Woman training dog

Q. I keep hearing about "recall" for dogs. Can you explain what this means and what the advantages are of teaching my dog recall?

A. A dog who has been taught to recall will, in the more commonly used term, “come when called” or leave what he's doing to come to his owner’s side. One of the top training goals for the majority of pet owners in my classes is to have a reliable recall on their dog, because there are numerous situations that require a canine to immediately turn tail and race back to the owner’s side.  

Why Recall Is a Valuable Tool

The most important reason to teach a recall is for emergency situations. Should your dog ever get loose on leash or run out of your house or yard, it’s critical that he will return to you when you call him. Dogs who do not come when called can easily get out of sight and become lost or find themselves in a dangerous situation. A reliable come when called response can help prevent your pet from being run over or lost, should he get loose. Unfortunately, our dogs are not genetically programmed to know that busy streets are dangerous, and many canines have been killed when they have run out in front of a moving car.

There are other, less life-threatening, reasons to have a recall on your pooch. Dogs need to be recalled in everyday situations; you should easily be able to call your dog into the house when he's out in the yard or have him return to you when off leash at the dog park or on a nature hike, for example.

How It Helps With Behavior Issues

Recalls are also a valuable foundational training behavior that can be used as a building block for changing other behavior issues, such as teaching an overly excited dog to calm down when playing with other dogs, or as the first step in getting your dog’s attention before you ask him to do something else. It's handy to be able to recall your dog away from an open jar of peanut butter resting on the table and give him a stuffed Kong to engage with instead.  

The reasons for teaching a recall are endless. Teach your dog to recall today — it might just save his life, and it will certainly make your life easier.