How to Get Your Dog to Come When Called, First Time, Every Time!

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a word you could use, and your dog would immediately about face and head straight back to your side?

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Emergency Recall Training That Could Save Your Dog’s Life.

Image of a dog coming when called

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a word you could use, and your dog would immediately about face and head straight back to your side? Wouldn’t it be good to know that in an emergency, you could call to them and they would unfailingly, unquestioningly, instantly return to you?

Well there is a way to get your dog to immediately come when called, and it’s easier than you think to get them to do it.

In this post I’m going to share the strategies with you that I use to train dogs to come to me first time, every time I call. I can say with certainty this technique will work with every dog, even the ones with the hairiest recall issues. This routine (if practiced for a couple of minutes each day) will work with even the most willful dog (and I’ve met a few of those in my time!). It will even help improve overall recall in dogs who aren’t as responsive as you’d like when you want them to come.

Teaching your dog emergency recall begins with choosing a short phrase that is to be used in emergencies only. This phrase is to be used only when disaster is imminent, such as an allergic dog chasing a bee, or they’ve ninja’d out the front door towards the road when an unwitting visitor left it open a crack. This is not a phrase that’s used when you’re standing at the back door in the freezing cold in your nighty and slippers and doggy has found a smell infinitely more exciting than coming back inside quickly where your warm bed waits.

Image of a dog coming when called

1. Choose a simple emergency recall phrase to use.

When choosing a phrase, make it different from the one you usually use to call them to come. It needs to be significantly different from the one you usually use to get them to come for things they like (such as food or treats), or more importantly, the things they don’t like so much (such as leaving the exciting play area to have a bath). Include their name in the phrase so they know you’re addressing them, such as Fluffy QUICK or Muttly NOW. Make it short, sweet and easy to remember, for both you and the dog. You can also use a specific whistle, just ensure it’s something you have with you at all times.

2. Get yourself some supercalifragilistic treats.

We’re not talking ordinary kibble here, we’re talking roast chicken, cheese, finely sliced steak, caviar, whatever it is that really floats your doggy’s boat. Just make sure you avoid people food that can be harmful or toxic for dogs.

3. Call your dog and get hold of their collar.

Start training in their own back yard where they are unleashed and comfortable. Call your dog when they are close by and when they come, get hold of their collar. Your dog needs to understand that part of the training involves you getting hold of their collar, so in an emergency situation you can safely leash them or hold them back from danger.

4. Shower doggy with love, treats and praise.

When you have them safely in your grasp, hold their collar for long enough to make a huge fuss of them, give them their treat, pat them some more, tell them how wonderful they are and give them another treat. You want them to associate this command with the most desirable outcome they can possibly imagine. One that’s more rewarding than chasing cars, agitating wasps or making a beeline for a large, snarling, stiff postured dog with obvious aggression issues.

5. Let them go back to whatever it is they were doing.

This is a very important part of the process. When they’re called with their every day word such as ‘come,’ the results vary from fun (food, treats, walk) through to positively unfun (leaving the dog park, inside, bath). For many dogs ‘come’ becomes a signal that the fun is going to end, which is why the standard command loses its authority in the first place. You want your dog to learn that this magical command will never disappoint them. It’s all about love, a huge fuss and the greatest treats known to dog.

6. Rinse and repeat.

This training is best performed little and often, once a day for a few minutes, every day. Once they get used to coming immediately in their own back yard, try it in many different circumstances, with ever increasing distractions so you can be sure they will come no matter how intriguing they are. Try it at the dog park, the beach and the forest. Try it with family members and friends. Mix it up, little and often so doggy knows it will work in any given situation or location.

7. Make it fun.

As with all training, make sure your dog has the time of their lives with it.  You can reward with their favourite game and lots of love and praise in a pinch. If you are caught out and about without treats and have to use the command, make sure you make a huge fuss and remember later to repeat the command with treats.

Have fun, and stay safe out there!

Photo of Lesley Huntley

Hello! My name is Lesley, and I run VIPets Dog Adventures. It’s nice to virtually meet you!

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