Teaching a dog to come on command

Of all the basic obedience training commands, the recall is usually the one dog owners have the most trouble with. It can be easy to teach a dog to come when called in the beginning. But as he gets older, his recall may get to be unreliable. The trick to make recall training stick is to keep from accidentally teaching your dog not to come when you call him.


You can train your dog to come when called in three simple steps.

Step 1: Recall while on a leash

First teach your dog the meaning of the word “Come”. With his leash on, put your dog in a sit-stay and walk a few feet in front of him. Then bend down slightly with your arms open and give the command, “Spot, Come”. Offer plenty of praise as your dog comes to you. If he doesn’t come, clap your hands to get his attention and give the command again. Practice this several times until you’re sure your dog understands the command.

Step 2: Recall on a leash while moving

Many times, a dog will come when called but swerve away at the last second. This step trains your dog to come directly to you every time. Follow the directions from step one above, but jog backwards away from your dog as he comes toward you. Remember to keep the leash slack to allow for corrections. If your dog looks as though he may swerve away, jog in the opposite direction he’s swerving. The leash will set him back on course.

Step 3: Recall on a flexi-lead or cord

The next step is to increase the distance your dog has to cover when you call him. With a 20-30 foot, nylon flexi-lead or cord attached to your dog’s collar, give a sit-stay command and walk to the end of the cord. (This is also excellent training for teaching your dog to stay.) Again, follow the directions from step one. Give the command to come and gently praise as your dog comes to you. If he doesn’t respond, clap your hands to get his attention and repeat the command.

If you can’t get your dog to obey the sit-stay command long enough to walk away, attach the cord to his collar and let him wander around the yard or house. As he travels out to the length of the cord, practice the recall as instructed previously.

“My dog won’t come when I call!”

If you can’t get your dog to come when you call him, do not chase him. He’ll see it as a great game and continue to run from you. Instead, run away from your dog. This can activate his prey drive and get him to chase you instead. Let him catch up, then settle him with a sit or down command. If that doesn’t work, sit down with your back to him or lie on the ground. This can pique his curiosity and lure him to you.

Avoiding problems with the recall

The following tips will help you make sure your dog always comes when you call him.

Don’t call to punish, give medicine, or for any unpleasant reason

Your dog will associate the recall command with the punishment or objectionable activity and eventually he won’t want to come when you call. On these occasions go to your dog instead.

Don’t call to get your dog’s attention or stop play times

Use the sit or down commands, which are much more effective at stopping your dog in his tracks, then go to him.

Don’t call your dog to confine him

Instead, go to your dog, put on his leash, and take him where you want him to go. You can also train him to go to specific places on command.


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