1. Practice, Practice, Practice!
    • Recall is a learned behavior, just like everything we teach our dogs
    • Practice indoors first so the behavior is solid
    • Indoor / off leash recall – easy to get
    • Outdoor / off leash recall – must work and train for it
    • Make it FUN! If it’s fun for you, it’ll be fun for your dog!
  2. Use the highest value reinforcers for recall practice
    • Reinforcement makes behaviors strong… reinforce your dog!
    • Reinforcers most dogs love:
      • Hot dogs, cheese, Vienna sausage, chicken, steak, salmon, experiment and find out what your dog loves.
  • When your dog comes to you, reinforce for 15 to 30 seconds (without fail)
  1. Reward ALL check-in’s during other times of the day
    • A “check-in” is anytime your dog chooses to visit you on his/her own accord
    • When your dog happens to say “hi” to you, praise and reward with  a piece of yummy food, throw a party!
    • Reinforcing “check-ins” will help your dog to stay closer and check in more frequently
  2. Never call your dog for anything they don’t like
    • Constitutes punishment
      • Punishment decreases behavior
    • Examples:
      • Baths, trimming nails, teeth brushing, ear medication
        • If it’s is time for this, go get your dog – don’t waste your recall


  1. Never call your dog if you don’t think your dog will come
    • Example: chasing squirrel, playing with another dog
    • Don’t waste the cue
    • You want your dog to be successful
      • Success means dog earns reinforcement (something your dog loves)
    • Reinforcement increases the likelihood the behavior will happen again
  2. If you make a mistake on #5 “save” the recall
    • “save the recall” means:
      • Finding a way to encourage your dog to return to you so they earn reinforcement
    • Encourage your dog to move with you by clapping your hands, patting your legs squeaking a toy, running away from them
    • Never chase your dog…
      • It doesn’t work
      • Becomes a game to your dog
  3. Never repeat the cue… say it only once
    • Repeating the cue over and over creates “learned irrelevance”
      • Dog learns to ignore things that have no meaning
    • If you say your cue and your dog doesn’t immediately respond, find your “inner looney tune character”
    • Make yourself fun and interesting to your dog
      • Use a high voice clapping and squatting
      • Run away
  4. Never punish your dog if your doesn’t “come” to you
    • Who wants to return to situation that was uncomfortable?
    • Dogs make decisions based on what’s safe and what’s not
    • If you punish your dog, they won’t come to you or will be fearful of returning to that “scary human being”
    • Even if your dog ran the other way when you called him, lavishly reinforce and praise your dog upon return.
  5. Always give your dog a HUGE pay off!
    • Always use high value foods as reinforcers or
      1. If your dog loves Tug… play!
    • During the training process reward your dog with food to tug for 15 to 30 seconds each and every time they come to you
    • Once you’re in the maintenance phase of Recall Training, continue to reward every time your dog comes to you
      1. Food, toys, game of chase me. Whatever your dog finds rewarding.
  1. Maintain it after you train it!
    • 4 stages of learning
      • Learning to do the behavior
      • Getting really good at it, automatic
      • Learning to do it any and everywhere
      • Life long commitment to reinforce so the recall is strong
    • Practice in varied locations at least 3 times a week for LIFE
  2. Play hide and seek with your dog
    • Play indoors or outdoors in a safe fenced area
    • When your dog isn’t looking, (have someone else in the house hold the dog) hide behind a door, shower curtain, other side of the bed, a tree or rock outside (make it easy at first, you want your dog to succeed)
    • Wait for your dog to begin “searching” for you
      • Make a noise or call their name if they can’t figure it out
    • Celebrate with them when they find you… throw a party!
      • Lots of verbal praise, find your loony tune character, toys and treats
    • It’s fun for you, building their desire to find you, it’s fun for your dog!
  3. Recall and Release
    • Once your dog returns to you, reinforce and immediately release the to “go play”
      • Important so that the Recall doesn’t always end the fun

Starter Games for Recall

*Make sure the same cues are used each time*


Come When Called

  • Say the recall cue and give the dog a treat. Repeat this at least 10 times.
    • The goal is get the dog to learn, through association, the recall cue has value.
  • Next, use the recall cue and look for any movement from your dog. (ear flick, head turn, eye contact). Give the dog a treat.
  • Keep practicing this with your dog.
  • The goal is for you and your dog to understand the recall cue, when and how to use it.
    • Don’t let the cue become a bad thing, removing the dog from  something the dog is enjoying. Make sure to have fun with this and the dog will, too.

Treat Tossing Game

  • Toss a low-value treat away from dog, letting the dog eat the treat.
  • As the dog finishes the treat, say the recall cue. If the dog looks at you, deliver a higher-value treat close to your body.
  • Repeat, practice tossing the treats in different directions and distances.
  •  The goal is get the dog responding reliably to the recall cue.

Ping – Pong Game

  • One person says the recall cue and give the dog a treat.
  • The other person says the recall cue and gives a treat as the dog gets there
  • Repeat.
  •  The goal is get the dog responding reliably to the recall cue from each person.

Chase Me Game

Take advantage of your dog’s natural, genetic desire to chase

  • Your dog on leash, say your dogs name and when you have attention, turn and trot away from them as you say your “recall cue” in a very happy voice
  • As your dog starts to follow you, Click! And continue to encourage your dog as he moves toward you.
  • When your dog gets to you, put your hand on their collar and feed a treat
  • As your dog starts to get the idea, repeat their name, then run backwards several more steps.
  •  As they follow, say your “recall cue” then click when dog is moving with you the fastest! And treat (hand on the collar)
  • After you deliver the treat, reward heavily with tiny bits of reinforcers (yummy food) for a minimum of 15 to 30 seconds adding tons of verbal praise.

Make sure to start practicing in a no to low distracting environment

Move to slightly more distracting environment as your dog gains success

If your dog can’t handle the distractions – always go back to where your dog was successful then make the distraction between the two.

Graduate to using a long line vs the leash

Then add a distraction your dog has to pass successfully example a ball or person


We have a full online self-study course for this. Check it out here: