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Learning to come when called, or recall to you, is one of the most important skills your dog can learn. But teaching a recall can be challenging, as dogs find so much of the world so interesting. Each time we ask our dog to come to us, we’re asking them to stop what they’re doing.

What You Need to Teach “Come”

  • Treats
  • A quiet area indoors

Steps For Teaching “Come”

  1. Sit down with your puppy and say their name or the word “come.”
  2. Each time you say “come/name” give your puppy a treat. There’s no need for your pup to do anything yet — just repeat the word and give your dog a treat.
  3. Now, drop a treat on the floor near you. As soon as your puppy finishes eating the treat on the ground, repeat his. When they look up, give them another treat.
  4. Repeat the above step multiple times until you can begin tossing the treat a little further away. When you toss the treat further, make sure your dog can turn around to face you when you say their name. Note: Avoid repeating your puppy’s name; saying it too often without a response makes it easier to ignore. Instead, move closer to your puppy and go back to a step where he can be successful at responding to his name the first time.
  5. Once your puppy can turn around to face you, begin adding movement and making the game more fun! Toss a treat on the ground and take a few quick steps away while calling your puppy’s name. They should run after you because they enjoy playing chase.
  6. When they catch you, give them a lot of praise, treats, or play with a tug toy. You want to emphasize that coming to you is enjoyable.
  7. Continue building on the above steps in new places and with longer distances. When training outside (always in a safe, enclosed area), it may be helpful to keep your puppy on a long leash at first.

Keep In Mind

When your puppy comes to you, don’t reach out and grab them. For some dogs, this can be confusing or frightening. If you have a timid puppy, kneel and face them sideways and offer him treats as you reach for the collar. Never call your dog if you are going to punish them. This will only teach him that it is a good idea to avoid you. Even if your dog has been up to mischief, always reward them heavily for responding to his or her name.

Head of Training at GoodPup, Kait Hembree, emphasizes how important it is to keep recall training fun. “It is critical that we work to ensure a positive and highly reinforced connection to our dog’s recall cue by working to balance the fun with allowing them to at times return to what they were doing originally when we called them,” Hembree says. “Always rewarding for their immediate response when cued; and making sure that the value of their reward is worth what they walked away from to come to us.”

Make it Fun

Here are some games you can play with your dog to reinforce recall training.

Can You Catch Me?: Go for a walk with your dog on-leash. Get their attention during the walk then turn around and run the other way. When your pup starts moving with you, say “come!” After a few steps, stop and reward your pup with a treat or a toy. Note: Before running, make sure your dog is paying attention to ensure they don’t get yanked by the leash.

Hide-and-Seek: A fun game for both dogs and humans is hide-and-seek. Hide from your dog in another room, then call out for them to find you. Once your pup finds you, reward them with praise and treats. This game should be played after your dog has the hang of recall.

Hot Potato: Get together with two or more friends and give each one a high-value treat. Take turns calling your dog between each of you, rewarding them each time they come to the person who called them.

Test Your Skills

Did you know “come when called” is one of 10 required skills for both puppies and adult dogs in order to complete the Virtual Home Manners title?

For puppies (3 months – 1 year), your dog must come when called from 10 feet away, inside the house. For adult dogs (4 months and older) your dog must come when called from 20 feet away or another room, both indoors.
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