Teaching your dog to come back when they're called, or ‘recall training’, is essential if you want to let your dog off the lead safely.
Recall training protects your dog from getting lost and ensures you can get them back on their lead, or away from danger. It can also be a great way to build a strong bond with your dog.
Before you let your dog off the lead in a public space, make sure that their recall skills are reliable.
We’ve partnered with Dogs for Good to provide helpful tips and advice to teach your dog recall:
When to start recall training your dog
Start recall training your dog as soon as you get them home. It can take three to six months for your dog’s recall to be reliable, and some dogs find it easier than others.
Whether you've just brought back a new puppy, rehomed a rescue dog, or haven't considered recall training before, you can start now with the help of our basic steps.
Four basic steps for dog recall training
Keep your recall training sessions fun and short to give your dog the best chance of success.
Follow our basic steps to get started.
Step 1: Start at home
Home is a familiar environment for your dog and one that you have control over. Reduce distractions at first so they can focus.
Begin by teaching your dog its name. Once you’re confident you can get their attention, add in a short and snappy recall cue such as ‘come’ or ‘here’.
Grab some of your dog’s favourite treats or toys to use as a reward and make sure you are close to your dog. Call their name to get their attention and use your recall cue whilst stepping away from them. Keep your body language open, think arms out and welcoming, and give them a treat and plenty of praise when they come to you.
Step 2: Keep practising
Practise makes perfect. Work recall training into your day, little and often. If they get too tired, bored, or distracted to continue, pick it up again later. Make sure you give your dog time to think and respond.
Step 3: Reward them
It’s important that recall training is a positive experience for your dog. Treats and food rewards are great, but your dog may prefer their favourite toy, a game of tug, or a big fuss. Pay attention to your dog’s preferences.
If you’re using food, make sure it comes out of their daily food allowance to keep their diet balanced. Getting your dog to work for their food is a positive experience, and you can even use the kibble they enjoy for their daily meals.
Step 4: Keep it positive
Sometimes your dog may lose focus or get it wrong, and that’s okay. Don’t tell them off or get angry, come back to it another time.
The secret to great recall is positive reinforcement and repetition. Encourage your dog to come back to you by rewarding them every time.
Moving on with dog recall training
Mastered the basics? Once your dog is recalling well at home, it’s time to take it to the next level. From here, it’s all about getting creative and adding some distractions.
Step 1: Add distractions while training at home
Try moving around the room or having someone else there. Start small and build it up, this way you’ll help your dog to progress without losing focus.
Step 2: Move to a familiar space outside
Find somewhere outside that your dog knows well, a secure back garden is ideal. The sights, sounds and smells of the outside world are a distraction for your pup, so start again with the basics. Keep repeating, practising and rewarding your dog’s successful recall.
TOP TIP: Now is a good time to buy a 10-metre long-line lead and a harness. This will prevent your dog from running away.
Step 3: Adding more distractions
Once your dog has mastered step two, it’s time to progress further. Try an open field with limited distractions, such as a few people and dogs. Once they’ve got used to that, you can slowly make it more challenging.
If your dog is struggling to focus, take it back a step. They may not be ready to progress, so it’s not productive to expect them to learn new skills yet.
Keep your dog on the long-line lead until you’re sure they will return to you and don’t take any risks around other animals. Be consistent, all dogs are different and some take a lot more time.
What to do if my dog won’t recall
If your dog won’t recall, you may need to incorporate another element into your recall training. This will make it more fun and engaging for them, so returning to you is exciting.
Play a game of ‘find it’
When you recall your dog, throw a treat to the ground and say ‘find it’ whilst gesturing to the position of the treat. This will motivate your dog to sniff it out for a reward.
Change direction and ask your dog to follow ‘this way’
Try changing direction and saying ‘this way’ to encourage them to follow you. Practise this on a lead whilst on walks.
Play a game of ‘hide and seek’
In a quiet place, try slipping out of sight and calling your dog to follow your voice and find you. Tried and tested on children, this can work a treat on dogs too.
Go down to their level
Getting down to your dog’s line of sight can make it easier for them to see your open body language. Get to know whether this is something your dog responds to well and incorporate it into your walks.
Ask your dog for a hand touch or ‘boop’
Teach your dog how to perform a hand touch or ‘boop’, then include this in your recall. This is a fun way of getting them to work for their reward and brings them back by your side to put their lead on.
What if my dog runs away?
Try to remain calm and call your dog’s name and cue word. Your tone of voice and body language should be positive and relaxed.
Go back to the last place you saw them, as this is where they are likely to return to. Once they’re back, put them straight on a lead so it doesn’t happen a second time.
Your dog should always be wearing a collar with their name tag and your dog must be microchipped (this is required by UK law). This is vital for if your dog runs away or if you lose them when out and about. If someone comes across your lost dog, there is a chance they will take them to a local vet who will contact you directly.
Protecting your dog
Recall training helps keep your dog safe when out in public. Start your training at home, gradually bring in more distractions, and never be afraid to take it back to basics if your dog isn’t ready.
However well-trained your dog is, there will always be elements outside of your control. When the unexpected happens, pet insurance can help with vet costs and peace of mind.
At MORE THAN, we have different levels of cover to suit your needs and third-party liability comes as standard. If your dog goes missing, our Lost and Found cover could help you find them and ensure their safe return. This is included on our Classic and Premier cover and is optional on our Basic cover.