Getting Your Dog to Come Reliably- a Podcast

dog recall

Getting Your Dog to Come Reliably- a Podcast

Get the podcast here:  Getting Your Dog to Come Reliably

Hey hey everybody Sammy the dog trainer here on this lovely fall afternoon. Today’s podcast is sponsored by a generous donation from one of our listeners.  I shamelessly encourage you too to support small veteran owned business by clicking on the button to support this podcast or checking us out on Then you too can have your very own especially dedicated podcast.

Gary from Tampa, FL wants to know, how to I get my dog to come when called?  Now that is probably one of the most frequent questions I hear as a professional dog trainer.  It’s also huge safety issue.  Your dog is not safe unless he or she is completely reliable on his or her recall.  The recall is what the obedience world calls the “come command.”  They’re one and the same.

Now to start off with I am going to remind you about one of our doggy teaching paradigms.  Everything in dog training is a function of time and space.  That’s nice Sammy.  Go back to nerd land where you belong. OK.  So the time part is pretty self-explanatory, so we won’t get into that.  The space part in teaching the recall gets a little bit more complicated.

So every good foundation in dog training is built in little increments, small baby steps.  So when I set up a dog to have a bombproof recall, I start at the very bottom and work my way up.  What does that mean?  It means I start with a standard 6-foot lead.  I practice having my dog come and sit in front of me before being rewarded.  Sitting is crucial in this exercise because you want your dog to come and sit not come and fly by you like a jet powered dog plane.  So you start at the beginning instilling the habit of coming and sitting.

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Now space also involves the environment in which you are practicing with your dog.  The least challenging is usually inside with no distractions.  The next step up is inside with maybe a distraction or two.  Distractions can be anything from the radio blaring to another dog or person being around, maybe the kids playing, that kind of thing.  The next step up in difficulty is most likely the backyard with no distractions, then the backyard with some distractions, then the front yard.  Eventually you will work your way up to large enclosed spaces.  I say enclosed because technically you are not supposed to have your dog off the leash in an unenclosed area in public.  That and if your recall is not bomb proof, it’s not a good idea to let your dog run free.  And it’s not usually legal.  So avoid that.  Cool.

Now you start with the 6-foot lead.  That way if you dog does not want to come you can reel him in like a fish.  Then I graduate the dogs I work with to a 30-foot tracking lead. 30 ft tracking leads are usually used for dogs who are doing area searches to find a track.  They make these big sweeping circles and arcs until they zero in on the track that they’re trying to find.  Having the 30-ft lead allows the dog space to work but keeps them still attached to the handler because when they find the scent, the dog will want to pull in that direction and the handler needs to be able to stay with the dog.  Anyways, we can use the 30-ft lead for our purposes as well.
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I usually recommend letting the lead drag on the ground and keeping a hold of just the end of it.  It is a bit of a hassle if it gets tangled on objects but there’s nothing to be done for it, it’s just something you have to work around.  The reason I let it drag is to give the dog a sort of sense of being un-tethered while he is still technically on a leash.  Practice come and sit.  Use the leash if you have to, but maybe only a tug in your direction to get his momentum going and then verbally encourage them the rest of the way.  Come!  Good come!  Come!  Alright!  Yay!

Only reel them in like a fish if you have to.  If you tell your dog to come, the end result MUST be he comes.  That’s why we work on the leash first, then graduate to off the leash.  You have to have hundreds of repetitions of this before you attempt off lead.  Now this is for several reasons.  The first is just plain old behavioral conditioning.  The second is the next step up in the allowed space, if you will, is gained through the use of an electronic collar.  I like electronic collars because you can reach out and touch your dog from far away.  That is invaluable.

(*This is not an endorsement of CBD oil.  Check your local laws and with your veterinarian before the use of any supplements.)

Now, don’t jump to conclusions before I explain the ins and outs of how I use it.  If you do the legwork first, on the 6 foot and then 30 foot leads, you should not have to ever shock your dog.  I use electronic collars with a beep and vibrate mode as well.  The vibrate mode does not hurt.  However, you have been conditioning your dog up until this point to understand that NO, when you say the word No, means something undesirable or bad.  So when you hit the vibrate button on the collar and say NO, your dog learns to associate the vibrate with something unpleasant even though it is not in and of itself unpleasant.  You built this up by using the leads, and saying NO when your dog did not come when called, and you pulled the lead at the same time that you verbally said NO.  Again, like in all things, use your judgement.  Don’t fling your dog around and use an appropriate collar for your dog’s age, size, breed, and temperament.  Now you transfer the word NO to the vibrate of the e collar.  Now vets call e collars something else- or Elizabethan collars otherwise known as the cone of shame.  In dog training, it refers to the electronic collar, so don’t confuse the two.

Ok so now you have your charged e-collar ready to go.  I like to secure it snuggly on the side of the trachea so it isn’t swinging around and annoying your dog. If you try to put it right on their trachea stuff starts to get a little wonky, so don’t do that. If you have a super long coated, fluffer dog, you can also secure the receiver on the back of the neck.  Again, not too tight but not too loose, so it’s comfortable but still works.  If you want a recommendation for the e-collar I use, check out the Recommended Dog Products Section of my website

Alright so you’re ready to go with the e-collar.  Think about your space again.  Start off inside with no distractions, then graduate to the backyard, and then maybe an enclosed park, working your way up.  Now there is a learning curve for a dog to start to understand that the vibrate is you correcting your dog and how to get the correction to stop.  Because before you couldn’t get them and now suddenly you can.  Usually the dog tries to hide or find a home base if you will, cause the vibrate weirds them out.  It’s easier to get through this learning curve in a smaller space, usually inside.  Sometimes the dog will try coming to the first person she sees rather than the person calling her as well.  This is all completely normal.  Keep telling your dog to come- if they do it immediately, yay!  Reward.  Don’t touch the e-collar buttons.  Woo hoo repetitions and behavioral conditioning.  If they don’t, then hit the vibrate button and say NO at the same time.  Then repeat the command, COME.  Keep doing the NO and vibrate, then command, until your dog gives up and finally comes to you.  Then celebrate because you just won a very strategic battle.  Your dog has suddenly realized the annoying vibrate and correction will not stop until he or she does the command.  Everyone is going to starve to death and the vibrate will not stop until she does what she is supposed to do.  Tada! Obedience!

Now try working in your backyard.  You’re increasing the challenge of the space in which you’re working.  Then maybe add distractions.  Eventually you will work your way up to the dog park, which is like the super duper most difficult level.  It could be raining hot dogs at the dog park, my dog will immediately drop everything and come when I call him.  It’s not because he’s abused.  It’s not because I have a bag of cookies I’m rattling at him, or he’s super emotionally clingy or anything like that.  It’s because we’ve done this exercise over and over and over, hundreds of times.  That is what behavioral conditioning is.  Your recall, in order for your dog to be safe, needs to be conditioned into them.

Ok so here are some tips to get your dog to come more reliably without having to resort to a NO and a correction.  Use a command voice.  COME.  It’s not scary, because nobody wants to come to Darth Vader, but it’s not wishy washy either.  It’s distinctive and energetic and clear.  You want it to be fun to come running back to you.  Pay your dog for doing well. But Sammy I don’t ever want to be prepared and reward my dog.  I don’t want to give him a cookie.  Well you can reward your dog other ways, but don’t be lazy.  Pay your dog.  Good behavior needs to be rewarded.  Verbally fawning on your dog is fine until you guys get inside and you can dig out their favorite toy or cookie.  But at the very least, mark the behavior in the moment, right as it’s happening, with a happy voice and pets!  That way your dog knows they did a good job and they will get paid eventually.  Nobody wants to work without pay.  Speaking of which… haha…check out that support this podcast button…just saying.

Other tips include either crouching down or backing up so your dog gets to chase you rather than you chasing her.  Crouching down is a super inviting stance, and a lot of dogs who would not come at the first recall command will actually rethink and come if they see you crouch down.  Make your training sessions fun.  Incorporate playing- either with a ball or a tug toy or whatever floats your dog’s boat.  Only work for 10-15 minutes at a time, even less if your dog is a young pup.  If your dog is not succeeding make the steps easier.  Close the distance or work some more in the less challenging environment.  Dog training isn’t necessarily a linear process.  Dogs have good days and bad days just like people do.  It’s normal to progress and then regress a bit.  Don’t be too hard on your dog or yourself.  Learning is like that, three steps forward, two steps back type thing.  Embrace it!
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Sammy, that’s nice and everything but I think electronic collars are evil even if I only use the vibrate modes.  Ok.  Your dog is your dog.  You can decide to use whatever training methods and equipment you want on your own dog.  That’s the beauty of it.  It’s your dog.  Now, as a dog trainer I can make recommendations.  I think technology is sometimes a great way to get your dog to learn faster.  You can get a pretty reliable recall with just a leash and controlling the space.  It will just take a lot longer.  But that’s your prerogative.  Now, I will say electronic collars have improved leaps and bounds in the past couple decades.  They used to be pretty heinous, but now their voltage and whatnot is regulated.  There is a specific threshold for pets, another one for cattle, and I think there is a separate level for exotic or zoo animals, but I’m not 100% certain on that.  Using a vibrate on your dog is going to hurt a whole hell of a lot less than your dog being hit by a car.  But then again, if you do not do your homework before hand, the electronic collar usage can be disastrous if you don’t know what you’re doing.  I always recommend getting the advice of a reputable trainer before using unfamiliar equipment with your dog.
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If you’re in the Tampa area, you can hire me to come and do doggy lessons at your house.  If you’re not, I have long-distance options on as well or you can contact me at

Ok, so we tried to tackle a monstrous topic in this single podcast.  I think we’ve gone over the basics of bomb proofing your recall.  So to recap, that’s think about your space as you work up.  Start with a short lead then graduate to a long lead.  Then, if you choose, graduate to an electronic collar.  Make it fun.  And use your command voice.

Alright that’s all the time we have for today.  Looking forward to having you guys join us for more doggy discussions.  Get out there and train your pooches!  I’m Sammy the Dog Trainer.  Cheers!


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