How to Teach A Dog to Come When Called reliably in 7 steps

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Picture this: you’re at a park, heart racing as you repeatedly call out your dog’s name, only to see them darting further away with each call. It’s a pet owner’s nightmare, right? What if we told you there’s a way to ensure your dog always returns to you, no matter the distractions? It’s a matter of convenience, safety, and courtesy. Read on to discover how to teach a dog to come when called.

How to Teach a Dog to Come When Called

  1. Gather your tools
  2. Start small
  3. Call your dog & reward them
  4. Cue the distractions!
  5. Play the game
  6. Use the long line for guidance
  7. Practice, practice, practice!

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

To ensure a more streamlined and easy process, keep these tools on hand at all times when working on your recall:

Failure to have these tools on hand any time you take your dog out for recall can cause major hiccups in the training process.

Step 2: Start small

Start in a low-distraction environment. Attach your dog to a long line and toss a treat a short distance away. As your dog goes after it, get ready for the next step.

Step 3: Call your dog & reward them

Call your dog by name, followed by “come!” while taking a few steps back. As they begin to move towards you, mark it by saying “yes!” and present a treat, enticing them further. Once they reach you, reward your dog with a treat. Repeat this process, increasing the distance over time.

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Step 4: Cue the distractions!

Cue the distractions! Once they consistently come to you enthusiastically, it’s time to up the ante. Gradually introduce them to more distracting environments. An empty park can serve as a middle ground before advancing to more populated areas.

Step 5: Play the game

If distractions prove too much, don’t be disheartened. Revert to the previous step but lure them with a high-value reward. Remember, it’s a game, and the goal is for them to enjoy it.

Step 6: Use the long line for guidance

Persistence is key. Should they get distracted, use the long line to remind them of the game at hand gently. Upon their return, shower them with praise and treats like a party!

Step 7: Practice, practice, practice!

Regular practice, around 2-3 times a week, keeps this skill sharp. Always remember to keep it fun and rewarding. Consider going off the long line once they’ve mastered this for a few months. If you or your dog are struggling or want professional guidance before venturing off-leash, consult a dog trainer to learn what you need to do to reach your dog training goals!

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Tips for teaching a reliable recall

  • Always Reward: Every recall deserves a reward 100% of the time. It builds a positive association with coming to you and increases the likelihood of them returning to you over other distractions, and positive reinforcement matters with this command.
  • Safety First: Always keep your dog on a long line, as this ensures your dog stays within a reasonable distance during training.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: If you have a safe, enclosed area, such as an empty dog park or courtyard, test your dog’s off-leash recall, but ensure they’ve made significant progress first.
  • Don’t Overdo It: Avoid overusing this command. Too much repetition can make it mundane for your furry friend.
  • Make a Game of It: When training your dog alongside someone else, alternate in calling your dog back and forth between the two of you. Each time they respond, reward their effort with a delectable treat or a beloved toy.
  • Drop to the Ground: In a crisis where your dog isn’t heeding your call, try dropping to the ground and feigning unconsciousness. This unexpected action can pique their curiosity, prompting them to approach you. As they draw near, swiftly secure their collar, attach their leash, and reward them with a treat for their compliance.

Why You Should Teach Your Dog To Come When Called

Safety Hazard

It’s a no-brainer. A dog that doesn’t heed your recall can end up in dangerous situations, ranging from running onto roads to encountering harmful animals.

Not Everyone Likes Dogs

And not all dogs are friendly. Even if your dog has the best intentions, it could wander up to someone who’s afraid or to another dog that’s not as cordial.

Common Courtesy

It’s a given. Having a trained dog in public places shows respect to others and ensures enjoyable outings without unnecessary disruptions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Teaching your dog the “come” command is an art and a science. While most dogs can grasp the basics within a few sessions, perfecting this recall, especially amid distractions, is a longer journey. The breed and temperament play pivotal roles: more biddable breeds, such as herding dogs, might catch on faster than more independent breeds, like Huskies. With consistent training and keeping your dog on a long leash, many dogs can achieve a reliable recall within 2 to 3 months. However, it’s essential to remember that every dog learns at their pace, and the primary goal is their safety and responsiveness.

When your dog seems to turn a deaf ear to your call, it can be frustrating. Several reasons might be at play. First, distractions in their environment might be overpowering their desire to obey. Second, they may not associate coming to you with a positive outcome. They might not see the point if they aren’t rewarded with something enticing each time. Also, if you frequently call them without ensuring they follow through, they might learn they sometimes must respond. To improve their recall, always use high-value rewards, be prudent in calling them, and consider using a long line to prevent them from straying too far, reinforcing that listening is beneficial and non-negotiable.

Recall training should begin as soon as you bring your dog home. This is an optimal time for puppies as they naturally gravitate towards their owners and are eager to learn, providing a prime window to instill good recall habits. Their youthful curiosity and willingness to engage make the training process smoother. On the other hand, if you’ve adopted an older dog, prioritizing this command is equally essential, especially if it’s not part of their existing skill set. Regardless of age, establishing a solid recall foundation ensures their safety and a harmonious bond between you.


Teaching your dog to come when called is an invaluable skill that ensures their safety, showcases good pet etiquette, and strengthens the bond between the two of you. With patience, persistence, and the proper techniques, your pup will achieve this command in no time!

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