Has your dog's recall gone out the window? Trainer reveals three reasons why (and what to do to fix it)

A Chesapeak Bay Retriever evades being caught by his owner while on the beach
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Recall is one of those things that it’s important to get right, but it’s not always easy to do so. Even more experienced dog parents can struggle sometimes, because all dogs are different and what you tried with one dog might not be quite as effective with another.

And, there are some common mistakes that dog parents can make. Fortunately, however, they’re easily rectifiable — it could be as simple as changing your usual rewards for some of the very best dog treats

So, don’t worry, as professional dog trainer and behavioral consultant Amelia Steele, or Amelia the Dog Trainer, has explained everything we should know in a recent Instagram post. 

“Recall is actually an advanced skill which requires multiple layers of training in order to be successful,” Steele explains. She looks at three key areas that dog parents can sometimes get wrong, and why it’s important for us to know. 

1. You haven’t trained the foundational skills: “If you haven’t trained the foundation skills that go into recall training, you’re probably wasting your time with recall drills,” she says. To achieve a solid recall, it’s important to get the foundational skills in general training and communication, distraction training, and engagement right first. 

You might find these 27 practical tips for training your dog on your own helpful if you’re planning on going back to basics. Or, reaching out to a qualified professional trainer may be the right option for you. 

2. The rewards aren’t high-value enough: When a dog is distracted, recalling is quite a big ask for them, so it’s important to make it worth their while. If you don’t, they might learn that it’s not worth coming back to you.

“Often I like to incorporate fun rewards including play, scatter feeding, and chase,” explains Steele. 

3. You’ve poisoned your recall cue by accident: “Poisoning your recall cue happens when you use it in situations that are too difficult, or you overuse your recall cue, to the extent that your dog believes that recalling isn’t worth it, or is even a bad thing,” explains Steele.

This can happen if you punish your dog for not coming back to you, too. But, it’s not difficult to fix this. All you need to do is abandon your current recall cue for a new one, and start again. 

If recall is something that you and your pup are finding a little difficult, and you’d like some extra tips, you might also find this article useful: Three reasons why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable (and what you can do about it)

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats 
$16.89 from Chewy

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
$16.89 from Chewy
We gave these to our tester Isaiah for his dog Hayes to try. He reports back that they're his new favorite treat and are a suitable size for training. "He could and would eat the whole bag if allowed!"

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at DogTime.com, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.