Long ago when I was first training and working with dogs I learned the recall. Recall is basically the word for calling your dog and then they come.  But I learned the absolute worst way to get your dog to come to you, by anger and brut force. This was almost 35 years ago and some trainers still use these caveman ways of training. Looking back it is no wonder that people deal with the behaviors that go along with this type of training. The method was as such; we would put a dog on the end of a long leash, put them in a stay and walk away. Then turn around, face your dog and call them, encouraging them all the way. But, if they didn't come we were to yank them in, in a serious and firm forceful way. Ya, that really made them want to come in to us.

I honestly don't know what people were thinking back then, I know I didn't know enough to know any better.  I, like the other people in my class were listening to our teacher who we thought knew all this stuff. The harder we yanked the harder our dogs tried to stay away from us. Why on earth would a dog willingly walk into an attack situation? They wouldn't, it makes perfect sense to stay away and the association to the word "come" become a bad one.

Okay, enough looking back lets go forward. My dogs all come nicely even Luke and I have never yanked, hit or even grabbed them to do it. I teach all my dogs several verbal cues for coming to me. Some are very casual and don't mean that they must come right to me, others are very serious and mean get to me now or else. Now you might be wondering what my "or else" is. I know alot of people who know me and know my training methods can't wait to hear what my "or else" is. I'm such a positive trainer, what if my dogs don't come?  What do I do?

First your dog must know what "come" means, you can't enforce something if they don't understand it. Enforcing unknown commands is just unfair training at it worse. Once your dog is perfectly clear about what "come" means then you can enforce it.  If my dogs do not come to me I go and get them.  Using an upright posture I very clearly head in their direction.   Depending on the dog that I am communicating with at the time is the degree of seriousness in my body. If you use too much for your dog may just turn around and run and that does you no good at all. So you have to be careful with your "or else". What you want to tell your dog is that if you do not come when I call you, I'm coming to get you. And you must teach them the difference between not coming and coming. There must be a clear difference, its great when you do come you get hugs and kisses and lots of praise and in the beginning, the best treats.

Training for a recall should start right away, once you have taught your dog their name the next most important thing is to come. You start in your home by calling and rewarding. Its as simple as that. My word come means to come near me, they don't have to come and sit unless I give the sit command as well. They rarely get a treat but they do have to come. I have a built in whistle which means the same thing and they all come to it, they really seem to like that one. My serious word is "here" and that means you better get to me right away and sit. For my Jack Russell is often meant a treat because she has such a movement trigger that I often have to compete with that. My poodles still get a treat now and then to keep the word a powerful one.

Once your dog starts to understand what come means you start getting some distance between you and your dog. Going outside while your dog is inside and calling them. The most important thing in training a recall is to NEVER associate a negative to your word. Dogs are highly intelligent and if there is something bad about coming, they're not coming. Coming should always be a good thing. So watch how you use your word, be very careful when you use it and if you need to do something like put your dog in a crate or leave a park use another word like "we're leaving" or "kennel" but don't tarnish your "come" word.

As I watch people train and see some of their mistakes some of the biggest are not enforcing. Telling your dog to stay and then not enforcing that they stay or to come and not making sure that they come. Dogs learn that you don't mean a thing you say so they do what they want basically. This is where you can make or break your training. My boy Luke likes to push and often will see how not coming works for him. I will call and see him give me that sideways "I'm too busy to come" look. One harsh sound from me to let him know that I'm not allowing his "not coming" and he is on his way.

Then he gets the snuggies he loves and I love!


  1. You make it sound so easy, Sherri, but "come" is the one command we have trouble with. Normally Edward will come, if he's not doing anything in particular, but if he sees something more interesting, he'll just ignore us calling.
    The big problem is that he will sometimes slip his lead and run away from us. No matter what we try to call, or how we call (angry, funny, happy) we can't get his attention. He is off like greased lightning.
    If you have some advice for us, we'd really appreciate it.

  2. Years ago I learned to use a different word to get the attention of my dog or puppy to get them moving towards me, then use "come" when they're firmly within my reach to enforce what I want.

    I used "Treat!" to get their attention, which worked best when they're line of sight and I'd have a treat in hand to wave for them to see. This technique has worked so well for me and been invaluable. I can now call my 1 year old off a squirrel, dogs in the park, many different distractions. She comes flying at me at top speed whether I have a treat or not.

    I used this same technique with a super high prey drive doberman which worked most of the time. The one time it failed, was when she went after a herd of deer and her brain completely shut off. I got a small window where "treat" got through and she high tailed it back to me. That is, as much as a doberman can high tail.


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