The Top 5 & 1/2 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Come When Called

Thanks 123rf for the photo

My Dog Won’t Come When Called, Unless He Wants To.

My Dog Never Comes When Called.

These are two of the biggest complaints I hear.

This is one of the scariest problems, because it often means dogs are running around wild, neighborhoods and are at risk for being hit by a car.  Dogs don't know they are in danger, they just think they are FREE and enjoy running around with no boundaries.

#5.  You Do Something Bad When He Comes

How often do people call their dogs and then trim their nails, or shove them into a crate or into the bath tub?

Dog’s don’t understand that these things need to be done.

And even if you don't do it often, it is what he remembers!

The dog associates his name or the word COME with negative things; and so he therefore begins to think that he would rather NOT come than get his nails trimmed!  If you need to do something to him that he isn't going to like, don't call him; go and get him!

#4.  He Gets in Trouble When He Finally Listens or Comes Home

People get furious when their dog’s don’t listen.

At first, when he charges out the door, you yell for him to “Come”; then you get frustrated when he doesn’t listen and yell again “Come”.

Next you’re really starting to get mad, or you are scared (which he doesn’t understand either).

He can hear the tone of your voice change and he realizes that coming to you isn’t going to be something GOOD; so he prefers running through the neighborhood and rewarding himself!

When he finally makes it home, or comes to you those last few feet, he often gets in trouble!

This reaffirms the fact that coming to you is sometimes bad, but running the neighborhood was FUN!

Remember that your dog is a dog, and he thinks like a DOG not a human, so he doesn’t associate the running through the neighborhood and ignoring you with getting beaten or in trouble when he gets home, he associates COMING to you with getting beaten or in trouble!

#3.  You Don’t Mean it Most of the Time

Never Chase Your Dog, it Only Reinforces the Behavior!

How often do you give this command without meaning it?

I often go to people’s homes for in-home training and hear owners say “Come, come, come” to their dogs either while they are in their in their homes or in their yards; and sometimes the owners don’t even realize their dog is not coming.

It becomes such a part of their normal lives for their dogs to ignore this command and other basic obedience commands!

But then it is as if it is some HUGE problem that they didn’t know they had when their dog finally gets a chance to be off leash.

After a period of time, you desensitize your dog to a command and it begins to mean nothing at all.

If you say “Come” and your dog doesn’t do it over and over again, eventually the command means nothing at all.

Consistency is the key, and for some people they need to realize they should not give the command if they have no control and their dog is unlikely to listen.

½.  You Aren’t Consistent

(This kind of goes with the previous problem).

Sometimes you give your dog a treat, sometimes you don’t.

Sometimes you mean it, sometimes you don’t.

Sometimes your dog gets in trouble when he comes, sometimes he doesn’t.

But either way, he doesn’t know what to expect.

The bad things or the negative things are often at the forefront of his mind.  If you give him a goodie 5 times but on the 6th time he gets his nails trimmed, goes in his crate, or gets yelled at; this is what he is liable to remember the next time he gets out.

This is More of What it Should Look Like

#2.  You Don’t Work on Regular Obedience Often Enough

If you are not working on having him

  • “Sit”
  • “Down”
  • “Stay”
  • “Heel”
  • “Come”  (use a leash or a long line and work outside if you need to!)
  • “Watch Me”

On a regular (I mean daily) basis then he is not use to listening to you and obeying you even in a normal not stimulating environment!

How do you expect him to listen to you when there are all kinds of distractions if you are not making him listen to you in the house when its only you?

Some people will say that their dogs listen in the house but don't come when called… but I bet they are not consciously working on dog obedience skills daily or even weekly in their house.

In order to expect your dog to be successful and listen to you when you give a command, you MUST work regularly on giving him commands and reinforcing them.

Even if he was once the star of dog obedience class, he still needs work!  Dog obedience is never over or done, it doesn’t matter how old your dog is his obedience needs to be polished.

If you don’t use it, YOU’LL LOSE IT!

#1.  You, Simply, Aren’t Rewarding Enough

YOU should be Fun to Come to!

You have to be more exciting than everything else he is giving up.

  • Is he chasing a squirrel?
  • Is he running after a group of kids?
  • Is he chasing a car?
  • Is he running toward the neighbor’s dog?
  • Or is he just running (if you’re not giving him exercise THIS is rewarding too)?

Are YOU… regular old boring mom or dad more exciting than all those things he would give up in order to come back to you and listen?

Chances are if he is not listening, you are not!

You HAVE to be the most exciting thing on earth to him, YOU (mom or dad) need to = Play and Fun in order for him to stop engaging his environment!

I almost ALWAYS reward my dog for coming.  I’d say 98-99% of the time (the other 1% is when I am in the shower ;).

You know how when you rattle the cookie jar or say “cookie” your dog comes running to you, no matter what he is doing?

This is what I want my “Come” command to mean.

I had a person disagree with me once, saying that intermittent reinforcement is a greater reward, than almost constant reinforcement (and of course jackpots) for something.

And, in some ways I agree; intermittent reinforcement is crucial to a dog’s learning and continuing certain skills, but we often don’t reinforce enough to make it worth it to our dogs to listen when we say come.

For Instance:

I want you to come and work for me.  I am going to pay you sometimes but not others.  So some days you will make $1,000 a day, and other days you will work for free.  Its up to me how often I want to reward you or pay you.  And, to make it interesting, some days I will double your pay ($2,000) but you won’t know which days are which.

At first, you might be really excited to come and work for me, if you think this is going to work out in your favor.  And in the beginning I really treat you well, and pay you for most days, and double your pay often.

But maybe a week or two goes by with me “expecting you to just do your job”, and you get paid fewer and fewer days and I may expect you to come in more or work longer hours.

Pretty soon, what seemed like a good deal is instead, not such a great deal.  You are actually getting taken advantage of instead.


I want you to come and work for me.

I am going to PAY you for EVERYDAY you work for me $20.00 an hour.   We agree on a schedule and hours.

Now, to keep you happy I give you a random BONUS every once and a while for coming to work.

I also give you the option to get bonuses and increase your pay if you do your job and learn how to do more things for me.

The more you learn the more I pay you.  But I also give you a bonus occasionally just for showing up to work (how about $5,000) but you never know what day will be $5,000 day.

I might even give you a paid day off here and there for no reason.

My guess is you will never, or rarely ever, miss a day of work and you will be extremely loyal.  You will do your work and probably never quit, if I treat you well!

This is What Your Dog Needs

My Dogs LOVE Homemade Liver Treats!!! They'd Drop Almost Anything for Them!

You need to figure out what the equivalent of a $5,000 bonus is for your dog.

He needs to KNOW he is not going to get in trouble, he needs to know you aren’t going to trim his nails, you need to be consistent and give him a treat EVERY TIME he listens to you when you tell him to come, you need to train and work with him so that he gets use to listening to you, and you need to jack pot him often (that $5,000 bonus).

If he thinks he might get a piece of chicken breast or you might play ball with him when you call his name or you call him to come; he might actually leave the squirrel.

If he thinks you’re mad, you’re going to crate him, you aren’t going to give him anything, and he is not use to listening to you anyway, he is never going to listen.

Do your dog a favor and start teaching him by playing hide and seek with him now that coming means great things and fun from you and that you are a good boss!  For more ideas on training your dog to come as well as on playing hide and seek and teaching him to come click here.

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  1. Lana Brown says:

    What a great post about dog training. Something I like the most is training your dog on the regular basis, means treating obedience regularly. This time to time training will surely help out the most I think. Apart from it, playing games with pet can also boost the sense of intelligence within them. Still, if you feel you need some more training tips for your puppy, go for specialist trainers that can help you to raise your puppy effectively in every field.


  2. Barbara Fitzgerald says:

    Great article on training the recall and training tips in general. For working on training recalls and long down stays at a distance, has an obedience training gift basket that includes a 20′ lead, clicker and training treat related products. It’s a good starter set for someone who does not have an enclosed yard, and needs to maintain more control over the dog at a distance.


  3. Jan Cook says:

    Rewarding with treats every time after a come command really works! However I have a 120 lb 12 month old Leonberger who has a “delay problem”. If she is not busy doing something she nearly always comes right away. However if she is barking at the neighbor(who arms himself with a golf club because he is afraid of dogs), or running after a car, she continues her quest, and then suddenly stops and runs to me. I have to reward her because she did come but it’s a little late… I give her lots of love and a treat if she does not initially run after the car. If she found a carcass of an animal or something else tasty, she just looks at me and ignores the come command. How do you get her to want to stop and come immediately?


    Minette Reply:

    She needs to be on a leash or in a fenced area if she is not listening.

    I would never let her bark at that neighbor because I wouldn’t want him to shoot or poison her at some point (and people do this ALL the time).

    And car chasing can end her life as well. Keep her on a leash, put her on a long line and help her listen faster!! I like playing hide and seek in the house too, but she should not be off leash.


    janet amighi Reply:

    Hi Minette
    Thanks for an interesting conference call lastnight. Could you send me the link for your 12 Christmas games?

    I play hide and seek, with my oneyear old and 9 yrold. I put them in a stay and then hide. I shout come once and have to admit, my9 yr old finds me and 1 yr old has a harder time so he sticks to her. I will try cheerleading to help him.

    She’s studied nosework for two years and can find birch or other spices in amazing place places.

    One morefollow up thing- I amhavingtrouble switching toys because Cicero my young boy, considers a dropped toy his to chew. If I had two new toys, perhaps If Ido’t askfor a “give” the toy will be dead in ten minutes. small dog, strong teeth.


    Minette Reply:

    Here is the link

    and in this blog there is a search tab on the right hand side of the page so you can search for articles or if you are having problems etc and articles will come up. You just may have to surf down through some a bit.

    Some dogs love to shred toys. I like tough toys and of course using two and teaching my dog to drop it 🙂

  4. Rebecca says:

    we just moved into a new house on seven acres. we have a puppy that is two months old and when we are outside he won’t come. We just found out that our neighbor shot someones dog that was on his property and called them and said your dog is in my driveway come get him. I really don’t want that happening to my puppy! how do I train him to know our property boundries? He will come when called while we are inside but not outside, do I just need to keep giving him treats?


    Minette Reply:

    keep him on a leash until he is old enough to learn all of the basics and off leash obedience; probably he will need to be a year or so old.

    Until then it is up to you to keep him on a leash or in a fence area and safe. And work on his obedience several times a day!


  5. Cathy says:

    I am getting two golden retriever, male puppies in early April. I have purchased Chet’s course. Some people are saying it is impossible to train two littermate puppies of the same sex. I had a moment of weakness about losing my 10yr old golden, Bailey to cancer. I have 5yr old twin daughters and I wanted to ease the loss for them. Any advice?


    Minette Reply:

    Two puppies is a thousand times the work!!! Just know that going in and make sure to separate and train!


  6. Tom says:

    Hi Minette,

    I have a 20 month old Airedale terrier. I started to train him early, but I fell very ill for quite some time. Interestingly, he is somewhat well trained. However, where the rubber meets the road – when he sees another dog or critter – he won’t come when called. My guess is that I need to start him over from level one to get him completely responsive. Is this accurate?


    Minette Reply:

    Yes, he needs to be started over with a firmer foundation on come and not allowing him off leash to reward himself by chasing or greeting other critters.

    I also like to teach my dogs eye contact and focus!!


  7. jackie says:

    I’ve explored different dog training methods since i adopted my 3 yr old irish terrier from the shelter 2 weeks ago. I like this system because it’s kinder. I put the prong collar on her yesterday for the first time and walked her around the house. I also left it on the entire day as they recommended. when she begged at the table, i gave her a little tug and asaid “no” I noticed 2 things. Even with a little tug, it worked but she quit making eye contact with me and by late afternoon, she was chewing and biting herself like she had fleas. The chewing and biting stopped as soon as the collar was taken off.
    I’m going to work with her with the clicker. She has baggage from her previous environments. She hates other dogs, lunges and wants to fight. She is afraid to go outside on the tie out. She goes to the door wagging her tail when asked if she has to go outside , but when the door opens she puts on the breaks, after i attach the tie out, i have to pick her up and put her outside the door on the porch. Sometimes i have to put a leash on her and walk her around the yard to get her to do her business, this is not always possible. She huddles pressed to the door when left outside. I think she needs more confidence and her aggression to other dogs might be a fear issue. She does pretty good with the cat. do you have any suggestions on what to do about her fear of going outside?


    Minette Reply:

    Take treats and fun outside.

    She has to learn to be outside and that rewards come from going out. I suspect that bad things happened outside like corrections and fears.

    To help she needs to have positive things happen outside.

    Instead of a prong collar I would recommend a gentle leader


  8. jackie says:

    Thank you for your advice. She definitely needs to learn that only good things happen here. She responds well to going outside with the treats. I give her one with praise when she comes out the door on her own. and another when she goes off the porch to the grass. Most of the time I stay outside with her occasionally saying ,go toilet. Sometimes she just won’t go, walks around and goes back up on the porch. I let her in then and wait a little while and take her out on the leash and walk her around the yard, again with treats, then she usually goes. I just had the brainstorm today to click and praise when she went toilet and gave her a treat. Sometimes it’s like she is afraid to stay squatted to go pee, she squats for a second and then starts walking and peeing. I think she’ll adjust, she’s been here only 2 1/2 weeks.
    There is a lot for a new dog to get used to. My neighbor has 2 huge dogs that are housedogs but are tied out to do their business. My neighbor and I try not to tie our dogs out at the same time, since they lunge and snarl and bark at each other. There is no fence between us. When they’re not out, she always looks for them.


  9. bret says:

    I have a 6 month old puppy that I’ve had for a week. When I call her she runs. No toy, food or praise will get her to come. If the room isn’t big enough to run away she sits or lies down and completely ignores my call. I offer her treats that she likes but doesn’t respond. She doesn’t play with any toys yet and myself and the family have done nothing but show her affection and love. We haven’t punished her or shown any negative reinforcement towards anything. The same dog however will also not leave my side in that she follows me everywhere I go in the house. When I sit in a room she sits next to me, but If I stand up and walk to the other side of the room and call her she will not come no matter what I say or offer her.


  10. Ellen Green says:

    I have a very sweet rescue dog. She is very compliant with just about everything,
    except she is very scared about noises. She will sit on a dime,but won’t come when I call. She just looks at me. She doesn’t try and run away so I know she is not trying to avoid me. When I get to her she turns on her back and let’s me do whatever I need to, such as putting on her lead.


    Minette Reply:

    Make it more fun.

    My dogs run to me… because I am the holder of all things good. Work on becoming that rock in your dog’s life and she will come.


  11. Ron says:

    I have a Maltese mix that has adopted us, he is not aggressive and does not try to bite when handled. He acts afraid when we try and approach him and runs away for about ten feet but stays close. How can we gain his trust to come when called.


  12. Mandi says:

    Fabulous to see most questions are answered. This is a great service to all dogs. Thank you!


  13. Kathleen says:

    Great read, I started working with a trainer over 6 months ago it’s been so fun, I walk my girl daily and since then we picked up a abandoned pup on side of road now I have some training skills he’s such a good boy, I have a dog walk purse, it carriesy water bottle, collapsible water bowl , poop bags and yes treats,I do not treat my dog food each time, but I always give love and praise, and yes even treats happen, they love training and I love any positive tips


  14. Dog Lover says:

    Yeah, my dog and many others have that problem. As mentioned in this article above, I’m ONLY guessing that your dog thinks “come” = “end of playtime”. Let your dog play with another dog for 15 minutes or until the dogs have had the edge worn off them. Stand as close as you can get to your dog, and call him, ONE TIME. (Your dog can hear you fine, I promise!) Show him the “wonder treat” you have for him and stand still. Don’t make any move toward him when he comes (even if you’re just trying to pat him, he may think you’re trying to grab him), just let him have the treat and tell him he’s a good boy. Do this about 100,000,000 times, and slowly increase you distance so the dog can’t see the treat (but make sure it’s ALWAYS there). Remember, the key is, let your dog go back and play after you’ve given him his treat. AND MAYBE ON THE 100,000,001th TIME, CALL HIM AND CLIP HIS LEASH (most dogs hate being grabbed by the collar) ON HIM. Take him away and give a short 2-minute attention session afterward, so that he knows playtime just had a partner switch, it never ended. Remember, you have to do this EVERY TIME YOU PLAY WITH ANOTHER DOG, AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK, AND WITH THE WONDER TREATS AT ALL TIMES! Be patient, and wishing you well!!!


  15. Darrin Halliday says:

    My dog is great inside and on a long line, but as soon as he tastes freedom on the golf course the only way to get him back is to walk back to the house and have him follow. Otherwise he will chase geese 300-600 yards away and won’t come back unless he see’s me walking away. On a long line he plays perfect fetch. I reward him with multiple types of treats to keep him guessing and excited.

    I can’t take my dog anywhere without having him on a leash. 🙁 It’s terrible


    Minette Reply:

    It is because he was allowed to figure out that ignoring you and running away is better than listening to you. You have to change that.


  16. Christina says:

    I have a 2&1/2 year old Jack Russell I’ve had him 6 months I got him from a rescue charity, he is brilliant at home, it appears he had never been on a lead or socialised, I walk him regularly he’s ok now socialising, but pulls so hard on the lead I have tried everything I know to no avail, he seems to go deaf outside when on the lead, I’m st my wits end I don’t know what to do. Can you help please.


    Minette Reply:

    search our free articles for leash manners and leash training


  17. Chris says:

    My 12 week old puppy was doing real well coming when I said “come” and gave him a treat. Now he won’t, especially when he’s outside. I think it’s because he knows he has to go inside. Any suggestions ?


    Minette Reply:

    Use a leash outside and make the puppy come when you say come, go inside and then maybe let the dog back outside so there is less conflict


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