How to Train Your Dog to Come When Called

Senior man sitting by camper van with dog

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Teaching your dog to come to you when called is an essential part of proper dog training. Often referred to as a "recall," it is one of the most important basic dog commands. Training your dog for the recall cue can help you keep it under control while allowing it some off-leash freedom. Once this cue is mastered, you can protect it from a potentially dangerous situation by calling it to you. You can teach a recall to a young puppy as soon as it learns its name.

Training your dog to come when called is fairly simple, but it takes some dogs longer than others to learn. Your dog's ability to learn the recall command largely depends on its attention span and vulnerability to distraction. It's important that you work on training regularly and use valuable rewards. Plan to train your dog in short training sessions (5 to 15 minutes) at least three times a week or as much as twice daily. In the beginning, use a favorite toy or your dog's favorite training treats. Start in an area with minimal distractions at a time when your dog is most likely to focus on you. If using treats, hold training sessions when your dog is hungry.

Dog Training Process for the "Come" Command

  1. Start indoors at the end of your dog’s 6-foot leash. 
  2. Hold up a toy or treat, then say its name followed by “come” in a clear, excited tone.
  3. If necessary, make movements such as tapping your knees and stepping backward.
  4. As soon as your dog comes to you, give it the reward, then praise it lavishly–but try not to cause overexcitement.
  5. Repeat five or six times, gradually moving to different areas of your home, including outdoors.
  6. As your dog improves, move to areas with more distractions.
  7. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. You may wish to use a long lead (10 feet or more).
  8. Once your dog has mastered the recall while on the long leash, practice it without any leash, but only indoors or in a fenced-in area.
  9. Slowly phase out the toy or treat rewards, but keep rewarding with much praise. It's important that your dog learns to come to you without food or toy rewards. In the real world, you may need it to come, but not have anything to give it except praise.

Tips on Training the Recall Command

  • Never use the recall command with an angry or frustrated tone in your voice.
  • Do not call your dog to you for negative things such as punishment, baths, or medications. Go get it for these things.
  • If your dog does not come to you at first, you may need to decrease the distance between you and your dog. You may also need to make the reward more valuable (squeaky toy, stinky treats) or lightly tug on the leash to encourage it.
  • It's important to show your dog that coming to you is a very positive thing. Remember to keep an upbeat, excited tone to your voice, no matter how frustrated you get. If you get too frustrated, it's better to end the training session.
  • If your dog tries to run away from you, do not run after it, as this only turns training into a game. Try turning the game around by calling its name and running away from it. Your dog may then run after you in play. If so, reward it with praise when it gets to you.
  • Once your dog has mastered this basic recall, move on to teach it an emergency recall, which is to be used in very dire situations.