Dog trainer reveals her golden rule for recall training (we can't believe how simple it is!)

Dog walking alongside owner in a sunny field
(Image credit: Getty Images/AJ_Watt)

A solid recall is one of the most important skills for your dog to have. Not only can it protect them from dangerous situations, but it also allows you to enjoy off-leash walks together where it's permitted.

We understand that this isn't always the easiest thing to teach (even if you have the best dog treats to hand). Whilst some dogs might respond well to recall, others might completely ignore you or take a little longer to pick it up.

If you want to improve your dog's recall and make it more reliable, you've come to the right place. Lisa Burton, an award-winning dog trainer, revealed her golden rule for this in her recent Instagram post. To find out what it is (plus three exercises to try at home), keep on reading:

Lisa explains whilst lots of dogs respond to their owner's call, they only do it for a short distance before they walk off again. To resolve this, you want to teach your dog that being close and responsive to you is valuable. 

So, how do you do this? Whether you're waiting for the kettle to boil or for dinner to cook, Lisa recommends finding moments within your everyday routine to drip-feed this message to them - like playing a game together.

She says: "The key to a powerful recall is adding powerful value to super close proximity. In fact, this will not only help your recall training, but it'll transform your lead-walking too!"

Here are some simple (yet effective) games that you can try at home which are recommended by Lisa:

1. Middle

Middle teaches your dog to position themselves in between your legs.

With one hand, lure your dog behind your legs. With the other hand, grab a tasty treat and attract them through the middle of your legs. When they do it, say 'middle' and reward them with the treat.

Dog standing between legs

(Image credit: Getty Images/Chris Amaral)

2. Catch

This one's our favorite, just because how simple it is. It's another great way to teach your dog to stay close by.

Lisa says: "Teach your dog to catch kibble sporadically dropped from your palm."

Dog looking up at a treat in owner's hand

(Image credit: Getty Images/dit: sanjagrujic)

3. Nose touch

The nose touch teaches your dog to put their nose onto your hand on cue, which is another great way to improve their recall.

To do this, make sure your dog is relaxed then get them to focus on your hand. When they touch it, mark this with 'yes' and give them a reward.  After they've got the hang of it, you can add a voice cue by saying 'touch' as you show them your hand. 

Dog touching owner's hand with his nose

(Image credit: Getty Images/.zeljkosantrac)

Lisa says: "These games all build value in your dog being incredibly close to you, rather than simply loitering nearby; and the more value you add to that behavior, the more readily your dog will offer it."

Enjoyed this? Check out these related features: Three reasons why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable (and what you can do about it) and 32 quick and easy tricks to teach your dog.

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If you're thinking of trying out these games, then you'll need some tasty treats on standby. We gave these to our tester Mike to try out on his dog Rocky, who "loved" them. He says that they are a good size for training and  these were a firm favorite out of all the treats he's tried in the past.

Megan Milstead
Staff Writer

Megan is a Staff Writer on PetsRader, covering news, features and buying guides. She has a wealth of experience looking after animals, having grown up with dogs, cats and horses all of her life. She’s particularly interested in pet happiness and behavior, which she loves to research in her spare time. You’ll often find her watching webinars on reactivity in dogs or researching cat body language. She loves going the extra mile for her cats Chilli and Nala (who also help out with testing the best products for our buying guides). 


Megan studied BA Journalism at the University of Westminster, where she specialized in lifestyle journalism and was editor of Smoke Radio’s online magazine. She also graduated from West Herts College with a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Journalism. Before joining the PetsRadar family last year, she worked on the editorial team at Harrods and has spent most of her career writing for specialized titles, like RunningShoesGuru, Licklist and Mr. After Party. 


Megan works alongside qualified vets and accredited trainers to ensure you get the best advice possible. She is passionate about finding accurate and helpful answers to your pet-related questions.