Dog obedience – Recall and Finish

Table of Contents


Here we find the same exercise given different headings in Obedience Classes and Working Trials.

For Obedience we have:

Recall from Sit or Down (beginners, Novice and Class A) The dog should be taken by the handler to the place indicated and should be placed in the Sit or Down position, at the handler’s choice, facing the direction indicated. The test commences when the handler leaves the dog. In class A the test commences on the order ‘Last Command’.


The handler should walk to the place indicated and face the dog. On command the handler shall call the dog which should return smartly to and sit in front of and facing the handler. On further command the dog should be sent to heel.


On command the handler should walk brisk!), away from the dog. The dog should be recalled to heel by the handler on command whilst handler is walking away from dog, and both continue forward together until halted.

In Classes B and C this exercise is incorporated in the send away, drop and recall: After the dog has been dropped handler will call the dog to heel whilst walking where directed by Judge and both will continue forward.

In Working Trials we have:

Recall to Handler

The dog should be recalled from the down or sitting position, the handler being as far as possible from the dog at the discretion of the Judge. The dog should return at a smart pace and sit in front of the handler, afterwards going smartly to heel on command or signal; handler to await command of the Judge.

The same principles apply to puppies as well as an older dog when you are teaching him the ‘Recall’. They may not work with a dog which has developed the habit of running away when called, but they should do if you have brought up your pup on the lines suggested.

Presuming that your dog is quite steady on his Sits and Downs while you are in sight, sit him in the usual way, walk away from him and turn to face him. Now call his name pleasantly, and he should come to you. Most people call the name, followed by a command — ‘Come’, ‘Here’, etc. It should be used in a praising tone of voice, combined, in the early stages, with moving your hands in front of and patting your thighs as an encouragement. You do not simply want your dog to come to you. You want him to come at the gallop and sit smartly in front of you. To achieve this concentrate on getting the dog to come to you (even if he knocks you down in the process) before worrying too much about the sit and finish.

The easiest way I know to persuade a dog to come to me at the double is to offer him food. This is the only exercise in which I always use food as a reward in training. Every now and then I use it to speed up a trained dog. Do not on any account give the dog the food until he is in the exact position in which you want him. Hold the food in your hand, tempt him when he comes up to you, and move backwards again, never move towards your dog until you get him in the right position. Now order him to sit, and when he does so let him have the food. Do that two or three times with a greedy dog, and he will bound straight up to you, and sit down bang in front with tail wagging, eyes and ears alert. With a less greedy dog it may not work so well, but food always helps, and cannot do any harm if used as directed.

Be careful not to allow your dog to come before he is called, as it is easy to develop a habit of getting up whenever you turn to face him. If he does come, put him back immediately, walk away from him again and turn to face him exactly as you did before. Stand facing him for a minute or so, then go back and praise him very well for having stayed sitting. Do this several times before you call him again, and try to make him understand that to walk away and turn to face him does not necessarily mean that you are going to call him.

With a difficult dog a light check cord can be useful in teaching this exercise. In teaching an easy dog there is one object in view — making him do what you want. But in teaching a difficult dog there are two — making him do what you want and (often much more difficult) preventing his doing what he wants. For the latter purpose the check cord can be extremely useful. Do not use it as a means of dragging a dog to you. Use it simply to correct the dog if he decides to go in any direction other than towards you. Reward him by tone of voice, food, etc., in exactly the same way as if you had no line.

The recall for classes B and C is simply a combination of the recall and heel free. In the early stages make every effort to praise the dog as he reaches you but progress as quickly to the stage where you don’t even have to look at him.


A dog is regarded as ‘finishing’ when, on command, he moves from a sitting position directly in front of the handler to a sitting position at heel, by the handler’s left side, ready to start the next exercise. No rules are laid down anywhere as to how this should be done. The new Obedience Rules say on several occasions that ‘On further command the dog shall be sent to heel’. The Working Trial rules on the recall to handler say — ‘afterwards going smartly to heel on command or signal; handler to await command of the Judge’.

It has always been generally accepted that the finish can be carried out in either of two ways. In one, the dog moves to the handler’s right, goes round his back, and finishes up facing forward on the left. In the other, the dog ‘pivots on his forehand’ (to use a horsey expression), swinging his hindquarters right round to his (the dog’s) right until he finishes up close to the handler’s left side in the same position as before.

The first method is by far the most common, but many people think that the second looks smarter. My own opinion is that it looks smarter if done smartly, but it is not every dog that will do it that way. I have taught both methods, and have found the one as easy to teach as the other. It is also easy to teach a dog to do it both ways, or to change from one to the other, by signalling him with the right hand to go right round one’s back or with the left hand to pivot round to one’s left.

Some dogs appear to need no teaching of this exercise at all, while others are very slow to grasp what is wanted. Once the penny has dropped, however, it is rarely that this exercise causes any trouble, although a good deal of practice is necessary for speed and smartness.

First Method: Sit the dog facing you on a lead. Now move backwards about two paces, giving the command ‘Heel’, followed by a jerk on the lead with the right hand. This gets the dog on his feet, and there should be a distinct movement of the hand as you are going to use it as a signal after you have discarded the lead. Having got the dog to his feet, move forward again, at the same time bringing the dog round your back and changing the lead from your right to your left hand. When your dog comes up to your left hand, halt, and he should sit as he has been doing in ordinary heel work. Continue on these lines with the lead on, gradually reducing the backwards and forwards movements until all that is necessary is a slight movement from the right hand. Now discard the lead and continue until you can stand quite still and the dog will go smartly to heel by one command only.

If you want to teach your dog to pivot round to your left, proceed exactly as above but hold your lead in the left hand. When the dog has got to his feet move forward, but instead of bringing him right round your back simply make him turn round quickly to face the way you are going.

Some people teach this exercise with the aid of food, but I have found that it does more harm than good, as the dog is inclined to go right round the handler and finish up where he started, sitting in front looking for a tit-bit.

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