Does Your Dog Still Come When You Call? Best Tips For Improving Recall.

Has your dog’s recall gotten a little lazy?

Have you asked yourself if you’re like the dude with chili stains on his t-shirt belching on the couch who complains that his wife doesn’t like to have sex with him? Because you have to be attractive to your dog if you want her to come to you.

Pam ask Honey if she loves her.

You’re not too bad. But I still think I’m cuter.

A Dog Who Comes When You Call

Training your dog to come when you call her is crucial for safety. I’ve seen Honey’s recall fail at critical times and it has strengthened my commitment to keeping her coming to me the second I call her.

Of course teaching a golden retriever to come to you takes relatively little skill. They’ve been bred for generations to retrieve things and return them to their people.

Golden Retriever running in the woods.

Here I come.

But even Honey will occasionally decide that something is more interesting than returning to my side.

That’s why we train, retrain, and reinforce training a perfect recall.

Because if Honey finds something else more interesting than me, I start to wonder if she thinks I look like that chili belching dude on the couch.

9 Tips For Improving Your Dog’s Recall

I’m not much of a dog trainer. But here are the best tips I’ve scrounged from professional trainers, other smart people, and just seeing what works with Honey and dogs I’ve fostered.

Set Your Dog Up For Success

If you’re training recall for the first time or shaping up a skill that’s gotten rusty, stack the decks by calling your dog when he’s inclined to come to you anyway (like when you’ve just put down his food or gotten out his leash for a walk). Don’t start out poisoning your recall cue by calling your dog when he’s having a great time barking at the fence or chasing squirrels.

Take Advantage Of Your Dog’s Instincts

Most dogs love to chase. Your dog will be more likely to come to you if you start moving away from her to encourage the chase instinct than if you just stand still.

Be Surprising

Why should a dog come to you if he know’s he’s always going to get a scratch and praise every single time? Hide a squeaky in your pocket, a stinky treat, a cool tug toy. And reward him when he comes to you with some cool surprise.

Golden Retriever with stuffed butterfly.

I’d run anywhere to find my butterfly again.

Reward Your Dog With What She Enjoys Most

If your dog loves barking at the neighbors, reward her for coming to you by letting her go back to barking. If she loves goose poop, let her go back and  have a sniff or even a tiny nibble to thank her for coming to you (Disclaimer: No, I’m not a vet and I’m expecting you to use your own common sense. Do not let your dog eat goose poop if he has a compromised immune system or a sensitive stomach. And do not reward your dog with a bit of barking if your neighbors are sensitive to noise and carry guns.)

Check out the cool video on this post telling you how this can work.

Find A New Cue

If your dog ignores the word you’ve used to call him, find a new cue. It might be time to start using “here, boy” or “let’s go” if he no longer hears the word “come.”

Don’t Expect Your Dog To Come When You Say Her Name

Lots of people expect their dogs to come to them when they say their names. I believe we use a dog’s name to get her attention and tell her what we want to do once we have it.

Would you come running to someone’s side just because they called your name?

Practice At Different Times And Places

Just because your dog comes running to you in the house, doesn’t mean he’ll do the same thing out at the park. If you want your dog to come to you at the park, you have to practice at the park.

Golden Retriever running at the dog park

I’m so happy to be at the dog park, I can hardly contain my joy. Thank you!

Safety First

Sure, it’s nice to know your dog will come to you around the house. But the real reason to practice recall is for that scary moment when a squirrel attracts your dog across a busy street or an aggressive dog shows up at the dog park with his clueless person.

To be ready for those outdoor dangers, you need to practice outdoors. But find an open area that is secure (tennis courts are great for outdoor dog training) or use a long training lead. (affiliate)

Be Realistic

Both Honey’s breed and her innate temperament strengthen her recall. If she takes a few steps toward chasing the geese when we’re walking off-leash, she will turn on a dime and return to me if I call her.

I’ve fostered any number of beagles and hound mixes, however, who don’t even hear me when they’re absorbed in an interesting scent.

Ginny the foster beagle walks with her nose to the ground.

Yeah, just try asking a beagle to change directions once she’s got a scent.

Not every dog will instantly return to your side anytime or anywhere just because you called them. Heck, even Honey can’t do that.

Training call is much harder for some dogs than for others. But every dog can improve his recall. And that’s a worthy goal.

Why Work On Recall

A strong recall will keep your dog safe. It will strengthen your bond. And seeing your dog running toward you with love in her eyes will assure you that you’re far more attractive than some sweaty dude on a couch smelling like corn chips.

Your Turn: Do you work on your dog’s recall? What tips work best for you?


(Disclosure: Links followed by the word “affiliate” will take you to Amazon. If you buy something while you’re there, I will earn a small commission but your item will not cost you more. Thank you for supporting Something Wagging This Way Comes.)

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  1. I admit, I’ve gotten lazy about this since Jack and Maggie don’t usually wander far from my side and are rarely off leash. But I know I need to get back into it – thanks for the tips and incentive.

  2. We still work on recalls almost every single day. Some days Clover is brilliant. Other days, she has her own agenda. I have to remind myself she is only 11 months old and that we’ve only been together 7 or so months.

  3. Sampson is pretty good, but Delilah has selective hearing. I keep telling myself I need to find a new word to use and start over, but I keep procrastinating. Typically I call her and if she doesn’t come I go and get it. I don’t want to be shouting, here, here, here. LOL

  4. With three dogs now, I’ve realized how much our recall with Dante has slipped. Ziva comes right back when I call, but between Dante, Ziva, and Jack (our current foster) I’ve been getting frustrated when I call and Dante doesn’t come to me.
    Jack – ya still working on his recall too, but it’s getting better!

    Thanks for the tips, I know we need to start practicing again, and doing our one on one training sessions. :-)

  5. We prefer to work on the try and catch me game with Mom. Actually, we do come a running most of the time, but if something better is going on like a wabbit or squirrel, no chance. We know hounds can be trained, but I don’t see it happening at out house. We make do with what we do and it is good. On leash unless it is a fenced in area is out thing.

  6. Nola has a very solid recall. I won’t trust Olivia or Pike off leash, though they have solid enough ones in the yard or other secure areas. Olivia is too much of a tracker, and Pike is easily spooked.
    The best recall game for Nola is for me to hide somewhere in the yard and for her to find me. Sometimes I call, sometimes I don’t. It keeps her very engaged with me and always looking for where I am. I’ve also trained her to stay within her “bubble”, aka how far she’s allowed to go from me.

  7. Whistling. Verbal cues don’t work when there’s a husky mix running loose, but whistling always brings them home. :)

  8. GmaFran says:

    Emma, a 9 month old Golden/Flat coat retreiver mix, has wonderful recall off leash in places like dog parks or beaches but little to none at home (inside). Thinks return to mom or dad means lets play chase. I just turn my back or walk the other direction which is the only thing that seems to work.

  9. Our dogs have amazing recall at home. I always have them on leash everywhere else, because there are too many distractions to compete with when I’m out.

  10. Great tips, but I have one silly question. When is a good time to start recall training? I’m ready to start with Jax, but is it too early?

  11. Finding a new cue is a great idea. I’m pretty sure my “come” means “lay down” or “go the other way” in doggie language.