Effective Techniques for Teaching Recall: Ensuring Your Dog Comes When Called

Posted by Jackie Ly on

dog running outside


Table of Contents

What Is a Reliable Recall?

How To Teach Your Dog Recall

Increasing Recall Training Levels

Reliable Recall Tricks and Tips


Knowing that your dog reliably comes when called gives you peace of mind. Whether you're at the park, in your backyard, or just around the house, having a strong recall can protect your dog from potentially dangerous situations.

Here we'll explore effective techniques for teaching recall, focusing on strategies that involve the whole family to maximise success. By implementing these methods and practising regularly, you can instil a reliable recall in your dog and enjoy the freedom of knowing they'll always come when called.

What Is a Reliable Recall?

“Reliable recall” means that when you call your dog to come, you can be 99.99% confident that they will respond immediately. Dogs are not machines, and there is no guarantee that they will always respond to your commands. However, with a lifesaving skill like recall, you want them to be as consistent as possible.

 A reliable recall is especially important if you want to let your dog off-leash outside of a gated yard or dog park. A reliable recall is also important in the event of an emergency.

How To Teach Your Dog Recall

Teach your dog to respond to their name

Teaching your dog their name makes it simpler to get their attention when you need to. This can be a lifeline if you need them to divert their attention to you right away to keep them safe. 

Whether you got a puppy or an adult rescue, they need to learn their name. 

Start by saying your dog's name in a clear, upbeat tone. When they look at you, say "yes!" and give them a treat. Repeat these steps until they get the hang of it, then move across the room and say their name.

Keep the positive reinforcement with treats and praise until they can come to you in another room when you call their name. 

The recall starts with your dog absolutely reliable in paying attention to their name. You can continue toward reinforcing recall next, once you’re confident they know their name. 

If you have multiple dogs, the right dog should come when called by name. The others might join in, yes, especially if they think it involves treats, but the right dog should always respond to their name.   

Responding to their name is a fundamental aspect of training. It’s a vital tool in everyday situations, redirecting their attention towards you amongst distractions. By consistently associating their name with positive experiences such as treats and praise, you're instilling a strong recall response. 

Once they have successfully learned their name, you can now add your preferred recall cue.

Decide on your verbal cue

Select a short, snappy word such as 'come' or 'here', or a whistle if preferred. Include a visual clue, such as holding your arms wide open, or patting your hand to your thigh, in case they can't hear you. When calling them, use a happy, excited voice and welcoming body language.

Consistency is key–make sure everyone in the house uses the same cue and movement so your dog doesn't get confused. Using a specific command helps them understand exactly what you're asking them to do, improving their response time and overall obedience. 

With practice and reinforcement, your dog will learn to associate the verbal cue with returning to you promptly, ensuring their safety and your peace of mind during outings.

Reward your dog when they come back

When they come to you, praise them and/or reward them with treats.

Make sure the rewards are exciting and tempting, especially if your dog has returned from something very intriguing (such as a squirrel or another dog). Never punish your dog for coming too late. Always praise your dog for coming back, regardless of how long it takes. 

As your dog improves, you won't need to reward them every time they return. However, to keep them motivated, reward them often when they're still getting the hang of it.

Make training a game

You need to make training fun so your dog will look forward to it! For recall, here are some games you can use to train your dog:

Catch Me - While walking your dog on a leash, get their attention, then turn around and take a few steps. Say "Come!" or your recall cue as your dog moves with you. After a few steps, pause and reward them with a treat or toy. Before you run, make sure your dog is paying attention so the leash does not yank on them.

Find Me - Once your dog learns recall, you can increase speed by calling them from another room. When your dog finds you, shower him with praise and treats. This hide-and-seek game is a lot of fun for both humans and pets!

Hot Potato - Take two or more family members or friends and give them high-value treats. Next, stand apart and take turns calling your dog between you. Reward your dog for coming to the person who called them.

Tailor training to their temperament

Every dog is unique, so there are several methods for teaching your dog to come. However, each method has one thing in common: they're all fun! If you want to divert your dog's attention away from all the sights, odours, and toys in front of them, you must make it worth it! 

Here are a few teaching styles for dogs with a certain temperament. You might find it beneficial to apply bits and pieces of each method to your dog’s training! 


Puppies can begin training at around eight weeks old. However, puppy training should be kept basic and brief, lasting only five to ten minutes.

This training technique can help puppies learn to respond to their name:

  1. Sit with your puppy and say their name or the word "come."
  2. Reward your puppy with a treat each time you say their name, regardless of their response.
  3. Drop a treat on the floor near you, then say their name again. When they look up to you instead of staring at the treat, give them a treat.
  4. Repeat the process, gradually increasing the distance you toss the treat until your puppy turns to face you consistently when called.
  5. Add movement and excitement by tossing a treat and taking a few quick steps away while calling your puppy's name. Encourage them to chase you.
  6. When your puppy catches you, reward them with praise, treats, or play to make coming to you a fun experience.
  7. Progressively increase the difficulty by extending distances and practising in different locations, always ensuring safety, possibly using a long leash for outdoor training.

The Playful Dog

Instead of calling your playful dog while you're standing in front of them, try calling them from another room. It's like playing hide-and-seek! When your dog sees you, act excitedly and reward them.

This game not only reinforces their recall skills but also enhances their mental stimulation as they search for you. Plus, it adds an element of surprise and joy to their day, satisfying their playful nature!

The Runner Dog

If your dog has a tendency to run away from you, whether inside or outside, you might want to try Cesar Millan's method for "come":

  1. Attach a leash and collar to your dog.
  2. Get down to their level and say "Come" while gently pulling on the leash.
  3. When they come to you, reward your dog with affection and a treat.

Once your dog understands the exercise, you can practise it without the leash in a safe, confined space.

The Distracted and Resistant Dog

If your dog is resistant to traditional training or easily distracted, try incorporating recall training into their daily activities! Preventive Vet recommends that:

  • At mealtimes, say "come" as they approach and give them their food dish.
  • When you take their leash for a walk and they rush to meet you at the entrance, say "come" and praise them before going for a stroll.
  • While playing fetch, as they return with their toy, say "come" and reward them with praise and another toss of the toy.
  • If your dog is walking or rushing towards you, say "come" and treat them when they arrive! You may mix real-life rewards such as play, praise, cuddles, or toys with training treats. 

This strategy is equally helpful for dogs that already master recall. If your dog already knows the basics, adding verbal cues into their everyday life can only increase their skills and speed up the training process!

Increasing Recall Training Levels

As you train your dog recall, slowly raise the difficulty by adding more space and distractions. The process can be divided into three levels.


This is where your dog's training begins. Start with your preferred workout style, but do it at home with no distractions. Once your dog consistently comes to you in this setting, you can introduce some challenges. 

During training, a family member could ring the doorbell while you are still at home. A friend may come over and pet your dog while you're calling them to arrive. You might place a toy near your dog before calling them. 

These minor diversions aim to mimic how the real world works and will prepare your dog for it! When you see that they can already manage these scenarios, it's time to go outside.


Go to your backyard or a more private outdoor space. You don't want too many people or dogs around at first. If you're not in an enclosed space, keep your dog on a long leash. Begin training exactly as you did indoors: just you and your dog, no distractions. Of course, this will be more difficult for your dog because there are squirrels, scents, and sounds outside! 

When your dog returns to you every time you call them outdoors, add distractions similar to those you used indoors. You could even invite a friend over and have them bring their dog: the perfect distraction!


This is where the real challenge begins. Dogs enjoy playing at the dog park, which makes it difficult for them to leave. However, if your dog is properly trained, they will respond almost every time you call.

While your dog is socialising and running around, call them to come to you. If they come, your training has been successful! 

However, all of your training can be ruined if you call your dog and then leave the dog park. You don't want them to associate "come" with something they dislike. There is an easy method to avoid this situation: After your dog comes to you, applaud them, release them, and let them start playing with other dogs again!

When it's time to leave, try letting your dog naturally come to you so that the phrase "come" isn't necessary. You can also approach them gently, leash them, and proceed without asking "come."

As you progress through the training levels, you can use food and praise as rewards. Once your dog has established consistent recall at that level, slowly eliminate treats so that praise is the only reward. Your dog should finally come to you on their own, without the need for food. This is an important element of training because you may not always have treats in an emergency!

Reliable Recall Tricks and Tips

Have treats

“Special” treats, such as cheese and meat jerky, can be helpful in the early stages of training to grab your dog's attention. However, after they've gotten used to the routine, they don't need to be rewarded with any more treats that can cause them to gain weight. Small (and low-calorie) training treats work just fine!

If your dog is already overweight, consider rewarding them with natural snacks such as simple carrots or green beans! 

Avoid repeating yourself

A common training error called "poisoning the cue" happens when your dog loses understanding of the cue word or develops negative feelings towards it.

This usually happens unintentionally when the cue has an uncertain meaning or a negative association for the dog, so they ignore it. You are poisoning a cue when you start overusing it, repeating the word over and over without your dog responding.

If you need to repeat your recall cue, the environment may be too distracting. Alternatively, your dog may not understand the command well enough for the level at which you are attempting to train them.

You can overcome this issue by starting over with a new command and avoiding previous mistakes, such as overusing the cue word or associating it with something your dog dislikes. So, if you started with "come," and your dog now ignores it, you may start over with "here."

Reward eye contact

When your dog looks at you or chooses to be close to you, verbally praise them and give them a treat. You may use a lot of treats at first, but you are teaching your dog a vital lesson: when your dog is close to you and pays attention to you, nice things happen!

Get everyone involved

If you have several family members who care for your dog, your dog has to pay attention to each one. Encourage everyone to participate in training your dog to come. Take turns calling. Just make sure not to overwhelm your dog with too many voices! Introduce new "trainers" gradually and methodically.

Practice recalls daily

Practising recalls daily is crucial for reinforcing this essential behaviour in your dog. Consistent repetition helps solidify the training and builds trust between you and your pet. Make it a part of your and their daily routine, incorporating short sessions throughout the day. 

This regular practice not only strengthens your dog's recall skills but also deepens the bond between your dog and each family member involved in the training process!

Closing Thoughts

Incorporating these techniques into your training makes a significant difference in your dog's responsiveness to recall commands. By involving the whole family and practising consistently, you’re teaching your dog an essential recall skill while strengthening your bond with them. 

Remember, patience and persistence are key when it comes to training, so keep up the good work, and soon enough, you'll have a dog who comes when called reliably in any situation. Happy training!

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