The Recall (or how to get your dog to COME to you)

This is probably one of the most important commands for your dog to know, but many people make the mistake of teaching the dog that "Come" means to run away from them as fast as possible.

You might wonder why they would do that and how. It's usually unintentional. The puppy comes on command at first, happily responding to get your attention. You're thrilled because your puppy is sooooo smart. Then all of a sudden he stops coming to you on command, ignores you or just plain runs and hides.

Think about the last time you called your dog to "Come" to you. Did you praise the dog for coming? Or had he just chewed up a house plant? Did you yell at him? Punish him in any way?

It's very easy to use "Come" to get the dog to come to you when they have done something 'wrong.' The problem lies in our response.

THINK for just a moment. The dog is chewing on the plant. You yell "Phantom, COME." The dog wags its tail and trots on over to you. You yell, "Bad dog," maybe pop him on the rear and put him in his kennel.


What do you think the dog's response will be to your "Come" command the next time?

You must ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS reward the "Come" command if the dog comes to you. Did I say ALWAYS?

This command is extremely important for the dog's safety. It's also very effective for calling them AWAY from things they shouldn't be doing, thus breaking their attention from the plant for instance.

You can even scream "Come" at the dog, but if he comes to you, REWARD!!!!!!


What's in a name?

Another problem people have is assuming that a dog will "Come" when we call their name. Stop and do a little test for me. Without moving just say your dog's name. Does he turn and look at you? If he did, what should you do?


Remember when you were a little kid and someone called your name several times but didn't say anything else? The typical response might have been "That's my name, don't wear it out."

That's exactly what we tend to do with our dogs. We say their name just to see that pretty face turn to look at us, adore us... Then we turn back to whatever we were doing and forget that we've just asked for the dog's attention.

Our name is a way for people to get our attention. It's the same with our pets. If you want your dog to pay attention when you call its name, DON'T WEAR IT OUT!

At the very least, say 'good dog' or give him a good rub behind the ears.

If you want the dog's attention so he'll come to you, practice. "Phantom, "Come"," praise as the dog comes toward you, repeat the "Come" command and then REWARD when he arrives.

Follow these steps:

  • Have a food reward ready.
  • Call the dog's name.
  • Say "Come" in a firm, loud voice.
  • Praise the dog as he approaches and repeat the word "Come".
  • When he reaches you, put the treat in front of his nose and lure him toward you.
  • Catch his collar
  • THEN give him the treat.

If you practice this and are consistent, your dog will learn that "Come" means he will get a treat/reward. Eventually he will come even though you may not have a treat handy, when he does, take him and get a treat.

He will also learn that his name means something fun is going to happen.

It's important to catch his collar BEFORE you give him the treat so that you have control of him and he doesn't learn to back away from you. Soon, a hand on his collar will mean good things are coming, not that he is in trouble.

How to teach "Come":

Start close to the dog. Don't expect him to come to you from across the yard the first time you practice. There are too many distractions. Start about a foot from the dog, show him the treat, call his name and "Come", back away a few steps, praise as he comes toward you, catch his collar and give him the treat. Repeat.

Backing away creates a 'chase' game that the dogs love and will respond to quickly.

Once the dog has the idea (after 3-6 times), start moving a little further away. Keep your training sessions short and fun. Practice inside, in the back yard, the front yard... use a leash or long line (10-20 foot lead) to keep the dog from running off, but DO NOT drag the dog to you! Practice anywhere that you may take the dog, so that when you need the dog to come to you, he will already know the game.

Practice letting the dog out the front door on the long line and calling him back inside to you. Practice at any door or gate where the dog may get out of the house or yard. Then, when the dog really does get out, you've already practiced this game and the dog should return to you for his reward. REWARD THE DOG!!!

If you ALWAYS reward the dog when you call "Come", then when he slips his collar or pulls the leash out of your hand, or someone lets him out the door accidentally, then you will have a command - "Come" - that the dog KNOWS will get him something good. When he does come to you after that emergency "Come" - go find him a really special treat and be happy that all your hard work paid off.