Does your Pooch Come when Called? How to Have a Reliable Recall with your Dog

In her latest column, North Bend resident and dog trainer for Miss Lola’s Academy, Melissa Grant, offers up a springtime refresher course on getting your pooch to come when called.

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Spring has sprung early in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley and our pooches are eager to get out and run off some winter energy. The dark rainy days are gone (for now) and we all could use a recall – aka “coming when called” – refresher.

Recall, to me, is the most important command you can teach your dog. It is vital to keeping your dog safe and under control in any and all off-leash situations. Whether it be in your yard or at the dog park, recall can give you immediate control if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

I frequently hear that dogs know their recall cue, but don’t feel like coming. While this may be true for some, more often it is an under-utilized command.

We take our dogs to a six-week training course when they are 3 months old, work on recall and then put it in our back pocket until there is an emergency.

In order for recall to work, your pup needs to hear their recall cue as many times as possible EVERY day.  That cue should be as strong and reinforced as ‘sit’ in order for it to work.

The first step to teaching recall is to decide on a word or sound that you will use to call your dog.  If you have used a particular word in the past that your dog has ignored or has resulted in your dog being met with something unpleasant when responding, like a bath, a toenail trim or a scolding,  choose a new word.

I like words that your dog doesn’t hear on a daily basis rather than the old standard “come.” You can use ‘here,’  ‘now,’  ‘front’ or ‘home’ to get Fido back to you where he belongs.

After you’ve chosen your word, call your dog ONLY when you are sure he will come to you AND make a HUGE fuss over him each time. Give him treats and lots of praise. Make the rewards as great as you can!

When beginning, practice that recall cue in the house with very few distractions. Call him when he is not expecting it.  Such as, if you are in a different room.  Try calling him away from something he is interested in, such as a toy or bone.  As soon as he comes, give him something better than what he was interested in.  This teaches him that coming does not mean missing something.

When your dog has mastered recall indoors, go to a securely fenced area or put your dog on a long lead.  Start out in quiet area outside. If you have a partner, practice calling your dog in between yourselves.  If you are working with your dog on your own, let your dog wander a little and then call him.

  • Say his name and give your recall cue (once).
  • If your dog does not respond to you, run up to him and get his attention, turn around and run backwards away from him for a short distance.
  • When your dog gets to you, treat him lavishly

Always make recalls rewarding and vary those rewards. When choosing rewards, remember that dogs love novelty. Use the best rewards you can find –  hotdogs, cheese and even cat food… especially when working in distracting environments.

Remember, do not wait until there is an emergency to call your dog; no training is 100% effective; and  keeping your recall great should be your top priority. 

Use daily events to continue to call your dog to you. Praise him every step of the way and with a little persistence and patience, you should have a dog that runs back to you in almost any situation.

Good luck and enjoy yourself. Woof!

recall dog blog

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