dog recall training

Basics of dog recall training

Train your dog to come back when called!

Most dogs enjoy a good run off their lead. But, before you let your dog out, you must be confident that they will always return when you call, regardless of what is going on around them.

Teach your dog that returning to you is always a good thing, and that it will result in tasty treats, a fuss, or whatever reward they absolutely love. 

Three easy steps to teach your dog to come back when called

  1. Teach your dog to respond to their name.

    Before starting with recall, you need to ensure that your dog responds to their name. This makes it easy for you to grab their attention when you need it. Read more

    As soon as you are confident you can get your dog's attention with their name, you can then add in your chosen recall cue. 

    Choose a short, snappy word like 'come' or 'here,' or, if you prefer, a whistle. In case they can't hear you, add a visual cue, such as holding your arms open wide. To avoid your dog becoming confused, make sure everyone in your household understands which word and movement you're using.

    Please use your recall cue sparingly, allowing at least five seconds for your dog to respond before calling again. If you are not confident that
     they are unlikely to return to your call, DON'T CALL AGAIN. This will quickly may teach them that it is acceptable to not return your call.
  2. Always reward your dog when they come back

    Begin inside, in your garden, or in another enclosed space, with some tasty treats nearby. Use your dog's name to get their attention, then use your recall cue to take a step away from them. When they come to you, reward them with praise and a tasty treat.

    As you build up the dog recall in more adventurous environments, you may need to make lots of noise, run away and then shout your cue to get their attention. Unless it is an emergency situation, it is always better to run away from your dog. They will naturally chase you and so a useful tool to set them up for success with their recall. 

    Make your rewards exciting and tempting, especially if your dog has just returned from something exciting (like a squirrel or another dog). Use a cheerful, excited voice and welcoming body language when calling them (crouched down, arms open).

    No matter how long it takes, always praise your dog for returning. As your dog improves, you won't need to reward them every time they return. However, remember to reward them on a regular basis to keep them motivated. 

    Please do not "tell off your dog" for not returning fast enough, or via another dog encounter, or because they chased a squirrel before they returned. You need to teach them that it's GREAT to come back to you and they will link being with you as a good thing. If you tell them off, they won't want to come back to you because chasing a squirrel is considerably more fun than you are...!
  3. Add in distractions and length of recall distance

    Increase the distance between you and your dog as well as the level of distractions you call them away from gradually. Eventually leaving the garden to explore the outside world. Allow them to move away from you before using your recall cue, and keep them safe during training by attaching a long line to their harness.

    Stay calm if they ignore you; getting angry or shouting will make them want to avoid you. Instead, use the long line to gently guide them in, or go and collect them. Never pull your dog towards you with the lead. This may discourage them from returning.

    When they return without this extra guidance, reward them with high-value treats so they develop a positive association with coming when called.

What to do if your dog keeps running off?

When you let your dog off the lead, they have a whole new world of possibilities. They may decide that chasing a squirrel or playing with another dog is more fun than returning to you (they see you every day, after all).

However, running away can be very dangerous for your dog. Busy roads, other dogs, livestock, and dog thieves are just a few of the potential hazards if they're left alone.

If your dog continues to bolt when you call, stick to training on a long lead attached to a harness, and only let them off-leash in safe areas. Allow your dog to run free in open areas only if you are confident they will return when called.

If you aren't seeing any progress with your dog's training, you should seek the assistance of a qualified trainer or behaviourist.


Always keep your dog's collar and ID tag on at all times when out in public, and keep your microchip information up to date. This is a legal requirement in the UK and will assist you in reuniting with your best friend if they become separated.

Keep your training Fun, Positive and Easy and you'll have great success with your dog
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