Come When Called (Recall)

Start working on recall now so your dog will come to you when it is truly important.

The five rules of recall:

  1. Never call your dog for anything unpleasant, such as: nail clipping, bathing, or having his leash clipped on to go home from the park. In short, anything that might give him pause the next time you call him.
  2. Never call your dog if you are not sure he will come. All recalls should be successful. Work at your dog’s level: If he has a kindergarten-level recall, don’t give him a graduate assignment like being called away from a cat in a tree.
  3. If you call your dog and he doesn’t come, you must make it happen. Run over to him and put a treat in front of his nose, backing up as you get his attention so he follows you.
  4. Never repeat the cue. Resist the urge to call over and over. This only teaches your dog to tune out the cue. Call once and, if necessary, use rule 3. Make the recall happen.
  5. Fabulous rewards get fabulous recalls. If you want your dog to stop whatever interesting doggie thing he is doing and come running to you, make it worth his while. Use amazing treats—no dry biscuits!—or throw his favorite ball, if that is your dog’s preferred reward.

How to train it:

  1. Call your dog. Cheerful tones often produce better results—and make sure you are loud enough to be heard, especially in busy environments. Remember to actually give a cue (“Fido, come!”); your dog’s name by itself is not a recall.
  2. Make yourself interesting. Clap, whistle, squat, throw your arms out, and cheer your dog in: “Great, good, you can do it…” When he arrives, give him his reward with one hand as you grab your dog’s collar or pets his neck with the other. If appropriate, release him to go back to whatever he was up to.


If you find your dog is dodging you after coming, be sure you’re grabbing his collar every time he comes and before he gets the reward.


Find an extra-yummy treat your dog has never had before but you think he will go crazy for (baby food, Cheez Whiz, liver paste) and hide it around the house. Once or twice a day when your dog is not expecting to be called, call him and reward him with this special treat.

When working outside, practice in enclosed spaces or on a 30-foot leash until your dog’s recall is reliable.