The Recall

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

This is probably one of the most important cues for your dog or cat to know, but many people make the mistake of teaching the pet 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 or kitten comes on command at first, happily responding to get your attention. You're thrilled because your pet is sooooo smart. Then all of a sudden he stops coming when you call, ignores you or just plain runs and hides.

Think about the last time you called your dog or cat to COME to you. Did you praise him 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 or cat to come to you when they have done something 'wrong.' The problem lies in our response.

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


What do you think the response will when you call COME the next time?

You must ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS reward when you say COME and the dog/cat comes to you. Did I say ALWAYS?

This cue is extremely important for your pet'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 or cat, but if he comes to you, REWARD!!!!!!

What's in a name?

Another problem people have is assuming that a dog/cat will COME when we call their name. Stop and do a little test for me. Without moving just say your pet'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/cats. 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 animal'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/cat to pay attention when you call its name, DON'T WEAR IT OUT!

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

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

Follow these steps:

  • Have a food reward ready.
  • Call the animal's name.
  • Say COME with firm, loud voice, make sure they can hear you and recognize that you are asking them to do something.
  • Praise him 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/cat 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.

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Judy Seils

Judy Seils has over 20 years of experience working with dogs and cats in the most stressful of environments, the veterinary clinic. During that time, she taught dog training classes and helped clients with behavior issues. She trained and competed with two of her dogs, Dreamer and Shiloh, in flyball, and coached other teammates in training their dogs. Judy also had fun working with Dreamer and Shiloh in freestyle.

Though currently dogless, Judy is clicker training her calico cat, Ruby who is keeping her humble as they work on such behaviors as sit, beg, give me five, wearing a harness and others. Cats are definitely harder to train than dogs, but also fun to work with.

Judy loves using her knowledge to help other people train their dogs and cats.

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Last updated 22.7.2022