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Training Your Dog To Come When Called: Getting The Perfect Canine Recall

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

training dog come command when called

Ensuring your dog responds promptly to our calls is not just a matter of obedience but paramount to their safety and our peace of mind. A dog that comes when called is less likely to find himself in dangerous situations, making this command indispensable. But how do we guarantee our bellowed “come” doesn’t fall on selectively deaf ears? Worry not, because in this article, we unfold the expert secrets and proven tactics to ace the recall game, ensuring your pooch dashes back to you every time, without hesitation!

Now, before we delve into the training nuances, equipping yourself and your dog for success is crucial. Ensuring that your dog is comfortable and secure during training sessions enhances their ability to focus and learn. PawSafe’s No-Pull Dog Harness is designed to ensure that your pup stays snug while learning, without straining their neck or back. Pair it with PawSafe’s durable Dog Leash to establish controlled, stress-free training environments.

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Read on in this article as we explain exactly how to get even the most stubborn or difficult dog to return to you on cue everytime you call them.

Turning to the Experts: Unveiling the Secret Behind Impeccable Recall

a child running after a Jack Russell terrier with a dropped leash as the dog has not been trained to come when called

When it comes to dog training, science and expertise intertwine to create effective and compassionate methods. Our approach is rooted in positive reinforcement methods, which are not only widely recommended but also backed by scientific research. A study published in the journal “Animal Welfare” by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) underscores the effectiveness and behavior-enhancing impact of positive reinforcement in dog training.

Karen Pryor, a pioneer in the development of force-free training, emphasizes the transformative power of positive reinforcement, changing not merely behavior but fostering a positive attitude towards learning. Her book “Don’t Shoot the Dog” is a treasure trove of insights and practical tips that have shaped modern, humane dog training practices.

Similarly, Pat Miller, another beacon in the realm of positive dog training, brings forth methodologies that prioritize the mental and emotional well-being of the dog. Her book, “The Power of Positive Dog Training”, underscores the relationship between consistent, positive interactions and the establishment of reliable behaviors, such as a foolproof recall.

Embarking on this journey, we’ll explore step-by-step, practical advice from these experts, and more, guiding you through the process of teaching your dog to come when called, embedding the action deeply into their behavior, ensuring it stands firm amidst distractions and across distances.

How to Prepare Your Dog to Learn To Come When Called

Step 1: Picking the Right Incentive

Equip yourself with high-value treats and/or your dog’s favorite toy. These items will serve as powerful motivators and rewards throughout the training process. Having a treat bag that’s easily accessible ensures that you’re always ready to reward good behavior instantly.

Step 2: Crafting a Distinctive Attention Cue 

Understand that if your dog has learned to ignore their name, a slight variation or a unique tone might be essential. This means adopting a new, distinctive way of calling their name, which signals that you want their attention and something good is about to happen.

Step 3: Start in a Distraction-Free Zone 

Begin training in an environment devoid of distractions to make it easy for your dog to focus on you. This could be a quiet room in your house or a secluded area in your yard.

Step 4: Be the Center of Excitement 

Be animated and exciting to capture your dog’s interest! Use an enthusiastic voice, make engaging facial expressions, and employ playful body language. You should be the most interesting thing in the environment for your dog.

Step 5: Mark, Reward, and Praise 

Once you have your dog’s attention using the distinctive attention cue:

Mark the behavior with a word like “Yes!” or a clicker.
Reward them instantly with a treat or a brief play session with their favorite toy.
Shower them with praise to reinforce the positive behavior.

Step 6: Practice Makes Perfect – But Keep it Short and Sweet 

Conduct several short (5-10 minutes) training sessions throughout the day rather than one long one to keep things interesting for your dog. Always end on a high note, ensuring your dog is still keen and engaged.

Step 7: Gradually Introduce Distractions 

Once your dog consistently offers their attention in a calm environment, slowly introduce distractions. Begin with mild disturbances and gradually work your way up to more challenging scenarios, ensuring your dog can focus on you amidst interruptions.

Step 8: Implement the Attention Cue in Daily Life 

Begin to apply the attention cue in various environments and situations throughout the day. Whether you’re at home, in the garden, or on a walk, sporadically ask for your dog’s attention and reward them for their compliance.

Remember that garnering your dog’s attention is paramount to subsequent recall training steps. A dog that willingly and happily gives you their attention is one step closer to mastering the “come” command in any situation. Read this article for an in-depth understanding of why a dog might ignore you sometimes.

In the following section, we will build upon this solid foundation, progressing into the next phases of developing a reliable and immediate recall. This is where the fun and the challenge truly begin, as we integrate the attention-getting behaviors into the dynamics of the “come” command. Stay tuned and celebrate the small wins with your dog along the way!

how do you train a dog to come when called

Mastering the Recall: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Reliable “Come” Command

A pit bull puppy running to owner as part of training to come when called

After conquering the art of capturing your dog’s full attention, it’s time to delve into teaching them to recall on command, ensuring they return to you promptly and reliably.

Step 1: Choose a Fresh Recall Command

Given that many dogs might become desensitized to common recall words like “come” or “here,” opting for a new, unique word or phrase for recall is recommended. Consider using alternativ-e-archives like “to me,” “return,” or even a specific whistle or sound that’s distinctive and consistently used for recall purposes.

Here are some words that mean “come” in various languages that you might consider using as recall commands:

  1. Spanish: Ven
  2. French: Viens
  3. German: Komm
  4. Italian: Vieni
  5. Portuguese: Vem
  6. Dutch: Kom
  7. Swedish: Kom
  8. Russian: Pridi (Приди)
  9. Japanese: Koi (来い)
  10. Mandarin Chinese: Lái (来)
  11. Korean: Wa (와)
  12. Turkish: Gel
  13. Polish: Chodź
  14. Czech: Pojď
  15. Greek: Ela (Έλα)
  16. Hindi: Aao (आओ)
  17. Arabic: Ta’aal (تعال)
  18. Hebrew: Bo (בוא)
  19. Zulu: Woza
  20. Swahili: Kuja

Remember, when choosing a recall command, it should be a word that you can say clearly and consistently, and that isn’t commonly used by others around the dog. This helps in ensuring that your pet precisely understands what is being asked of them when the command is given. It’s also beneficial if the word is short and distinct, making it easy for the dog to recognize even amidst distractions.

Step 2: Incorporate Recall into a Fun Game

A labrador puppy running after its owner as game to teach a dog to run after owner as part of teaching dog to come when called
  • Initiate the Chase: Ignite your dog’s natural instinct to chase by running away from them, excitingly and playfully, with a toy or treats in hand.
  • Mark and Reward: As soon as your dog turns to follow you, mark that action with your chosen recall command. Reward and praise them as they catch up to you, ensuring you celebrate their decision to follow.

Step 3: Utilize Natural Scenarios

  • Time it Right: Casually incorporate the recall command into daily scenarios where your dog naturally runs to you, such as mealtime or play.
  • Be Consistent: Consistently use the recall command, and be sure to reward and praise them whenever they comply, solidifying the positive association.

Step 4: Implement Recall Before Mealtime

Incorporate several recall commands before serving their dinner, ensuring your dog understands the requirement of responding promptly before receiving their meal.

Step 5: Practice Recall on Leash Walks

a woman keeps her dog on a long lead while teaching the dog to come when called
  • Use a Long Leash: Allowing them some roaming freedom while still maintaining control, practice recall commands during walks.
  • Prioritize Safety: Ensure your dog is never off-leash in an unsecured area until their recall is entirely dependable.

Step 6: Add Fun with Hide and Seek

Engage in playful activities like hide and seek where another person holds your dog while you hide, utilizing the recall command as they eagerly search for you. Praise and reward generously upon finding you!

Step 7: Never Punish, Only Reward

Always remember, punishing or showing frustration when your dog doesn’t come only generates anxiety and breaks trust. If they’re not responding, calmly go back a few steps in training and rebuild from there.

Step 8: Gradually Fade the Rewards

Slowly begin to fade the constant rewards as your dog consistently responds to the recall, but continue to intermittently reinforce the behavior with praise and occasional treats to keep it solid.

Step 9: Introduce Distractions

  • Step by Step: Gradually introduce distractions to the training, like other dogs or people attempting to call your dog while you practice recall.
  • Maintain Control: Until 100% reliability in recall is achieved, always keep them on a long leash to ensure safety and control.

Step 10: Consistently Practice in Varied Environments

Whether you’re at home or in the park, ensure that recall training is practiced consistently in various environments and situations, always ensuring your dog’s safety with a secure leash or enclosed space.

Ingraining a robust and reliable recall command is pivotal for the safety and freedom of your dog, allowing them to explore with confidence and providing you with peace of mind that they will return when summoned. Regular practice, endless patience, and consistent positive reinforcement are your keys to success in establishing a foolproof recall.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why doesn’t my dog come when called?

Dogs might not come when called for various reasons such as distraction, fear, confusion, or simply because they haven’t been properly trained to understand the command. It’s essential to establish a strong, positive association with the recall command through consistent, positive reinforcement training.

What should I do when a dog ignores a command?

When a dog ignores a command, avoid showing frustration or anger. Go back a few steps in your training and reinforce the basics. Ensure the command is clear, and your dog understands the expected behavior, gradually reintroducing complexities and distractions as they consistently follow the command.

What are good recall words or commands for dogs?

Good recall words or commands should be unique and not commonly used in daily conversation. Words like “Here”, “To me”, or “Return” can be effective. Alternatively, using a specific whistle or sound that isn’t typically heard in their environment can also serve as a distinct recall command.

How do you teach a stubborn dog to recall?

Teaching a stubborn dog to recall involves utilizing highly motivating rewards, maintaining patience, and being extraordinarily consistent in training. Use a reward that is particularly enticing for your dog, practice regularly in varied environments, and ensure that the recall experience is always positive and rewarding for them.

Why won’t my dog come when he is outside?

Outdoors presents a myriad of distractions for your dog – scents, sights, and sounds that are immensely interesting to explore. Ensuring that your recall command is more rewarding and engaging than all potential distractions is crucial. This requires consistent practice in varied outdoor environments with appropriate rewards.

How do you train a puppy to come to his name?

Start in a distraction-free environment and say the puppy’s name. When they look at you or come towards you, immediately praise and reward them. Consistently repeat this, gradually adding in minor distractions. Always ensure saying their name is associated with positive experiences and rewards.

How do you get your dog to come when he is distracted?

Training a dog to come amidst distractions involves gradually introducing such distractions into their training environment, ensuring your dog can successfully recall with increasing levels of disturbance. Begin with minor distractions, rewarding successful recalls, and slowly elevate the difficulty, always prioritizing positivity and encouragement in each session.

How do you catch a dog that won’t come to you?

If a dog won’t come, avoid chasing them as this could be perceived as a game. Instead, use enticing methods to encourage them to come to you – use squeaky toys, show them a favorite treat, or employ playful vocalizations. In a safe, enclosed area, you might also try moving away from them or hiding, igniting their curiosity or natural chase instinct. Always prioritize safety and ensure the environment is secure when attempting to catch a dog that won’t come directly to you.

Final Word

Training your dog to come when called is not merely a trick for the repertoire but an essential skill that ensures their safety and strengthens the bond between pet and owner. Patience, consistency, and positivity form the bedrock of successful recall training. Celebrate each small triumph along the journey, and remember that this is not just a command but a pact of trust being built between you and your furry friend. The journey may be interspersed with challenges, but with unwavering persistence, the outcome will indeed be a rewarding and lifelong recall reliability. Happy training!

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.