The #1 Mistake Teaching Your Dog the Recall Command

Dad, in an agitated voice: “Come, Junior! Come! Come here, Junior!.”

Dog, excited to see dad: “I’m coming, dad!.”

Dad: “You bad dog! Come here and look at what you did! BAD DOG! NO! You bad dog! Get out of here!.”

Dog, confused: “What’s wrong?.”

Next time, Dad calls Junior to him, Junior hesitates. Why? Because Junior is unsure. Then dad raises his voice, repeatedly yelling at him to come. Junior pauses, he goes into a submissive posture.

Teaching your dog to come to you when called is a valuable command for your dog to learn, especially in case of an emergency where you will need to have your dog by your side. 

Reliable Recall – The Number 1 Mistake

The BIGGEST mistake you can make when teaching a puppy or dog to come to you when called is associating that word with anything negative. What do I mean by that? Well…if your dog learns that coming to you when called means something bad or unpleasant is going to happen, he’s not going to want to come.  

For example, here is a Don’t Do List when you are training him to come when called:

  • Don’t say ‘Come’ if you are going to punish him or reprimand him in any way. Such as when he gets into the garbage, has an accident, chews something he shouldn’t. 
  • Don’t say ‘Come’ when you are going to bathe him if he hates baths.
  • Don’t say ‘Come’ if you want to clip his nails, but he fears getting his nails clipped.
  • Don’t say ‘Come’ if you are going to put him in a room for a time out.
  • Don’t say ‘Come’ repeatedly. Say it once or twice but not over and over again. Don’t sound like a pity broken record! It diminishes the value of the command. Just because you repeat a command over and over again does not mean the puppy will finally understand it!

Positive Associations with Practice

You want to make the action of coming to you more valuable than not coming to you by rewarding her with a high-value treat and praise when she comes when called. Eventually, your affection and praise will be enough.

A few positive associations are using the come command at feeding times, before you go on a walk, and when you are about to play. Practice with a high-value treat. Once you’re comfortable with their progress, then start adding in distractions. If at any time, they regress in their training then back up. Go back to the point where they were consistent and start from there again. You should be able to judge the pace by how your puppy or dog is doing. It’s okay if you need to go back with the training and stay at a certain level long before you decide to move on. 

Go at their pace, not yours. This is where you must exercise patience. Not all dogs learn at the same speed. You may have had a dog at one time that picked up the come command quickly, but it is unfair to assume that your current dog will do the same. It may take longer. Each dog learns differently.

Practice in short increments. Several short sessions with breaks in between is more effective than one long session. Always end on a positive note.

If they don’t come to you, DO NOT punish them for it. To prevent this, you can first work with a leash attached to their collar. Start with a few steps, call them to come to you. Gently guide them to you with the leash if they do not respond to you holding out a treat. But usually, the treat in your hand is enticing enough for them to go to you. When they reliably come to you, then extend the leash to a longer distance. After that, you can practice without a leash. If they do not come to you, you can calmly walk over and get a hold of their collar and slowly encourage them to the spot, then praise. 

An indirect way to teach them to come to you is every time you see them coming towards you; you say the word COME. When they reach you, reward them with a treat and lots of praise. 

Extra Tidbit, the Chase Game – Don’t play the chase game where you are chasing them. If you develop a habit of always playing the chase game where you are the one chasing your dog, it can become a dangerous situation if ever a day comes where you will need to go to your dog to keep him from harm. You don’t want him to think you’re chasing him to play when you’re going to him to protect him. Especially if you are not confident yet that he will come to you on command. If you haven’t mastered recall yet, then play the game by having him only chase you. 

With a little patience, consistency, and self-awareness, you can make it a fun and rewarding experience teaching reliable recall. The important thing is not to get frustrated and punish them for not coming to you. Your dog will appreciate you for it.  

One thought

  1. All these years, she’s been getting it wrong! That was a very clear, concise, and so easy to understand lesson! I think there’s going to be some changes in this house. Thank you Samson!❤🐶


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