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How to teach your dog to come when called

Updated on January 17, 2013
Teach dog to come when called
Teach dog to come when called | Source

Make your dog look good at the dog park!

If you have ever been to a dog park you may have very likely witnessed the following scenario: An owner calls his dog because it is time to go and the dog totally ignores the owner and runs the other way. You might think to yourself that either the dog has a listening problem or the dog just could care less.

Very likely the dog could care less. The reason of this behavior is because the owner has not invested enough time and effort into training the dog to respond to a good recall.

Teaching your dog to respond properly to a recall is a vital command. You can avoid teaching your dog to roll over or give a paw but please make sure your dog learns the recall command. The reason why the recall command is so important is because one day it may potentially keep your dog out of harm's way. Many incidents could have been avoided if the dog obeyed and ran towards the owner.

For example, you are at a dog park and your dog runs away and heads toward a busy a street or your dog is in the woods and starts chasing a potential rabid animal. In these cases a recall can make the difference between safety and hazard.

Teaching a good recall is therefore indispensable and should not take too much of your time. The real secret is to turn the recall training into something special and fun. Here are some steps:

1) Start at home. Go to your hallway and get a handful of small treats. Have a family member hold the dog at the end of the hallway and set your self at the opposite end. Then call your dog in a friendly voice. Have your friend release the dog and as soon as he gets to you praise and give the treat. Then repeat exchanging places with your friend. Stay at the other end and call again. This way the dog learns that two good things happen when his name is called: A) When he is called he is freed from your friend and B) When he gets to you he gets praised and a yummy treat.

2) Upgrade to a safe fenced area. Now that your dog has become familiar with its name and all the good things that come with it, go to an open space outdoors where there are more distractions. Repeat from a distance, have your friend hold the dog and just continue the training. Outdoors the exercise may get a little more challenging because there are sights, noises and smells that can distract your dog. Luckily, there will be plenty of good treats to keep him focused.

3)Catch him when busy. Now, let you friend relax and let the dog free again in the fenced safe area and catch him in a moment of distraction, such as sniffing the grass or barking at something. Call his name, if he comes he has passed the test in flying colors! The fact that he still paid attention to you rather than something else is great and the dog deserves lots of praise and treats! If instead he has ignored you, call once again in a louder voice, it could be he didn't think you were talking to him. Just give him a second chance. If still your dog ignores you do not get frustrated, rather go and get him but do not get mad at him. Practice a little longer on the recall, you need to turn the fact the dog comes to you an exciting event to look forward to.

4) Upgrade to the dog park. Here comes the moment of truth. With all the dogs around it is hard for a dog to come to its owner especially if it means it is time to go home. If you call your dog and as soon as he comes your snap the leash on him and go home, the dog soon realizes that coming when being called is not a good thing. Call your dog instead, praise for him coming and allow him to play a few minutes with you without letting him get far. Call again, praise and repeat. This way the dog stil associates your recall with something positive as playing and once the leash is snapped on continue to play a bit before heading home.

There are two basic and fundamental rules to keep in mind when teaching a recall:


Let's say you call the dog, he doesn't come at first and then he finally does. You are mad at him for not listening first time, so you scold him upon coming to you. This basically is the easiest way to teach your dog not to come anymore.

Another common instance is when you catch your dog doing something bad and you call him to you in an upset tone of voice. The dog reads you anger or frustration and feels afraid to come to you. These are examples of the easiest ways to adversely affect your recall, in some cases even permanently. You do not want this to happen, keep your recalls always on a positive note, which takes us to the other second rule.


Praise your dog lavishly, offer a favorite treat or give a nice tummy rub, just anything your dog loves. Always call your dog with an enthusiastic voice, promising good things to come.

If possible let him out and call him inside and let him find his food bowl already on the floor for him. You will easily end up this way with a puppy or dog that will always keep his ears erect in hope you will call him to you.

A good recall therefore, can be a life saver. It may take some time and effort but it is definitely worth it. You never know what may happen and you may need your dog by your side immediately. Have your dog trained to obey promptly to your recall, it will be a great training lesson, an opportunity to praise your dog and best of all, you will look good when you call your dog at the park!

Note: this article was written early in my training career, for a more comprehensive article on training a dog to come when called read: Secret Strategies for Training your Dog to Come When Called


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