Dog won’t come when called? You need this trainer’s three steps for impeccable recall

Dog looking up at it's owner
(Image credit: Getty)

Learning to come when called is one of the most important skills your dog can acquire - but training a reliable recall can often feel more than a little challenging, especially when the world is full of so many exciting sights, sounds, and smells that your pup can't wait to explore.

There can be many reasons why your dog's recall isn't reliable, but thankfully expert trainer Piper Novick says that teaching this vital skill needn't be a frustrating task. In a video shared to Instagram, Novick shares her three top recall tips - and they couldn't be easier.

You'll want to make sure you have a bag of the best dog treats on hand for teaching this skill and it's important to also factor in that helping your dog master a reliable recall takes time, patience and consistency. Once you're ready to go, you can check out Novick's video in full below or keep reading for a summary of her key points.

1. Teach your dog clear criteria

"Make sure your dog understands what you want, and reinforce that behavior consistently," explains Novick. "Do you want your dog to come all the way to you every time, touch your hand, come to your side? Define your criteria and teach your dog what you want, then begin building reinforcement history for your desired behavior by rewarding your dog consistently for the correct performance. Don’t recall your dog unless you are going to reinforce the criteria set."

2. Make reinforcement available immediately

"When practicing recalls, have your rewards available right away when your dog does the desired behavior," Novick advises. "Recalls are HARD and your dog has a lot of competing motivators when off leash, it’s important that they know you will pay out when they arrive. If you don’t, they may get bored, leave and lack consistency with future recalls. Reinforcement for recalls should be consistent and continued."

3. Don’t over use your recall word

"Avoid overusing your recall word, remember if you call your dog you're asking for a specific behavior and saying it randomly or to call your dog across the room will weaken the skill. We also shouldn’t over use recalls when our dogs are enjoying themselves off leash, eventually your dog will get tired of coming back to you and may choose more fun activities. Don’t call them every two seconds. Recall when needed, pay your dog and let them go back to the fun!"

For more great canine training tips, be sure to check out our guides to how to stop a dog from jumping up and how to crate train a dog.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.