Recall training not working? These three reasons might be why, according to a trainer

Dog not responding to owner on a walk in a field
(Image credit: Getty Images/Jian Fan)

As important as recall training is, it isn’t always successful. If your dog sometimes struggles with recall, you’re definitely not alone – but we know that doesn’t make it any less disheartening!

However, when it comes to recall, there are some really simple fixes. So, if your recall training isn’t working, you might only need to switch up a couple of things (bringing in some of the best dog toys, for instance) to turn it around and see some real success.

In a recent video, professional dog trainer and behavioral consultant Amelia Steele, or Amelia the Dog Trainer, has outlined three reasons why people often struggle with recall training their dogs. We’ve been taking a few notes…

1. Your rewards aren’t fun enough: “Food is fine, and you can take something high value, but is that really enough to motivate your dog?” questions Steele.

She compares a high-value treat (like a piece of chicken) to the prospect of playing with other dogs, or checking out other distractions or smells – your pup might choose the latter over the food, even if it’s one of their favorites. Instead, Steele recommends mixing up the treats and rewards you offer your dog, and making it fun by scattering it around or bringing one of your pup’s favorite toys with you.

2. You’ve never taught your dog simply to listen and exist around you: While your dog might be good with recall in a quiet field, for example, but find it more difficult when there are other distractions in a busier environment.

This isn’t an issue with recall itself, however. As Steele explains, “This is a general listening issue. You have to teach your dog to just exist around distractions and be able to listen in general before you can expect any hope of them listening to your recall cue.”

3. You’re overusing it: Yup, sometimes it can just be as simple as that. “I see so many people that are just calling their dogs constantly when their dog’s doing fun and exciting things,” says Steele.

In this case, all your dog will learn is that recall means coming away from desirable or fun things. Instead, try letting your dog know that you’re ready to leave and keep walking, for example, so they can catch up to you. Keep your recall cue for when it’s really needed, and make it more valuable and rewardable for your pup!

For more recall tips, you might find this article useful: Three reasons why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable (and what you can do about it).

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Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. 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.