Recall Training – How to Train Your Dog to Come!

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts

Recall training with your dog is crucial. The majority of dogs need to be able to run free to use up their energies on a daily basis. If your dog will not come back when called, then exercise can become a worrying and frustrating time.

The biggest thing to learn about recall with dogs is that you must be interesting and rewarding. If you are either irritated (by your dog’s lack of response) or offering your dog nothing worth coming back for, your attempts are unlikely to be successful.

Think of it this way, if someone is trying to get your attention and they look angry you are probably going to avoid them. You will not meet an aggressive look if you can help it. This avoidance also applies with an angry owner and a disgraced dog. The dog will be even less likely to come when called if he has previously experienced punishment on his return.

Body language

Look at your dog’s body language when he approaches you. If his head and tail are held low then he is uneasy returning. This reaction is often seen in dogs that have been rescued or suffered abuse in a previous home. To a dog lover this can be an upsetting behavior to encounter.  If your dog is displaying this behavior then you can work to change it with plentiful reward, praise and positive physical contact. Get low to the ground and gently guide him into you with a food or toy reward. Make coming back to you a fun and pleasing exercise.

Reinforce by Reward

A successful recall should be rewarded and reinforced. When learning how to train your dog to come back, you must keep this in mind throughout. If your dog has bounced around you just out of reach for 20 minutes it can be difficult to reward, but you must. The frustrated dog owner that grabs a reluctantly returning dog and tells him off is simply teaching more reluctance to return.

Recall can be taught in effective stages. Learning how to train your dog to come will be new for you too. The exercise is particularly enlightening if you have a new or difficult dog to train.

Stages of successful recall training

Begin calling your dog back on leash and rewarding him.

  • When you call your dog back guide him in to you with a treat. From the moment you ask him to come you must work hard to keep his attention only on you. So say his name, show him the treat and holding his reward at nose level guide him right back to you.
  • When he has recalled successfully hold his attention until you release him with your voice. This will prevent him learning to grab his reward and leave again. You can refine this by taking his collar, giving him the treat then partnering the release command (off you go or similar) with release of his collar.

When this process is smooth you can incorporate it into longer recall opportunities. These are best practiced first with no distractions then progressively including distractions such as dogs, people and other animals. Using a combination of techniques when working out how to train your dog to come will firstly get the best results and secondly help you decide what works for you and your particular dog.

  • Have someone hold your dog and then you run away, short distances at first then longer, dependent on your dog’s capabilities call your dog and as they release guide in with the reward as before. Take the dog’s collar and give reward then release command.
  • Recall races are great to improve motivation, two dogs held side by side and shown the treat in the same way will race keenly to you for the reward.
  • Changing direction when out walking with your dog off leash will encourage him to watch you, as will taking the opportunity to hide if it arises.
  • Call your dog back at random intervals during a walk. Reward and release will show the dog that he is not only called at the end of a walk, this will prevent him running away to prevent the walk ending.

Different breeds of dog will need varying training techniques in order to get the best from them in all areas. All dog training should be positive and reward based. With research of your dogs breed traits you will easily work out how to train your dog to come back. Remember that consistency and kindness paired with motivation and reinforcement will get the best results.

About the Author