Dog Training: How to Teach a Dog to Come When Called

Updated: 3/15/20242-4 minutes

Training your dog to come when he’s called is the most important command you can teach him.  

Getting your dog to stop what he’s doing, turn around, and come back to you can keep him out of trouble and may even save his life. In this article, we’ll show you how to train your dog to come when he’s called.

Why Won’t Your Dog Come When Called?

Getting your dog’s attention is the key. If your dog won’t come when called, one question to ask yourself would be, “Does my dog know his name?” If he doesn’t look up or respond when you call his name, he doesn’t understand the name refers to him. Start teaching your dog his name by repeating it when you give him treats and praise. But technically, any verbal command that gets your dog to pay attention will work for this training. 

The second, and most obvious, reason your dog won’t come when you call him is that he hasn’t thoroughly learned the recall or “Come” command, so he doesn’t respond to it when it's used.

Thirdly, the world is filled with interesting sights, sounds, and smells that will attract your dog. To encourage your dog to come back to you during training, you must make that experience more interesting or rewarding than anything else out there. Use the most delicious treats he loves or his most engaging toy for training. With that kind of positive reinforcement, your dog learns coming to you when he’s called usually leads to exciting things.

What is Dog Recall Training?

Learning to come when called is a crucial skill for any dog. The “Come” or “Here” command is known as “recall” by dog trainers, and teaching your dog the command is called recall dog training.

Through practice and repetition of the recall command, your dog will learn to drop what he is doing and come to the sound of your voice, whether he can see you or not.

Below you’ll find six steps from the pros at Purina for the best way to train your dog to come when called. You can view the tips in action with this handy video.

How to Train a Dog to Come When Called 

This is one of the basic commands for dogs, and every pup should know it. Before you begin your first lesson, get your dog’s favorite treats or a toy and a clicker. Clickers are used to mark when your dog has successfully completed the desired behavior. If you don’t want to use clicker training for the recall command or don’t have one, you can use a vocal mark, like “Yes” or “Good dog,” instead of the clicker. Just make sure to use your voice marks consistently. 

Step 1: Start with treats

  • Toss a treat to your dog
  • Gradually move a few steps away from your dog
  • Pro tip:
    • Begin training indoors to avoid distractions

Step 2: Say your dog’s name and say “Come” once

  • Keep moving a few steps away from your dog
  • Lure him with a treat Use the clicker when he approaches
  • Pro tips:
    • Don’t “poison” the cue!
    • If you say the command or cue word (“Come” or “Here”) over and over, it will lose its meaning to your dog
    • Clapping or patting your lap are also good ways to encourage your dog to come towards you

Step 3: When your dog comes to you

  • Use the clicker and praise him when he gets to you
  • Then, give him a treat or his favorite toy as a reward
  • When the desired behavior has been executed, click, and then reward
  • Pro tips:
    • Use the clicker or praise him when he comes toward you to mark the good behavior
    • Remember to use the clicker or give the correct vocal mark first before giving your dog the reward
    • Be sure not to overuse the clicker or it will lose its meaning

Step 4: Keep practicing 

  • Repeat the steps above
  • Pro tips:
    • If your dog doesn’t get it right away, don’t punish him or he’ll start to associate the punishment with the command
    • Just start over

Step 5: Expand the distance slowly

  • Keep expanding the distance between you and your dog
  • Do this in your home or backyard, or on a long leash if you’re in public
  • Pro tips:
    • Long training leads can be helpful outside
    • Let your dog roam on the lead for longer and longer distances before recalling him

Step 6: Keep practicing

  • Once he gets the hang of it inside, move the lesson to where there are more distractions
  • Expand the distance and increase the level of distractions slowly
  • Pro tips:
    • Work on distance and distractions independently at first with shorter distances and more distractions or longer distances and fewer distractions
    • Use a long leash when you first begin training outside
    • Work with a second person who can hold your dog by the collar before you call him
    • If you’re working off-leash, don’t attach the leash each time he returns or he’ll associate the command with the leash and going home
    • Another option is to attach the leash and detach it at once
    • That way, your dog won’t know whether attaching the leash means it will stay on

You’re on the right track! Remember it takes patience, repetition, and commitment to teach your dog this command. Once you’ve trained your dog to come to you when you call him, you’ll both be safer and happier.

For more expert tips on training your dog, explore our dog training page.

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