How to train your dog to do perfect recall

Envision the familiar scene: The echo of “Buddy”…”Buddy”… come here!… resonates across the park, reaching the indifferent dog deeply engrossed in exploring a lump of wet grass. He gazes up lethargically, recognizing his frustrated owner. Confident that his owner is still present, Buddy continues relishing his sniffing. Does this scenario sound familiar?

Being outdoors and off the leash can unleash the untamed instincts in our dogs, but even so, you can train them to consistently respond when called. Through ample practice, you can instil genuine happiness in your dog to come to you, even when immersed in a captivating scent!




10 straightforward steps to teach recall:

  1. Begin indoors, right after acquiring your puppy or older dog. Initiate using the command words “come” or “here” when he is already heading toward you. Stay consistent with the chosen word. Alternatively, use a whistle, which is equally effective. Express joy and reward your dog with attention or treats upon arrival, even if it's just a short distance. Progress to calling or whistling from a greater distance. Have a friend hold your dog before calling, and there's no need for him to learn to sit or stay initially.

  2. Refrain from allowing your dog off-leash in unenclosed areas until he proves reliable in your house or garden. It can be unsafe and set him up for failure. Use a 30m lead to acquaint your dog with freedom while retaining control. Only call him when it appears he will come to you. If not, shorten the lead and praise or treat him when he comes close.

  3. Utilize enticing treats in your pockets! Dry kibble might not be stimulating enough for effective recall reinforcement. Create your own treats or purchase flavorful ones exclusively for training purposes.

  4. Avoid overusing your command. Repetition may cause your dog to tune you out and disregard the command. Only use it when success is likely (e.g., not while chasing a bird), then reward him generously.

  5. Maintain a cheerful tone and inviting body language. Kneel down and open your arms wide. Steer clear of panic or anger when your dog refuses to come. No dog wants to approach an angry person.

  6. Grant your dog more freedom as a reward. If you only call your dog when it's time to go home, he may associate recall with the end of playtime. Encourage him to come to you every few minutes. Praise, treat, and leash him upon arrival, then release him again. This way, he won't link getting leashed with the end of fun.

  7. Limit excessive socializing. While we've been advised to socialize our dogs, an issue arises with dogs becoming overly friendly with everyone. When a dog perceives every person or dog as a potential new best friend, it becomes a significant distraction from the owner. During leash walks, don't allow your dog to approach every stranger, dog, or human. Dogs behave differently on leashes, especially around other dogs. Keep social interactions brief and regain his attention promptly.

  8. Refrain from scolding when he returns. Scolding is ineffective with dogs, causing confusion and fear. Praise your dog whenever he returns, even if you have to search for him. Anger from you will likely deter him from returning in the future.

  9. Avoid being the pursuer. Dogs find it amusing when we chase them down. Instead, turn the game around and have your dog chase you. Run around the house or garden, rewarding him when he catches up. This approach can be helpful when your dog refuses to come when called.

  10. Engage in hide and seek. Teach your dog the game indoors. Hide and then call or whistle him. Shower him with praise and treats when he finds you. By incorporating this enjoyable game into your routine, you reinforce the idea that he should always be aware of your location and find it enjoyable to check in.

Regardless of your training efforts or the tastiness of treats, there's a possibility your dog may not come when called. Dogs aren't flawless, and their keen sense of smell and hearing can make distractions challenging to ignore. Above all, exercise patience and prioritize safety!

Back to blog