Recall problems? We can help! Most dogs will come when called as long as there’s nothing better to do. But the second there is something interesting, the dog is suddenly blind and deaf to your commands. If your dog won’t come when he is called, don’t panic. We can fix that. The fact that you’ve tried and failed before doesn’t matter. We can fix that too. We have compiled some common mistakes that people make when trying to teach their dog to recall, as well as some simple fixes. 


Stop being the fun police. 

The first thing you need to do is evaluate your own habits and behavior when you call your dog. Too many owners act as the ‘fun police’ and have created a negative association with the recall command. The dogs associate the word “come” with unpleasant or boring (to a dog) things like: 


  1. Punishment, or being told “NO!”

  2. A crabby, mean and irritating voice

  3. The end of the walk or outing  

  4. Being grabbed by the collar, and put back on leash 

  5. Being called away from fun things like chasing other animals including people or dogs 

The first step in getting a solid recall is to make the very act of running towards you, the best thing that happens to your dog all day, any day and anywhere. What’s your dog’s favorite thing in the whole world? Steak? Hotdogs? Cheese? A toy? If you want a solid recall, be sure to never leave home without the proper currency. Kibble won’t cut it, here, folks. You need high value goods, so come with you’re a-game. You will need some place to store these goods on your person. We recommend a bait bag or training vest. They’re like your Mastercard. Never leave home without them! 


Play the Name Game. 

If you are new to training your dog to come when called, or trying to fix an old problem, it’s best to start training or retraining with your dog on a 6 foot leash. Wait until your dog is not looking at you and then say your dog’s name in a very bright and happy tone; you know, not the same tone as the old fun police. As soon as your dog turns to look at you, mark the ‘look’ with a word to let the dog know this is fantastic, like “yes” or “good,” and then immediately give your dog a high value reward. Once your dog is turning towards you 10 out of 10 times, try the name game in an enclosed area off leash (kitchen, living room, back yard). Systematically increase the level of distraction on outings using the 3D’s. Play this game in a minimum of 5 new places.


Don’t Bribe the Dog. 

Are you waiving biscuits in the air in a feeble attempt to call your dog inside away from a squirrel? Stop. Just stop. Shaking the cookie bag, or bouncing the ball won’t work in the long run, as you are only teaching your dog to measure if what you have is worth stopping what he’s doing. If there are distractions involved, the odds are not in your favor. Remember that coming when called produces payment. If you have ever worked with a crooked contractor, you know that payment up front rarely gets the job done! 


Don’t chase the dog. 

Dogs love to be chased! Moving towards the dog will most likely begin the best game of catch-me-if-you-can your dog has played all day. And you will be very frustrated in the interim. Instead, RUN AWAY. That’s right. Move away from your dog, and if he moves towards you, produce one of those a-game rewards we already talked about. 


Motivate your dog.  

A dog who is well fed won’t care about your treats. Be sure to practice your training when your dog is HUNGRY if you’re using food. If your dog is more into toys and activity, don’t walk/jog/hike them to death before training. Make sure your dog has the proper motivation to participate in the training.  


Are you Charlie Brown’s School Teacher? 

If you are repeating the “Come” command, without any follow through, you are definitely starting to sound like the teacher….. to your dog. You must be able to follow through with your instructions. If there is the slightest chance that your dog might not come to you, keep it on leash. That’s right. Use a long line if you want to play ball or Frisbee, or let your dog explore without the possibility of ignoring your command. You can always step on the line, and then reel that sucker in like a marlin if your dog should choose to ignore the command. That way he learns you will make good on your word; the first time, every time. As always, be sure to reward any and all correct responses (did you bring you’re a-game?)! Provide contrast and clarity to your dog. 


Take your time. 

Training a solid recall is a step by step process. Letting your dog off leash too early is a sure fire way to teach them NOT to come. Use the strategies already outlined. Once the name game is solid (10 out of 10 correct responses in a row in five different places), you can start the formal process. Use a leash or a long line until your dog will come to you, starting at 6 feet away from you and then up to 50 ft away, 9 out of ten times under the following conditions, in the following order: 

  1. In your kitchen

  2. In your living room  

  3. In your back yard 

  4. In an empty parking lot

  5. In an empty park  

  6. With a food bowl near by but not in reach (with food in it)

  7. With a toy near by but not in reach 

  8. With toy in reach

  9. People in the distance

  10. Dogs in the distance 

  11. Wildlife in the distance 

  12. People near by 

  13. Dogs near by  

  14. Wildlife near by (preferably not of the predator varieties)

  15. In a busy park

  16.  People close or interacting with the dog 

  17. Dogs close or interacting with the dog  

  18.  Don’t let the wildlife get too close!! 

If you complete this process using high value rewards and no-nonsense follow-through, you will have a solid recall! 


Retraining with a new command 

It’s okay to start over. If you have made a lot of the training mistakes we outlined, change your recall command and retrain it. Stop using the ‘fun police’ word and use “here” or “front” or “Mississipi….” It doesn’t matter as long as you don’t make the same mistakes again.  


For more in-depth coaching or classes, visit

Add Your Comment