How to Teach Your Dog to Come When Called

How to Teach Your Dog to Come When Called

I'm planning on writing a post about each of my dog Remy's training issues.

You can see the full list HERE. I'll add links as I write the posts. (And I'm sure I'll add to the list, too!)

Which bring's me to today's focus: Coming when called. Also called “the recall” in the dog training world.

In Remy's defense, Josh and I have not put in much effort on teaching him to come when called so he's not all that great at it.

I know it's best not to call your dog unless you're 100% sure you can enforce it. So, I've been letting Remy off leash and then I wait for him to come to me on his own or I just go get him! Not exactly ideal.

So anyway, it's time we focus on this very important command. How are the rest of you doing with this one? Any struggles or suggestions to share with the rest of us?

How to teach your dog to come when called

I follow these strict rules:

  • Only say the command once. And I do use my dog's name. So it's, “Remy! Come!”
  • Do not call your dog unless you are 99% sure he will obey or that you can reinforce it instantly by “reeling him in.”
  • “Come!” means “Come to me and sit in front of me.” (It doesn't mean “crash into me” or “nip at me as you run by” or “dance around me just out of reach!”)

How to teach your dog to come

1. Set your dog (and you) up for success.

Start with the easy stuff.

I call Remy indoors in boring situations where I'm the most exciting thing so of course he's going to come when I call him. For example, if we're sitting in my home office and I call him, he listens. There's nothing else going on. Good boy!

Another “easy” scenario you can set up at home is to toss a treat, let your dog go get it and then call him and give another treat.

If your dog loves walks, call him before his walk. Loves to eat? Call him before you feed him.

And if he doesn't get too excited and start biting and jumping (like Remy does) you can make a game of calling your dog back and forth between you and a family member down the hall.

See my post: 10 ways to get your dog to come when called

2. Use a leash and treats and increase the challenge very slightly.

When you have a leash on your dog, you know you can reinforce it when you all him. So call him once and then “reel him in” if he doesn't come on his own. Then lots of praise!

If your dog is on a leash, you can start practicing “come!” with some mild distractions like outside on a walk or perhaps in your backyard.

Tip: Use highly valued treats when working on the recall. If your dog gets a real meatball every time you call him, don't you think he's going to have a pretty good recall? I normally don't use a lot of treats with Remy because he gets too excited, but I use them for coming when called.

Another tip: I don't tell my dog to “stay” and then call him because it encourages him to break from stay. Remy is still young and needs to work on a solid STAY command. If you want to leave your dog and then call him, I recommend you use a “wait” command. This is great for sports like agility too.

How to teach your dog to come when called

3. Buy a long leash about 25 feet long.

I just bought a 30-foot lead for Remy. I went with the Mendota brand, and I highly recommend it. I plan to use this for calling Remy outside in random areas so we can work on a little distance but I'll still be able to somewhat prevent him from running off.

30-ft dog lead

Make sure to wear gloves so you don't burn your hands. Even better, just step on the leash vs. grabbing it. Also, it's best to remove prong collars for this exercise in case your dog hits the end of the leash hard.

Over the weekend Josh and I took Remy to a park and practiced calling him back and forth between us while he wore the long lead. Remy had a blast! He thought this was a fun game, we were the ultimate rewards and he got some good exercise too!

Tip: Don't do this for too long or the dog might get bored or distracted. We probably practiced this for about 4 minutes. We stopped while we were all still having fun. Good choice.

Another tip: A retractable leash can work pretty well for this too if you have a mellow dog, a puppy or a small dog. It would be dangerous to use one for my powerful weimaraner, though. That would be like reeling in a tiger with a yo-yo. Someone would get hurt.

4. Practice! Practice! Practice!

The key is setting your dog up for success by not making the distractions too difficult at first.

The mistake many of us make is we expect too much too quickly. Instead, we should v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y over several weeks, months and years increase the level of difficulty only as our dogs are successful. So that means lots of practice in “easy” scenarios first. Every day.

For example, with Remy, I can call him indoors and he'll pretty much always listen. Outside at the fenced dog park he'll come when called if there are no other dog around and if I'm holding treats. If he's on a leash outside, he'll pretty much always come when called.

But, it's too challenging for Remy right now to come when called off leash in most scenarios unless the distractions are very mild (no other dogs around, we're in a fairly ordinary place, etc.) or if I'm holding a high-value reward such as hot dogs or a squeaky toy!

It's about knowing your dog and challenging them ever so slightly but also making sure you're both successful.

See my post: 5 mistakes people make when calling their dogs

Other tips for teaching your dog to come when called:

  • Don't call your dog for “bad” things like putting him in his kennel, trimming his nails or leaving the dog park. Instead, just go get him or wait for him to come to you.
  • Sometimes the best reward is more freedom, not praise or a treat. Call him, then let him go back to playing or sniffing.
  • Make a game of it – Hide in another room or run from your dog so you are the prize.
  • Practice for 5 minutes at least a few times per week. No need to work longer than that or the dog gets bored.
  • Sign up for an obedience class, either a beginning level if that's where you're at or a more advanced class.

What about really ‘stubborn' dogs?

I don't know that there are “stubborn” dogs but maybe just dogs that are very driven to follow their nose or to hunt. And then there's dogs that just love other dogs so much! And another problem is when dogs don't get a lot of off-leash freedom they don't want to return because the fun ends!

For problems like not coming when called around distractions like other dogs, squirrels, a dead bird, etc., what it comes down to is a solid foundation. Start from the beginning and if he comes 99% of the time without distractions, start adding mild distractions. Work up to slightly higher distractions, then medium, etc. And really up the reward any time you increase the challenge. Use hot dogs, pieces of real meat, that squeaky toy that makes him nuts, whatever it might be!

Heck, sometimes, it's worth it to let him have that freaking dead bird or to go back to chasing that rabbit or whatever it might be if he actually came to you! Sometimes it's worth it! (Yes, I know there are risks. You pick your battles.)

What about an e-collar?

I personally have not used an e-collar with a remote for teaching a dog to come when called, but I do have one we might decide to use for Remy. (I'm not sure yet.) We are going to be doing some hunting with him and his recall needs to be rock solid.

Do not think of a shock or e-collar as a punishment but more of a quick “tap, tap” like “Hey! I'm over here! Remember me?” You also have to remember to work within your dog's abilities. Just because he has an e-collar on, you still have to remember he can only handle certain distractions. Don't challenge him too much. It's not fair.

So what I would do with the e-collar is call your dog once. “Remy, come!” If he comes, great! Lots of praise. “Wooo!” If not, give one “tap, tap” with the vibration mode or low correction mode to get his attention. Then lots of praise when he moves towards you. It's probably best to have him on a long leash (25 ft) when you first practice this. The e-collar is actually a lot like a firm but gentle tug on the leash to get his attention.

Tip: Have your dog wear the e-collar for part of the day a week before you even turn the thing on. That way he's used to wearing it and won't associate a vibration or correction from the collar. Also, try the collar on your own skin before you put it on your dog so you understand the level of intensity. I always try it on the underside of my wrist.

So those are my suggestions for teaching your dog to come when called.

What tips would you add to this list. What's worked for your dog? Or do you have any questions?

Let us know in the comments! Always helpful to hear from others as we could all use some feedback at times. Clearly Remy and I could use some help too!

Mighty Paw Martingale Dog Collar Review

Mighty Paw Martingale Dog Collar Review

This post is sponsored by Mighty Paw.

Mighty Paw is a company that offers high-quality collars, leashes and other products for active dogs.

We recently received the company's brand new martingale collar for review, and you have a chance to review the collar too!

Everyone signed up for this month's $7 reward or higher on That Mutt's Patreon page (by Feb. 1) will receive a FREE martingale collar plus a new product every month!

Patreon is a site that allows people to support our blog in exchange for various ongoing rewards. Click here.

Mighty Paw martingale dog collar review

Remy in his Mighty Paw collar

My thoughts on the martingale collar

I like martingale collars in general. Most dogs can wear one as an everyday collar, and they also work as a training collar for dogs who need a gentle reminder not to pull.

A martingale collar will tighten slightly under tension but not enough where it could choke the dog. It’s also called a limited slip collar.

If your dog pulls or if you prefer to lightly tug on the leash to get your dog's attention, the collar will tighten a bit. When the tension eases, the collar will loosen again. For this reason, a martingale collar is a good safety collar for dogs who know how to slip out of or back out of a regular collar.

Mighty Paw martingale dog collar

A martingale collar has one loop that goes around the dog’s neck and a second loop used to tighten the collar under tension.

Mighty Paw's version is made of nylon and iron and also has a buckle so you don't necessarily have to slide it on and off your dog's head. When you have a wiggly weimaraner, it's nearly impossible to slide something over his head!

Ordering information – Amazon

The martingale collar is available on Amazon HERE.

It comes in black or gray and three sizes. Small: 12″ to 14″ neck (.75″ wide), Medium: 14″ to 17″ neck (1″ wide) or Large: 17″ to 22″ neck (1″ wide).

What's unique about this martingale collar?

Mighty Paw's martingale collar is very durable and functionable, and it looks great too.

It's made with weather-proof nylon, according to the company. The chain portion is made of 100% iron. I like the chain “sound” because my dogs pay attention when they hear the sound of the chain.

The collar features a D-ring option on the side so you can choose to clip the leash there and use it as a standard collar. Plus, the collar has reflective stitching for safety as the sun is rising or falling.


  • High quality and durable!
  • All around really nice product
  • Made with weather-proof nylon and 100% iron chain
  • Doubles as a standard collar with a D-ring
  • Reflective stitching
  • Looks great!
  • A nice “middle ground” collar. It gives you more control w/o using a prong or choke collar


  • Some people would prefer no chain (I like the chain, personally)
  • Not available for dogs with neck size roughly under 12″ or over 22″
  • Not a lot of color options (comes in black or gray)
  • A martingale collar may not give enough control over a strong “puller”

Would I buy this collar?

Yes. These are high-quality, functionable collars. It's the perfect training collar for my gentle Lab mix who needs a soft reminder to pay attention. It makes a great everyday collar for my weimaraner and hopefully someday it's all he'll need for training!

Ace in his Mighty Paw martingale collar

Would I recommend the collar to others?

Yes. I recommend a Mighty Paw martingale collar to anyone who needs a little extra control when walking their dog. For some dogs, a prong collar or a Gentle Leader is not necessary. A martingale is a good “middle ground” used by a huge variety of dog trainers.

By the way, if you're looking for a regular buckle collar (vs. a martingale), the company also has a really nice one HERE.

Giveaway – Get a FREE collar when you sign up on Patreon

Mighty Paw is giving away a FREE martingale collar to everyone who signs up for this month's $7 reward or higher on That Mutt's Patreon page.

Patreon is a site that allows people to support our blog in exchange for various ongoing rewards. Everyone signed up at the $7 reward or higher will receive a FREE martingale collar plus a new product every month! Click here. Limited to first 80 people and must sign up by Feb. 1.

Do you prefer a martingale-style collar?

Let us know in the comments!

Get Your Free ‘Derp On Board’ Window Sticker

Get Your Free ‘Derp On Board’ Window Sticker

Is your dog DERPY?

If your dog's anything like mine, sometimes you look at him and go, “Wow, that is one derpy lookin' dog!”

To celebrate the “DERPY” (or silly, awkward, goofy) dogs we know and love, we've partnered up with Mighty Paw to make 2,500 “Derp On Board” window stickers. And we want to send you one for FREE.

The stickers are 5″ by 5″ vinyl and can be placed on your car, window or anywhere else. (They peel off easily.)

To get your free sticker, just fill out your address with the form below, and we'll drop one in the mail for you. We'll also send you an exclusive offer from Mighty Paw.

Enter Your Email Below to Receive Your Free DERP ON BOARD Sticker

(If you have trouble with the link, you can also just email me at

Derp on Board

Would you like one of these FREE Derp On Board stickers?

Just use the form above to fill out your address or click here.

Win a Free Wireless Electronic Fence for dogs from Motorola

Win a Free Wireless Electronic Fence for dogs from Motorola

I’m giving away a Free wireless electronic fence system for dogs from Motorola ($279 value new).

Just leave a comment at the end of this post to enter.

I reviewed the Motorola WirelessFence25 and while it’s a great product I decided I should give mine away to someone who could use it. Since we live in an apartment, our wireless fence has just been sitting in the closet!

Would you use a wireless electronic fence for dogs?

I know some people get nervous when they hear about e-collars or “shock” collars. Just so we’re clear, the vibration from this particular collar is similar to a vibrating cell phone.

I tried it on myself first. Even on the highest level (which I tried on myself), it’s more startling than anything.

My own dog Ace was trained on an electronic fence system (different company) and this allowed him off-leash freedom on my parents’ lakefront property and large yard.

Wireless electronic fence for dogs

Ace got to be out and about with us playing catch, making campfires, grilling and just spending time together.

And since my parents have a long driveway, we set the fence's boundary far from the road so there was never the issue of Ace charging people and dogs who walked by (not that he would ever do that anyway!).

More details on the Motorola wireless electronic fence

This fence is portable!

The Motorola WirelessFence25 is a wireless, electronic fence you can use at home or for traveling. Think of camping, the beach, Grandma’s house, your son’s house or wherever.

Some of its key features include:

  • No wires to bury
  • Both the collar and base come with rechargeable batteries (You just plug them in)
  • 15 levels of corrections, including a tone only and vibrate
  • Packs into a convenient, small travel case
  • 50 flags for marking clear boundaries during training
  • Makes a warning tone before giving a correction

Read my full review here.

Giveaway – Win a Free Wireless electronic fence system for your dog

*The winner has been selected. Congrats, Brittany!

I’m giving away my gently used Motorola WirelessFence25 to one reader of That Mutt ($279 value new). Must have a U.S. mailing address to win and no P.O. boxes.

Wireless electronic fence for dogs Motorola wirelessfence25

To enter the giveaway:

Just leave a comment below so I know your dog wants IN on the drawing.

Double entry if you share this post on Twitter with hashtag #ThatMutt

Everyone signed up for the $7/mo level or higher on Patreon gets an automatic entry into ALL giveaways! Sign up here.

I’ll choose one winner at random on Friday morning Jan. 20 and announce the winner in That Mutt’s email Sunday morning. Sign up for That Mutt’s daily training emails here.

The wireless fence system comes with:

  • 1 collar & rechargeable battery
  • 1 base system and ground stake + rechargeable battery
  • 50 flags
  • 1 tester (helps confirm the system is working)
  • Instructions
  • Travel case

Would your dog like to win a wireless electronic fence?

Wireless electronic fence for dogs from Motorola

Let me know in the comments! Also, let me know if you have any questions on how the product works. And check out my original review here for more info here.


What is the Best Age to Neuter a Dog?

What is the Best Age to Neuter a Dog?

When is the best age to neuter a dog? It depends on the dog.

When to spay or neuter a dog is a personal choice between the dog’s owners and the dog’s vet (and sometimes a contract with a breeder or shelter).

There are pros and cons to spaying or neutering a puppy or dog of any age.

When I purchased my weimaraner puppy from a breeder I agreed under contract to have him neutered by 14 months, and that was OK with me.

Remy is 10.5 months now and I had him neutered on Monday. I thought it would be helpful for others to hear about my decision, and please feel free to share your own examples in the comments.

When is the best age to neuter a dog or puppy?

Personally, I wanted to wait as long as possible before neutering Remy because the newest research says it’s healthier for most dogs to remain intact as long as possible, ideally their whole lives. I'm thankful our vet keeps up to date with the latest research and he actually encouraged me not to neuter Remy at all.

What is the best age to neuter a dog?

With a larger breed like Remy, my main concern was the direct relation between early neutering and increasing the dog’s risk for joint problems and bone cancer down the road. Since my dog will be very active as my running partner and potential agility dog, I took this seriously.

I’ve already written well-researched posts on the pros and cons of spaying and neutering dogs. You can read those here:

Pros and cons of spaying and neutering a dog

Are rescue groups neutering puppies too young? Yes!

Health benefits of spaying and neutering:

  • For females, a spay surgery removes her uterus and ovaries, eliminating her risk of ovarian cancer, eliminating her risk of an infected uterus (pyometra) and reducing her risk of breast cancer.
  • For the males, remove the balls and you eliminate the risk of testicular cancer.

Health risks of spaying and neutering:

(This is just a short sampling. Read my full post with references here.)

  • Spayed and neutered large-breed dogs are more likely to develop bone cancer
  • Spayed and neutered dogs are more likely to develop hip dysplasia
  • They’re more likely to tear their ACLs
  • More likely to have adverse reactions to vaccines
  • Spayed females are more likely than intact females to have urinary incontinence.

It doesn’t take a doctor to figure out that hormone-producing organs affect many areas of the body beyond reproduction.

OK, but what about behavior?

My readers outside of the U.S. are shaking their heads now.

In so many countries, people generally do not spay and neuter their dogs and the dogs do not have behavioral issues. At least, not any more so than spayed and neutered dogs.

Do you notice that when a neutered dog is aggressive, his behavior is blamed on either the owner or a lack of training?

But when an intact dog is aggressive, his behavior is blamed on the fact that he has balls?

With my dog Remy, I would’ve neutered him sooner had I noticed any obvious behavioral issues.

We have not had any trouble at all with:

These behaviors can generally be managed with training, socialization and controlling the environment, but every dog is different. I do think spaying/neutering can at least help with managing certain behaviors. But it's not a magic fix.

With Remy, he unfortunately does try to hump ME on occasion when he’s excited, and he’s very “up close and personal” with sniffing people and dogs. He also humps Ace's dog bed.


I do hope these behaviors will decrease at least a little now that he’s neutered, but I’m not counting on it.

Best age to neuter a dog

Other factors in my decision:

By now I hope it's obvious there is no best age to neuter a dog or puppy. So much depends on the individual dog.

Here were some additional factors for me:

High activity with field training

Since we’ll be starting some more focused field training with Remy this winter and hunt tests in the spring, I simply wanted to get the surgery over with so he’d be recovered by the end of January for field training.

Cultural issue

In the United States, there are stereotypes against intact male dogs and they are generally not allowed legally in dog parks, off-leash dog beaches, dog daycares, etc. I board my dogs and I want Remy to be able to play in the dog daycare groups.

Aggression from neutered dogs

This was actually a big factor.

I’ve noticed the majority of other dogs tend to show aggression to Remy. It’s mostly due to his immaturity and explosive energy, but I have to think it was also due to him being intact.

People tend to blame the intact dogs for aggression, but it’s often the neutered dogs that are the issue. I notice neutered dogs show aggression around Remy, and that comes down to poor socialization.

Anyway, Remy loves other dogs and unfortunately most tend to posture and growl/snap at him or even bully him or try to attack him. I’m hoping now that he’s neutered other dogs will be more accepting of him.


It’s a myth that neutering a dog will decrease his energy, but hey, if Remy happens to have 5% less energy, I’ll take it! We’ll see.

What about unwanted litters and being ‘responsible'?

This was not a factor at all and is really a non-issue for San Diego.

We live in an area where there are not stray dogs running around, let alone dogs in heat. Most dogs are kept indoors as pets and are leashed in public. It would’ve been selfish for me to neuter Remy just to “prevent unwanted litters.”

It could've been different had we lived somewhere else, but the responsible thing to do in our case was consider the health and best interest of our own dog.

But enough from me.

Remy is recovering well and surprisingly it's been fairly easy to keep him quiet. But we can't wait until he can RUN again in a few days!

Now I'd love to hear from you …

What were the main factors in your decision about if and when to spay or neuter your dog?

What would you say is the best age to neuter a dog or puppy?

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