Let me guess, your dog runs off and completely ignores your shouts of “COME HERE!” Or as soon as the door opens, he’s off like a streak of greased lightning. He chases after every little thing that moves, and the entire neighborhood knows your dog’s name. You’re starting to wonder if a reliable recall is ever possible.
Trust me, you’re not alone; it happens to all of us! The good news? It is entirely possible to teach your pup to stop in the middle of the zoomies and come to you.
Learning to come when called is one of the most important skills your dog can have. A reliable recall is especially necessary if you want to allow your dog to run off-leash outside, or say, in the event of an emergency.
But as we already know, teaching a recall has its challenges, as dogs find the world so interesting. There is never any guarantee that any dog will immediately come when called 100% of the time.
Even so, you can teach a reliable recall with lots of practice. We’ve compiled tried-and-true training tips into 10 easy steps. Follow these tips to improve your dog’s recall – your pup will be running to you in no time!
Improve Your Dog’s Recall
1. One Command
This is important to remember when training. It doesn’t matter if you choose “come”, “here”, “close”, or a use whistle – just make sure it’s simple, and comes naturally when you want your dog to return to you.
Consistently use only this cue when training recall – don’t make the mistake of yelling “Get back here you little ****!!” whenever the dog isn’t obeying. Be consistent, using the same, single word or whistle each time.
Your dog is not likely to understand the meaning of a whole row of words or a string of extra expletives.
2. Keep it pleasant
Take a moment to consider what a negative recall experience is like through a dog’s eyes.
How fun is it to leave the thrilling squirrel chase and return to an angry owner, only to get punished when you get there? If you were the dog, what would you do next time? Yeah. I would keep chasing the squirrel.
As one article put it, “Frustration and yelling seems to come so naturally when our dog doesn’t listen. It doesn’t, however, do anything to entice our dogs to come back to us.”
In order to get our dogs to come when called, we need to make ourselves someone that’s enjoyable and pleasant to be around.
Call your dog in such a way that he’ll WANT to come back to you. Or better yet, use a recall whistle – it always sounds the same and it’s less likely to disturb other people.
3. no broken records
Come! COME HERE! Come! Come! COME BACK HERE!!
Repetition isn’t always key. If this sounds like your dog’s current call, stop. If you don’t, the more he will tune you out – he’ll think that he doesn’t really HAVE to come back the first time you call.
Consistency is what we’re looking for, even though it can be maddening when your dog seems to be blatantly disobeying. If your dog simply refuses to come, just go get him. Move on and try again when he isn’t so distracted. Don’t let yourself become a broken record.
4. TAKE IT EASY
It’s important to start small. Begin training in a quiet, low-distraction environment – not a busy, noisy park. Get your dog really good at coming to you indoors, then start practicing outdoors.
With your dog in the same room as you, say his name and the cue word. As he comes towards you give verbal praise and a treat.
If your dog won’t leave you because he knows you have treats, throw a treat for him to get and then as he’s eating, call him to you again.
Practice getting farther and farther away from your dog when you call him. Sometimes, use “come” with “stay,” to switch it up. Once this is mastered, up the ante by introducing distractions and distance between the two of you, to see how your pup responds.
Practice for a few days – remembering to give a treat or praise at each successful attempt. If your puppy finds it too difficult, start over with fewer distractions.
A dog’s recall skills are built up over time. Don’t be disappointed if your pup does not ‘get it’ immediately.
If you’re practicing recall with your dog, always make sure you have lots of tasty treats handy. Use high-value rewards like bits of chicken, eggs or cheese – something really yummy.
Pro tip: Chewy treats from Life’s Abundance are excellent to use for training, dog’s love them! Get them here.
Need more snack ideas? We have an entire blog about healthy doggy treats you can use for rewards!
6. SHORT AND SWEET
Quick, and easy is often the best way to train any puppy, especially recall training. Don’t rush out and try to train a new behavior in a 3 hour long session.
Dogs (especially puppies) don’t have the longest attention spans. If your dog starts to show signs of growing bored call it a day and try again later.
7. Make It a game
The trick to a good recall is to show your pup you’re more interesting than what’s happening around him. One way to do so is by turning training sessions into a game.
When you actively engage in play with your dog throughout the day, you’ll help him burn off some of that mental and physical energy, making it easier to focus later on.
Most dog will love a good game of Hide & Seek. It’s so much fun to watch from your hiding spot, and lavish lots of praise or rewards when he finally finds you! This rewarding game not only engages your dog’s natural instincts to sniff and chase, but it also teaches your dog that finding you is awesome.
8. MORE FREEDOM
A common training mistake is to call the dog, put the leash on, and go home. Understandably, your pup might start to view a recall as a sign that playtime is over. He’s not likely to come if he thinks you’re nothing but a kill-joy.
One good method to avoid that attitude is to recall, praise, and treat, then release your dog to return to whatever fun thing they were doing before.
Teach them that checking in with you is a good thing, and it does not mean the fun is done.
9. SWITCH IT UP
Much like we get bored, our fur babies can get bored too. To keep the power of reward, it can be good to change it every so often. Rewards don’t always have to be treats!
There is a whole host of toys and puzzle games available that will help keep your dog engaged and interested in your training.
Training your dog with toys is the same process as using treats. Your recall toy should be one your dog especially loves. The more fun and entertainment you provide, the less likely your dog will ignore you!
10. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Positive reinforcement goes a long way towards gaining trust and reliable recalls.
Never punish your dog for coming to you. Praise your dog, even if he didn’t look up once. Even if he just embarrassed you in front of all the neighbors. Even if you had to catch him, you still should always praise a recall.
I know, praise is the last thing you want to do when your dog has been naughty. But if your dog picks up on your anger, or gets a spanking when they return, they’re not going to come back next time.
The more your dog keeps receiving great benefits from obeying the “come here” command, the more likely he is to make that same rewarding choice in the future.
Patience and love towards your pet = success in reliable recall!