Training a Dog “Come” When Called

Training a dog “Come” when called is also known as Recall. It is important that you and your dog learn this command because it will mean that you will be confident in letting your dog off lead in an appropriate place.
For us this place is the nearby fields, surrounding our local football club. Even in appropriate places you will need your dog to come back to you for their own safety. Another dog who is on a lead may not be that friendly. The football team turning up to train whilst out on our walk, definitely do not want Ralph joining in and I do not want him chasing those birds, who will insist on flying away from the park.
The Come or recall command should be started as early as possible. The sit and stay command should come first to make things easier for you in the recall. Have your dog sit and stay and then back away a few steps. Say your “dogs name and Come” in an excited voice and when they come to you, treat. Repeat this several times backing away a little further each time. Now your puppy or dog has the idea that that his name and Come mean he has to come to you for a treat. You can then move on to trying the command when they are less focused on you. When playing in the garden or even in the house with a toy and they are focused on that, say their “name and Come” in an excited voice and treat if they comply. If they ignore you, try again. If after doing this several times with no result (some dogs are just blind sided with what they are doing) you may need to invest in a training lead.
Begin your dog on a six-foot lead but get one that is at least 15 feet if not 30 and retractable. When on the lead, let them get interested in something and then use the command of “name and Come” Remember to do this in an upbeat voice and run backwards away from your dog. As you are running, hold a treat at their nose level. This works as a lure towards you. When your dog is a few steps away, raise the treat and use the command “sit” once they have sat give them the treat and lots of praise.
When your dog has shown they will do this several times and in different environments, you should graduate the leash to longer distances. You can also employ the help of someone else to distract your dog with toys or even another dog to make sure they will comply with the command of “Come” in a variety of situations. As the recall command improves, you will no longer need to run backwards or even treat but make sure you always sound up beat and welcoming to your dog when giving the command. You could employ the open arms tactic whilst bending down and giving lots of fuss when they come. A bit like you would when you come in after going out.

Now you want to do the same thing off leash but make sure you are in a confined area to start with. Do not try letting them off the leash in open areas until you are confident they will come to you on recall.
One of the most important factors to having a great recall is a strong bond with your dog. Starting early is the best way to achieve a great recall because when they are 12 weeks or so you will be the centre of their universe and they will want to know where you are at all times. Just like they did with their mother. You could always start with moving out of their sight when they are distracted then use the recall command to have them come find you. Always remember the treat and praise. At this age they will be eager to come find you. As they get older at around 6 months they will be less concerned as they will be interested in other things and will have become used to you being out of sight for short periods of time. Starting later than this and you will get the teenage defiance attitude from your dog.
If you do not start early your chances of getting them in from the garden when you want to go out will be difficult, getting them to come back to you when off the leash whilst out walking will be impossible.
This is not to say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. You may not have started early or you may have a rescue dog that has not been trained at all. You still need to employ the same things as with a new puppy but know that you will need more patience and time to achieve the same results.
Your dog is programmable a bit like a computer. But they need the right commands to do the things you want or need them to. Think about your dog off the leash and having fun in your appropriate space. They are having fun, sniffing and running around. They may want you in their sight and you will see them checking in on you now and again. The younger they are the closer to you they will stay but as they get older they will venture further. If they lose you they will still come running but that doesn’t mean you will get them back on their leash. I bet you have seen them scamper towards you only to duck out of your way with a come and get me face. To them it’s a game. If you only call your dog back to the leash when it’s time to go home they will get to know this and will, especially in the teenage months, ignore or tease you because they don’t want to stop playing.
To counteract problems like this recall them a couple of times whilst out and then let them play some more so they do not associate the recall as the end of their fun.
Now in truth, Ralph’s recall was great when he was a small puppy and I rarely had to use it as he was never far from my heels. Couldn’t actually go to the loo without him if I am honest. Still can’t and the minute I move he is up, with his where are you going? Can I come? face on. Come the teenage months and his recall got worse, not better. Forever blind sided by whatever took his fancy on our walks. There was a time when I was reluctant to let him off the lead because I would be darned if I could get him to come back. Tried recall again at home for a few days and I would try again whilst out, only to have him play me for a fool again. Frustrating and at times embarrassing. However, we seem to have gotten back on track lately but it has taken a lot of work and repetition.
I now insist he request permission before he is allowed to bound off leash, and I will end the fun when he chooses to forget I am there. You will have to be persistent both at home and when you are out, when teaching this command.
Perfecting recall will not only allow you to get out of the door on time, but it may also save your dog’s life.
I hope you have found this useful. As ever, I love to hear all of your dogs tales so please leave them in the comments below and leave a question if you need more help.
I am always happy to receive your photographs for my doggie rogues gallery. You can send them to
With Grace and Gratitude
Karen & Ralph