5 fun recall games for dogs who don’t come back!

black dog and owner playing recall games for dogs

If teaching your dog a recall feels almost impossible, you might be wondering if your dog is just too stubborn to ever reliably come back when called. 

I’m sharing some of my favourite recall games for dogs with you today, so you can look forward to having a dog who bounds back to you happily the first time you call!  

Finally enjoy the sense of pride and freedom of having an off lead dog you can trust. 

Let’s get started. 

Why your dog ignores recall

Before we dive into our fun recall training games, I want to share one of the biggest mistakes you might be making which is making teaching recall hard. 

If every time you recall your dog it means the fun stops – your dog will begin to ignore your recall cue. 

Put it this way, if every time I called you all I did was moan and talk about myself… would you eventually stop picking up the phone? 

Probably. Because you wouldn’t be getting any enjoyment from my phone calls. And this is exactly why using recall games is a game changer for mastering reliable recalls. 

Dog training games are 

  • Fun
  • Rewarding
  • And make being near you a joy! 

5 recall games for dogs

Let’s get stuck into my easy-peasy recall games that’ll have your dog coming back to you every time you call. 

1. Find the treasure recall

This is a brilliant recall game for when your dog is distracted. Instead of calling your dog on repeat, grab some tasty treats and start hiding them on the ground. 

You’re about to become the best partner in crime for your dog! Show your dog what an awesome hunter you are by helping them find the treasure treats. 

Step 1: Hide the treats

Step 2: Call your dog to come see the treasure you found

Step 3: Release your dog to return to what they were doing

This is doubly great because it stops you poisoning your recall cue. Whatever word you use to recall your dog, it’s important that they don’t practise ignoring it. 

For the treasure recall game, use a different cue, I use ‘treasure.’ This prevents your dog from ignoring your recall cue if they’re not into this game. 

2. Hide and Seek Recall

Wait until your dog is distracted, but don’t wait for them to be running hell for leather up to a group of other dogs! 

When we’re training anything new, we need to make it easy for your dog to succeed. 

Step 1:  Pick somewhere quiet when you first start playing this game. 

Step 2: When your dog’s sniffing around ignoring you, hide!

Step 3: Call your dog to come find you

Step 4: Give your dog a tasty treat and release them to continue sniffing

Not putting your dog on the lead every time you call them back to you, helps to build reinforcement that coming back to you does not mean the fun stops. 

You want your ratio of returning to be put on the lead vs returning to you for something fun to be heavily weighted in the fun direction!

Grab my free guide to teaching a rocket fast recall here 👇

Free Recall training page

3. Recall using toys

You don’t always have to use food rewards for recall training. Using toys for training allows you to replicate natural behaviours your dog enjoys, which can strengthen your bond AND your recall. 

If your dog loves running off to chase things or is off in search of a playmate, toys are an effective way to get their attention. 

Step 1: Keep you dog’s favourite training toy for walks only

Step 2: Build value in playing tug or fetch with you with no distractions

Step 3: Don’t wait til you NEED to recall your dog to play – play sporadically during your walk

Tug-E-Nuff makes awesome dog training toys that tap into your dog’s natural instincts and use them to your advantage in training. For dogs who like to chase, their chaser toys are my go-to. 

Chaser toys for recall

For food motivated dogs, their food toys help you build a desire to play. And for dog’s who love to rough-house with other dogs, their squeaky tug toys can be just the attention grabber you need!

4. Slot machine recall

If you’ve ever played a slot machine, then you’ll know that part of the buzz is not knowing whether you’ll get one coin or a fistful of coins flooding out when you win. 

Slot machine recall keeps your dog guessing in the same way. Keep your dog guessing how many treats they will get when they come back by mixing up your rewards. 

This is a great recall game for dogs who come close but sprint off again the second they’ve snaffled up their treat. 

When it comes time to put the lead on, sprinkle a handful of treats on the ground to keep your dog busy and sweeping up the big reward whilst you put their lead on. 

5. Being close is fun

Whilst not exactly a recall game, playing games that include a retrieve build value in being close to you. 

I don’t recommend ball chuckers or intense games of fetch, as they can heighten your dog’s arousal levels, encourage ball obsession, and aren’t great for your dog’s joints. 

Instead, try a powerball tuggy which you can throw and play tug with, really maximising the value in being close to you… and curbing your dog’s ball obsession! 

Get more fun recall games and all my tried and tested techniques for mastering recall in my online recall training course here.

My top tips for teaching a reliable recall

  1. Reward your dog generously when they ignore other dogs (both on lead and off)
  2. Use a longline until your recall is reliable
  3. Don’t be stingy with your rewards
  4. Use your recall cue ONLY when you know they’ll respond

Download your free guide to teaching recall below, it’s packed with more training tips that’ll transform your dog’s recall. 

Free Recall training page

Wah! My dog’s just too excited to listen!

If your dog is uber excited outside, then playing some easy scentwork games can encourage calmer behaviour. 

Grab some treats and scatter them around in a quiet area to help your dog work their brain and nose, and watch those adrenalin levels come crashing down. 

I recommend using a long line training lead until your dog has learned a strong recall. This keeps your dog and others safe while you’re training. Learn how to use a longline lead safely here. 

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Becky Milne East Coast Dog Training with Border Terrier

Hi, I’m Becky

I’m an ethical and positive dog trainer who wants to help you create a fantastic relationship with your dog.

I offer fun and effective dog training that makes you WANT to train.