DD 015: How to train your dog to come every time

In this FREE podcast we take a look at one of the most basic of all commands. Something that’s surely so natural for a dog… but sadly for many people it isn’t.

How to train your dog to come every time with Doggy Dan

So simple in theory

The recall, as I like to call it, is all about getting your dog to return to your side. And in theory it’s so simple. You call your dog and they come running towards you wagging their tail. Yet in reality so many people struggle with this. Unfortunately it results in dogs being walked only on by leash their entire lives, or worse still, they aren’t walked at all for fear of them never coming back.

The Frustration

You’ve probably seen it dozens of times. A frustrated dog owner slowly asking, then calling, then shouting for their dog to come as the dog carries on running around in circles having the time of their life. It can be amusing to watch but so annoying when its happening to you. Sometimes it can be far more subtle… your dog stands just out of reach, refusing to come, or running around just out of your grasp. It can all be so frustrating.

Is recall really that hard?

So is recall a tricky exercise to master? Something that only a few owners will be able to achieve at any high level? Or is there something that we’re missing?

The truth is recall is one of the most natural commands for almost any dog, and so simple to train when you know how. In this podcast I explain why it’s such a natural action for dogs and why it actually works WITH their nature.

6 Keys to a successful recall

Then I’ll walk you through 6 of the most powerful ways to turn your recall around, and get your dog running back to you every time you call them. We cover off…

  1. The Contract: This is where it all starts to go wrong. When you call your dog what do they think is going to happen? Most likely your dog is thinking “OK so they want to put me on the leash.”
  2. Rewards: Most people have either stopped rewarding their dog completely or are using rewards but not in a smart way. Understanding how to use the three types of rewards is key.
  3. Control of your environment: What do you do when your dog doesn’t come when called? And how to prevent it in the first place.
  4. Your body language: We take a look at how your body language, movement, stance and voice can all determine whether your dog comes or not when called.
  5. Pack Leader: Dogs will listen and follow the commands of pack leaders far more than those they see as below them in the pack.
  6. Frequency: The overuse of recall is one of the biggest reasons it fails. Knowing when and how often to call your dog is key.

More recall training resources

Often putting in place just a few of the suggestions in the podcast can turn around your recall. Sometimes in a very short time. For those of you who are looking to perfect your technique, take it to another level or have a particularly tricky dog, I also explain where you can get a heap more information including another audio from myself with loads more tips on this topic.

For my complete dog training program that includes the training info you need to perfect the recall command and get your dog to listen when it matters most, check out The Dog Calming Code. Or, if you have a puppy I recommend you start with my Puppy Coach training program!

What’s your recall like?

Tell me in the comments section below just how frustrating your recall is right now… I’d love to know, and offer some help!

Have a great training day, and as always, love your dog ☺

Doggy Dan Signature .

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Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

19 Responses

  1. Hi
    Our girl Trixie has good recall 90% of the time but once she is distracted by something she takes off and I can’t catch her. She’s 15months old. Is she to old to try the long lead?

  2. Hi doggy Dan I have 1 year old scottish terrier. I have tried to train him the recall command but haven’t had any success can you please help me.

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Joey,
      Recall is absolutely one of those behaviours that takes patience and a lot of practice in some cases. One of the factors that can cause things to come undone very quickly is having too much distraction around when attempting to practice off-leash recall. The best way to approach practice is to start with limited distraction, so that you have your dog’s undivided attention and they are more likely to return to you and understand that they receive a reward for doing so. I always start in the home first…if your dog won’t come to you there, without any distractions, then there is little chance they will come to you outside your home. Once they are consistently responding with limited distraction then you move on to working in an area with a medium level of distraction and continue your practice in that environment…working all the way up to high distraction. My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com has some great resources for mastering recall…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  3. Hi Dan
    I read and watched your website and I am very interested. I was given 2 female Belgium shepards. They are sisters. 2 years old. First week or so they came immediately on whistle but one day on a walk (I live on 5acres)they decided to go out in their own. They were gone for 1hr 45 minutes! I climbed through the brush and hills and gave up. They came home on their own. And since then. If I try to walk them no leash they take off. I’m so scared they will be stolen or worse. I read info about. Click bank on the better business bureau and I’m a bit skeptical to use this payment method. But I am desperate to enjoy these beautiful treasures. Any suggestions or comments?

    1. Hi April,
      Moving to a new home (territory) can be a really unsettling time for dogs and it can throw them completely out of their comfort zone. The best way to avoid them accidentally coming to any harm would be to have a secure area where you can leave them when they are outside. When on a walk it would initially be a good idea to have them on-leash so that you can familiarise them with the area but not risk them running off. You can even have one of the dogs on a longer-line to enable them to explore a little more and then switch them over after a few minutes.
      Obviously these are short term measures to avoid the scenarios you mention, but for more help on how to settle these two into their new home and teach them about their boundaries, my website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com will help…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  4. I have a mixed breed she is a year old, her dad is a pug the mother a collie cross chihuahua.i have recently rehomed her don’t think she has had any training.
    When I have her out on the lead she walks on her hind legs.and also chases cars how can I stop this.

    1. Hi Janice,
      I do actually have another Blog that talks about training a dog to walk correctly on leash but if you want a more detailed resource then my website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com shows you very clearly how to achieve this…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  5. I have a 9 month old lab x border collie. We’ve been through all the training recommendations for recall and in most other commends he is brilliant but the racall is still dependent on his level of excitement and the distractions around him. For example in training I can have him off leash and walk half a football field away, call him or blow my dog whistle and he will come. He gets love and pats and bacon and to play with his favourite ball… not all at the same time but often a combination of treats. He will also do an emergency stop and halt in his tracks until given the command to come again. However, if there is someone or something that he sees in the distance that looks to be fun and exciting… mud puddles, playing children and joggers being his preferred fun, then he is off and nothing will get him to halt or come back. He is not at all food motivated so offering a tasty treat is not a good enough enticement for him. If I have his favourite ball, I can usually throw it to redirect him if he turns to look in my direction but if he got distracted after having already retrieved his ball and already has it in his mouth then all bets are off… as he already has everything he desires in life. This is not a dumb dog, he already has all basic commands and will even seek out a hidden object on command and sit passively upon finding it waiting for a play reward. His downfall seems to be the recall as so far nothing is rewarding enough to halt him in his tracks and get him to return in the midst of his excited dash. Unfortunately being a large dog, people don’t respond to favourably to his full speed excited greeting even though he doesn’t jump, but I can understand that as my pet hate in other dogs is having them run up to my kids. So, any suggestions for getting a bombproof recall for a dog who is not at all food motivated and is smart enough to see through any bribes?

    1. Hi Nina,
      One thing I always advise is that if a dog’s recall is a bit hit and miss around distraction then it is a good idea to have them on a long-line or a longer leash so that you can avoid being in a position where you are unable to correct the behaviour. You do need to be very careful when working on a long-line, especially with larger/heavier dogs because if they have a long length of line free to run and they hit the end of it then both you and they can be injured. You need to be aware of their excitement level and what is happening around you and so starting off in an area with only moderate distractions is best. Being a young dog he may require a little patience and some dedicated training sessions where he learns to earn his freedom with good recall. In order to create better habits here you do need to correct the unwanted ones and so being in control with him on-leash initially is key. My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com shows you very clearly how to achieve this…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  6. Every time someone comes to my door whether they live here or are invited to the house, my dogs go barking constantly I can’t hardly carry on a conversation. I tried saying quiet. Blow a whistle Dog kind. Or shake a jar of pennies. Nothing works. Help.

    1. Hi Sharon, there is some techniques you can do which I will go through however you really need a complete training program because the key bit is showing the dogs that they are not in charge and so they dont need to protect, you, themselves and the property. It may also be attention seeking… Again, become the pack leader and then try the following… Use timeout, put them on a leash and move them away. These are the two simple approaches I use and they work 90% of the time (Because I am the pack leader with the dogs I meet) There is not need to raise your voice or shout at your dogs it will only make it worse… Another approach you can use is the calm freeze where I calmly hold the dogs collar with my palm facing up and take hold under their chin, then I lower my energy. No looking at them or speaking…just stay calm… Hope some of that makes sense…The key thing is to become the pack leader which you can do for a dollar (3 day trial) website http://www.TheOnlineDogTrainer.com Best, Dan

  7. Great podcast! Just wondering if you have any tips on how to surprise my dog with a reward randomly to maintain the element of surprise. My dog always knows whether I have any treats with me as he can smell them. If he knows I have something good he listens better than if he knows that I don’t have any treats. Thanks!

    1. Hi Doris, one trick is to get a good doggy bag/pouch to keep the food in…then put the treats in the bag and tuck it away in your pocket. Eventually your dog will switch off and wander away. Then you can call him and he will not really know if you have treats or not. Of course when he is next to you he will smell them but from a distance he will not be so sure…Hope that makes sense 🙂 Best, Dan

  8. I have been following the golden rules for about 2 weeks now and it has done a world of good. My Luther is a Cane Corso mix, a rescue boy who had a big trauma history. He is smart, attentive, listens to me, is very good in the house and walks pretty well on the leash. One of our biggest problems was excessive guard/alert barking, which is now 90 percent resolved. And he does come when I call him. But sometimes he comes v-e-r-y slowly, or
    with a lag of 30 seconds or so. I’m not sure whether to reward him when he does that. I feel that he knows how far he can push me! he usually does get a treat when he comes slowly, but a small one — a piece of biscuit. If he comes running and wagging he gets bacon or chicken,

    1. Hi Sally,
      great to hear that you joined http://www.theonlinedogtrainer.com and have found applying the golden rules has made a world of good. They can have an amazing effect on excessive guard/alert barking as you have found. With the recall (calling him to you) I would not reward him if he is too slow! Maybe see what happens if you call him less but reward him more when he does come…You know the saying of less is more, it often applies with rewarding our dogs! Best, Dan

  9. Hi I’ve had dogs all my life they’ve always listened. Except for the last baby papillon Teddy. He just turned one year old. He still doesn’t come when called except if I have a treat and even then he is cagey at best to come. He sees the others come, give paw ,kisses, come on my lap. Not Teddy. Oh also he’s timid around strangers too if I take him on a leash off the property he puts his tail between his legs and poops.

    1. Hi Sharon, you may find the reply to the question about treats from Doris below helpful. With the fearful behavior of your dog the best thing you can do for him is to be a strong leader…somebody whom he turns to for guidance. This is what I call dog psychology…basically how to convince your dog that you are the pack leader. Maybe take a look at my site http://www.theonlinedogtrainer.com and do the trial. Then you will see how to help your dog. I had a dog Inca who was very very fearful by nature, she is now fine, so I know you can turn things around with the right approach…Best, Dan

  10. I have an 5yr. old dog. I have had her since she was about 8wks. old. She has never come to me when I call her if she is outside the house. She is a large breed dog, very aggressive. When I try to walk her on a leash she knocks me down and pulls me as she tries to attack other dogs. She only obeys me when she is indoors. I can never take her outside for a walk because she never obeys me. Is it too late to try to train her for outdoors? (Rottweiler mixed with German Sheppard).

    1. Hi Jami,
      Have you completed my dog training program? The issues you are experiencing are not the sort of issues that can be answered in a post however the video website provides you with a comprehensive solution to aggression issues, recall and pulling on the leash problems. I suggest you take a look at it and take it from there…inside the site you can the ask questions in the forum as you apply the program. The site is http://www.theonlinedogtrainer.com All the best, Doggy Dan

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