Updated: Jun 17
Want your dog to listen enthusiastically when you call her? Make recalling easy, fun, and rewarding to start! The following games can help make it happen.
Keep each game short and sweet! Train for just a few minutes at most. (Even 1 or 2 repetitions is great!)
Call and Step
This simple game teaches your dog to move toward you when you call her.
Stand close to your pup.
Say her name in a bright, happy tone followed by "come" and then immediately take one biiig step backwards. (Name, come, step, treat!)
Offer her a treat at nose-height, right in front of your legs.
Release the treat when she gets to you!
Repeat until she is readily following you as you step backwards.
Then, do the same as above, but take 2 or 3 big steps backwards instead of 1.
Puppy Ping Pong
This game helps your dog learn to listen to multiple people and to start to be able to come when called from greater distances!
Have two or more people ready to train, all with the same treats.
Stand or kneel 6 - 8 feet apart from each other. Put your treat bag behind you, if you are wearing one.
The first person should call your dog’s name and then say "come" in a loud, happy tone. Then, encourage her to come to you. You can say "puppy puppy puppy!" or "good girl", anything but repeating your dog's name.
Reward her with several treats as soon as she arrives. Remember to feed close to your body, and in the middle of your legs. (To discourage future drive-bys.)
Gently take hold of her collar or harness and feed one more treat. (If your dog is uncomfortable with this, you may skip this step. If you notice any stress or aggression, stop play and let your trainer know so we can work through it!)
Now, another person can call her name, at which time you can let go of your dog.
The second person should repeat the same steps. You can then work back and forth between two or more people.
As your dog is successful, you can start to make it harder! Stand further apart, even out of sight!
Play indoors, then outdoors on leash or in a fenced area!
Call and Toss!
This is another easy, fun game! It lets you get in lots of repetitions really quickly and helps your dog build up a great pattern.
Call your dog's name and "come"! Praise as they come to you.
Give your dog a few treats for coming to you. (Don't forget to feed in front of your body, not on the side!)
Say "Okay, get it!" and throw one treat away from you so that she has to run and chase it.
Just as she's finishing eating, call her again!
Do several rounds where you call your dog, reward her, then toss a treat for her to chase, then call her back!
A personal favorite, this is a great way to add some extra speed and enthusiasm to your dog's recall! You'll need two people, a HOLDER and a RUNNER. (You can also play by yourself, see the last step.)
One person (the HOLDER) holds your dog by the collar/harness/chest. The other person (the RUNNER) approaches your dog, shows some treats or a toy and gets really excited!
Then, the runner starts running away, towards whatever place they want to call your dog. Halfway to the end goal, they turn and talk to your dog, then run the rest of the way.
As soon as they reach the point they want to call your dog from, they stop, turn around, and enthusiastically call your dog by name. "Name, come!"
As soon the holder hears the dog’s name, they let go! The runner should praise as she runs towards them!
Have a treat/toy party when she gets there! (No need to ask them to sit, this is about fun!)
Alternatively, to play with one person, call your dog, and then run away excitedly. Turn when you are ready (or when they reach you), and reward!
Moving to Real Life!
Once your pup is responding very well in these practice games, begin moving “come” to real life situations.
Practice indoors first. Wait for your puppy to be distracted in the house, then call her! Begin calling from further and further away, and with her being more and more distracted.
Practice in your yard, on leash. You can even start with a new game of Puppy Ping Pong.
Practice in your yard, off leash if your yard is secure and you would like your dog to learn to come when off leash.
Practice outdoors on leash, then off leash if desired. Always make sure your pup is welcome to be off leash wherever you choose to work, and that it is safe to practice. Remember, there is inherent risk in your dog being off leash. Don't train off leash if you don't feel comfortable with it.
Tips & Troubleshooting
Reward nearly 100% of the time.
Cheer your pup on! Help her maintain her energy and motivation after she starts running to you by praising her enthusiastically.
Never call your dog with “come” for something she doesn’t like. (For example, don't call her from playing outdoors in the yard and the shut the door and ignore her. Don't call her and then put her in her crate.) This will accidentally punish her and really weaken her response. Either go get her or encourage her to you with other words.
Don’t start off-leash work until you would bet $100 that your dog will come when called. That’s how reliable she needs to be before you start