys or a food reward and a toy.

In this clip, Decker gets to chase and eat a food reward, and when I recall him, he gets to TUG!
Food is fine but tug is king! So, he’s learning that distractions out in the world, away from me are fine, but I make the magic really happen when he recalls.


Game 3 Come & Get it!

For this one you might be using two rewards again. It’s not as important that the rewards differ in value, but try to make sure that the reward the dog gets for recalling is of good value.

Toss out a reward and let your dog get it. When they have it, say your recall cue. As soon as they look at you, reveal the reward and toss it behind you, between your legs or just past you so that they can see it moving away.

This game really gets your dog approaching fast; their recall cue tells them they will need to move with enthusiasm and speed to get the reward!


Game 4 Chase Me!

Toss out a reward and let your dog get it. When they have it, say your recall cue. As soon as they look at you, run away or back away from them.

If you have tossed a toy, have a second toy ready to play with when they recall, just in case they drop the first.

If you have used food, have more food rewards ready so that you can reward handsomely.

Here, I toss out a tug toy and when he recalls, we have a game. I have limited space on camera here so don’t really go too far; just getting a couple of steps away from them will encourage the dog to approach more enthusiastically.


Game 5 Restrained Recalls

Only attempt this game if you have put the groundwork in to build a ton of value in collar grabbing. Otherwise, you might poison any recall work you have done as your dog will be reluctant to approach for fear of having his collar taken.

You will know that you are ready for this game if you have done the foundations in collar comfort & grabbing, and when your dog returns to you and tries to put their collar in your hand.

Go back to Day 3 to practice, building greater collar comfort, which is an important life skill for dogs.


Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!



6 thoughts on “Day 43 Fast & Fun Recalls”

    1. Great question Melissa!
      In dog training we often talk about the pros of a variable ratio schedule.
      But, in terms of teaching in the real world, and not in lab conditions, we probably don’t ever really apply true VR schedules.
      Instead, it’s more likely that we are using variety of reinforcers. For example, in the case of recall, once the behaviour is learned and pretty reliable, I might not use food rewards so much. Instead, I might use excitement in interaction, personal play, a toy or the opportunity to return into the environment.
      So, although I might not be using food to reinforce each correct response, there is still some consequence to behaviour.
      The behaviour is being maintained on a continuous schedule with reinforcement variety.
      In the real world, if I can maintain behaviour on a continuous schedule, I will, and I will establish a variety of reinforcers so as to maintain the value in the behaviour.
      That applies to recall and other behaviours too.

      Hope that helps 🙂

      An indepth discussion of schedules of reinforcement is probably beyond the #100 days but it’s always valuable to consider it. Please bring this discussion to the group if you wish and I will post my comment there too.

      Thanks, Anne


Comments are closed.