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How to train your dog to come

Recall training, otherwise known as teaching your dog to ‘Come here’, is arguably the most important command they need to learn.

It’ll help to keep them safe out and about on walks, and also improve their sociability and cooperativeness.

You will need:

  • To have your dog with you
  • Plenty of treats for rewards – toys may also work
  • A suitable harness and a training line/long line for your dog to wear

Schedule in some time to practice too. Training generally works better in short sessions, no longer than 5 minutes, multiple times per day.

Dog recall training, step by step

  1. At home, call your dog’s name. When they look at you, toss them a treat. Once they pick it up, call them again and when they look over, toss another treat in a different direction. Place this game regularly enough at around 10 treats per session and your dog will soon learn to look at you when you call their name.
  2. You should start to find that when you call your dog, they not only look at you, but come over to you too. When this happens, kneel down and open your arms in an inviting gesture with a treat in one hand. Your dog should come over and as they do, label it with the word ‘Come’.
  3. When your dog gets to you, use the treat-holding hand to get their attention. Gently take hold of their collar/harness and once you’re comfortable, you can feed them the treat.
  4. Repeat this a few times. As your dog gets better, try it from further away, from another room or in the garden, until your dog confidently comes to you when called. If your dog is a natural and responds to the basic recall at least 90% of the time, try getting a friend or family member to fuss over them (or even feed them) and see if you can call them away from that!
  5. When walking your dog, use a training lead/long line on their harness. This will give them freedom but prevent them from running off, too. Call their name and reward them each time they respond – and if they come over to you, reward them with even more treats!
  6. Be careful when you first let them off the lead – aim to do it somewhere safe, and well away from traffic and distractions (such as other dogs). Only let your dog off the lead outside when they respond first time to 90% of your calls.

And remember…

Stay positive – recall training will only work if your dog associates coming to you as something positive. Use a happy and excited voice. Don’t call them to you and shout at them when they get there, this will only discourage them from coming to you next time.

Use open body language – make yourself more exciting than the exotic-looking dog at the other end of the field or the interesting pile of dung they’ve just come across. Try kneeling down with your arms open, or running away from them (if it’s safe to do so).

When training your dog to ‘Come’, make sure to avoid:

  • Leaning over them
  • Sudden movements such as lunging or grabbing your dog

Need more info?

For more advice on your dog’s recall training, their safety out and about or any other aspect of their health and wellbeing, have a chat with your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.