Want to work on your puppy’s recall? Try this trainer’s simple running away game

Puppy running across a vast area of grass
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Teaching a puppy reliable recall is like giving them a superpower – the ability to come back to you, no matter the distraction. Unfortunately, the task of teaching recall is no easy feat and there can be many reasons why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable. Hence why starting training for it during puppyhood is a wise idea.

If you've ever tried chasing down a zooming pup on a walk or tried to get them to bring back one of the best puppy toys that you've flung them, you'll know the value of mastering the recall command. But the key is not just in the command itself, it's in making it a fun and rewarding experience for your furry friend.

That's where Jenna Pellerito, who runs the The Future is Force Free Instagram page, steps in. She's a professional dog trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement techniques, and she's got a simple game that can turbocharge your puppy's recall skills.

The game is akin to a game of tag. Pellerito suggests starting indoors, where there are fewer distractions. You begin by giving your puppy a tasty treat (some of the best dog treats will come in useful) and then, you run away from them. As you retreat, make sure your pup sees you and the treat, and when they catch up to you, give them another treat. Then, repeat the process.

To find out why this simple game has an impact on teaching recall keep reading. Also, don’t miss out on watching this training hack in action below as well… 

 Why does this work? "Naturally, puppies are inclined to follow us. When we move away from them, they will likely chase after us," notes Pellerito.

"This game uses your puppy's natural desire to follow and builds a reinforcement history for them coming to you," she notes, "Building a reliable recall is all about history of reinforcement, so build up that history while your puppy is young and wants to chase after you anyway.”

This game essentially teaches them that coming when called brings good things, turning recall into a fun activity rather than a chore.

But what if your dog isn't a puppy anymore? Pellerito clarifies that while this game is initially targeted at puppies, it can absolutely benefit older dogs as well. Building a reliable recall is all about building a history of positive experiences, and the sooner you start, the better.

Whether your pup is young or is a mature dog who struggles with recall, Pellerito's game can be practiced indoors to establish the basics before venturing out into more distracting environments like parks. 

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.