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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

A Step by Step Guide to Recall Train Your Dog

Updated: Jul 3

As a certified professional dog trainer, I've encountered countless frustrated owners who feel like they're shouting into the wind when calling their dogs. We've all been there: calling "here" or "come" repeatedly, only to watch our dogs sniffing around or chasing something intriguing in the distance. It's easy to understand why—they're dogs, and exploring their surroundings is part of their nature. But here's the good news: recall training doesn't have to be a battle of wills.


Imagine if coming to you became the highlight of your dog's day—something they eagerly anticipate because it's fun, rewarding, and strengthens your bond. That's the essence of effective recall training: making it irresistible for your dog to return to your side. In this blog, I'm here to share practical strategies and insights gained from years of experience, guiding you through the process of teaching your dog a reliable recall. Ready to embark on this journey? Let's make coming when called a game your dog always wants to win.

A dog recalling to their owner

STEP ONE: Say goodbye to shock collars and other aversive tools. These methods can make coming back to you a fearful experience for your dog, which hinders the training process. We want our dogs to return because it's rewarding and enjoyable, not out of fear of consequences. Positive reinforcement, like treats and praise, will make coming when called a fun and rewarding experience your dog will eagerly respond to.


STEP TWO: Prepare your treats thoughtfully. Choose a special treat, such as real meat or stinky cheeses, that your dog doesn't get often. These treats should be pea-sized to keep your dog motivated without overfeeding during training sessions. This way, the treat remains a powerful incentive for coming when called, making the training experience both effective and enjoyable for your dog.


STEP THREE: To condition your marker, either say your verbal cue ("yes") or click your clicker, then immediately feed your dog a high-value treat. Repeat this sequence consistently for about one minute. This repetition helps your dog associate the verbal word or clicker sound with receiving a reward, effectively teaching them what the marker means. This sets the foundation for clear communication during recall training, ensuring your dog understands when they've done something right and can expect a treat as a reward.


STEP FOUR: Now it's time to condition your recall cue. Choose a word like "here" or "come" as your recall cue. Set a one-minute timer and use your recall word ("here" or "come"), followed immediately by feeding your dog a treat. Repeat this process for the entire duration of the timer. Aim to practice this exercise at least twice a day for an entire week before starting formal recall training. This period ensures that your dog understands what the word means and establishes a strong association between the recall cue and receiving a reward. It lays a solid foundation for effective recall training, setting you and your dog up for success.


STEP FIVE: For this exercise, you'll need two types of treats: a low-value option such as your dog's kibble or a hard treat, and the high-value treat prepared specifically for recall training. Ensure you have your clicker, if using one, and keep your treat pouch handy.

Start by setting a three minute timer and taking a piece of the low-value treat and tossing it a short distance away from you. When your dog eats the treat and turns back toward you, immediately say your recall word ("here" or "come"). When your dog reaches you, click your clicker or use your verbal marker ("yes") and feed them a couple of pieces of the high-value treat. After your dog has eaten the treat, toss another low-value treat and repeat the process for the duration of your timer. Practice in different areas of your home to generalize the behavior—this helps your dog understand that the recall cue applies everywhere.

Repeat this exercise twice daily for one week. This consistent practice will reinforce the recall cue and build a strong foundation for future training sessions with distractions.


STEP SIX: Once your dog is reliably coming back to you inside the house with their recall word, it's time to move your practice outdoors. You don't need a large space; a deck or driveway will suffice. Avoid grass initially as it can be distracting for dogs. If you don't have a fenced area, practice with your dog on a 30-foot leash. Start by tossing the low-value treat away from you, when your dog eats the treat, use your recall word ("here" or "come"). When your dog returns to you, click your clicker or use your verbal marker “yes” and feed them a couple of high-value treats. Continue practicing this exercise outdoors, gradually increasing the distance and distractions once your dog consistently responds to the recall cue on leash. This step helps your dog generalize the behavior to different environments and reinforces their understanding of coming back to you no matter where they are.


By following this step-by-step guide for recall training, you can ensure that your dog will come to you reliably every single time. Starting indoors and gradually progressing to outdoor settings with controlled distractions lays a solid foundation for success. Remember, patience and positive reinforcement are key to fostering good behavior.


If you have any questions or need personalized assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us at jeff@bestbuddydogtrainer.com or text/call 301-231-1907. You can also visit our website and fill out a getting started form here: Best Buddy Dog Trainer Sign-Up Form.


Additionally, we offer a comprehensive recall training plan on Etsy, which you can purchase here: Recall Training PDF for Dogs on Etsy. This plan provides detailed guidance to further support you and your dog in achieving success beyond our personalized services. We're committed to helping you build a strong bond with your canine companion through effective training methods.








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