How to train a Stubborn Dog to Come

how to teach a stubborn dog to come, how to train stubborn dog to come,  how to teach your dog to come

Just because the dog is not giving you the response you’re looking for, doesn’t mean he is a stubborn dog! Recall training can be tricky not only for dogs, but for humans too. If you really think about it, how often have you gone back to your Mom the instant she calls you? Not complying every single time does not make you stubborn, does it? So why term our dogs “stubborn” when they choose to not to comply immediately? Training a stubborn dog to come involves a little more TLC. For more tips on how to teach your dog to come, read this blog.

Why is your “stubborn” dog bad at recall?

In a nutshell, stubborn dogs aren’t bad at recall. Their motivation just lies somewhere else. Think about it this way – if a dog can be tenacious for a bad thing, we can always turn it around and channelize it to something more desirable.

Your dog may seem stubborn to you because in that moment, they’re driven by their instincts or an external motive way more than the reward you are offering.

Eg, An Afghan Hound not wanting to come back to you is not acting stubborn. They were developed and shaped by the need to course game across mountainous terrain. A reliable recall was never a part of their work. Hence, an Afghan Hound ignoring a recall cue is acting purely out of instinct and not spite. 

2 ways to recognize what motivates your “stubborn dog”

  1. Note their natural inclination towards certain activities

The first step towards recognizing a dog’s natural instinct is to study about their breed. What breed is the dog? What was the breed originally bred to do? What kind of behaviors are the breed genetically predisposed to? Knowing the answer to these questions is fairly helpful in thoroughly understanding your dog’s likes and dislikes.

Eg – A Blood hound that was originally bred for coursing work may not pass on an opportunity to track a scent to come back to you for treats. However Golden Retrievers who are classic people pleasers may come running to you from miles away for a piece of raw chicken liver.

Recognize the kind of activities your dog has a natural inclination to and use these as rewards while trying to build a solid recall with your dog.

  1. Experiment with different types of rewards

Sometimes, what excites your dog at home may not even catch their attention in a distracting outdoor environment. Dogs seek out excitement and motivation through different things and experiences in different situations. It is vital to know what motivates your dog when training them in any scenario.

If your dog is food motivated, make use of low value and high value treats in different situations to keep things upbeat and exciting. Some dogs are more play driven than food. Make recall into a game for such dogs and watch your progress accelerate in no time. 

how to teach your dog to come

Step by Step guide to train your stubborn dog to come to you every single time

Building a reliable recall with your stubborn dog may take some time, patience and a whole lot of consistency. Do not expect quick results. Consider recall training a marathon, not a sprint. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you work with your dog on a solid recall. These are not tips to pick and choose, but steps to follow in the course of your training. Make sure to cross all of them off.

  1. Using the right cue

Use a differentiating cue that you will be consistently using only for recall. This not only helps the dog learn and remember the command more effectively but also efficiently generalize it in different places.

Using a clear and audible cue in dog recall training is vital for ensuring clear communication, enhancing safety, providing freedom, and improving overall obedience. If you have been repeatedly using a cue for recall which your dog has is habituated to ignoring time and again, consider changing the cue and starting over with a new one.

  1. Start at home

Introduce the cue at home in a low distraction environment and follow it up each time with a reward that your dog desires. When it comes to dog training, it is important to begin in an environment that your dog is most comfortable in and likely to focus.

At home, your dog is more interested in what you are up to as compared to an outdoor environment. This ensures multiple successful recall repetitions. Successful reps will help in solidifying recall and build a strong foundation for outdoor recall training too. 

how to teach a stubborn dog to come

  1. Go at your dog’s pace

Recall is one of the easiest cues to teach but one of the hardest ones to perfect. Read that again.

The key to perfecting a recall lies in generalization. Your stubborn dog may come to you each and every time when you are at home, but the same dog chooses to ignore the same cue when there is a distraction around. This is because your dog may be poor at generalizing the cue in different scenarios.

It is important to not rush your dog when training them. In the initial phase of training, ask your dog to come to you only when you know they WILL respond positively to it. Doing so will set your dog up for success and lead to more and more successful reps.

  1. Always have something better to offer

It is crucial for your dog to have a positive association with recall. Treats work wonders most times, but they do not work all the time. At times, your dog would choose to continue playing with another dog than come back to you on cue.

This can be tackled by incorporating one thing right from the beginning of recall training – Always have something better to offer. If your dog is just chilling in their bed, you can call them to you and reward them with a nice belly rub because a belly rub is better than sitting alone in the bed.

On the other hand, if your dog is playing with a ball or an exciting toy and you want them to come back to you, offer them something exciting like a bully stick or a bone. This reward is more exciting than the toy they were busy with.

Multiple repetitions of being rewarded with something better adds an element of excitement in recall training for the dog.

  1. Get professional help

A misconception about professional dog training is that they should be consulted as the last resort. When in reality, they should be roped in at the start of your training journey to help ensure you’re on the right track.

Finding an in-person dog trainer that understands your needs and matches your ideologies can be tricky and expensive to find. This is where virtual training comes into picture.

Virtual training with programs like HOMESCHOOL BY LAY LO® are conducted through 1:1 video calls with a certified trainer and can take place in the comforts of your own home. The trainer may ask to observe your dog's behavior and interaction with you to assess their current training level and temperament and create a personalized training plan tailored to your dog's needs and your goals.

how to train stubborn dog to come


  1. Always keep it positive

Use an upbeat and encouraging tone. Dogs are more likely to come when they perceive the call as positive. A recall must Always end with a positive reward like treats, belly rubs, cuddle time, meal time, play and so on.

Changing rewards also adds to the excitement. Keeping in unpredictable but exciting leaves your dog wanting for more every single time.

  1. Engage in recall games

Dogs thrive on play. It can alleviate stress, decrease hyperactivity, and prevent behavioral problems. Furthermore, recall games requires the human to be as much a part of the game as the dog. There is no better way to improve your stubborn dog’s recall and bond with them at the same time.

One of the best recall games is one where the entire family gets to be a part of it. Here’s how you play it – Divide your dog’s meals into the number of people playing. Start by calling your dog. Once your dog comes to you, feed them a tiny amount of their meal. Now it’s time for the next person to call the dog and reward.

Once your dog has learnt the game, make it more exciting by using different rooms of the house or by taking it outdoors.

  1. Use a lead outside

One of the main reasons dogs act stubborn when being called is because they can! If you are at a point where your dog is off lead and has difficulty coming back to you when called, you may have given them too much liberty too soon.

Take your dog to open spaces on a long lead (30-50ft). A long lead ensures plenty of freedom for your pooch but also makes sure they are safe and come back to you every single time when called.

You know your dog is ready for off leash freedom when they come back to you every single time without you having to use the lead to do so.

how to teach your dog to come

  1. Freedom is also a reward

Many a time, when are dogs are playing outdoors, we only call them back when its time to go back home. Overtime, they start perceiving the recall cue as a threat to their freedom and start acting stubborn when called.

To prevent this from happening, call your dog back to you every couple of minutes, reward them and let them get back to playing.

  1. Practice recall with 3Ds

The 3Ds of dog training are – Duration, Distance and Distraction. Especially when dealing with strong willed dogs, it is imperative to practice and perfect the recall cue with the 3Ds.

It will help your dog in generalizing the command better and make it fool proof.

4 things not to do when recall training your stubborn dog

  1. Punish your dog

When training a stubborn dog to come to you, remember that they are already struggling with this cue. Adding punishment to the picture may only make things worse for your dog and thereby, you. Your dog must look forward and enjoy coming back to you. A punishment forces them to comply and is not reliable in the long run.

Punishment does not only mean using aversive methods. It is anything and everything that creates a negative association towards recall for your dog. Eg – while practicing recall in outdoor scenarios, if you call your dog back to you only when going back home, you are leading your dog to believe that coming back to the human = end of freedom.

 Similarly, at home, if you repeatedly call your dog to you with zero rewards or if the recall ends with your dog being groomed or reprimanded for something, you have successfully set your dog up for negative recall. Dogs are quick to catch on to consistency.

  1. Poison the cue

“Fido… come… Come… Come here… Here boy… COME HERE NOW”… while Fido continues to do his own thing! – Does this sound like you and your dog? If yes, you may have poisoned the recall cue for your dog. Repeating the cue too many times or using different words for the same command renders the cue redundant.

If your dog knows the cue but responds to it sometimes, use it more sparingly and build a super positive association for more successful repetitions. However, if your dog is at a point where they completely ignore the cue each and every time, regardless of the rewards, it’s probably time to change the cue. Start over with a new word and consider changing your training technique.

  1. Practice outdoors too soon

Recall expects a dog to drop whatever they are doing and come back to you instantly. Stubborn dogs are so called because they are highly driven by their instincts or an external motivation. This only gets worse in outdoor scenarios with the plethora of added distractions.

Furthermore, multiple failed recall repetitions only leads the dog to believe that coming back to the human is just an option that can they choose to not take.

Recall is a cue that must be perfected in low distractions first. Work your way up to higher distractions such as outdoor scenarios only when you have had 100% success rate at home.

how to teach a stubborn dog to come

  1. Using your dog’s name as a recall

Did you know, an average pet parent takes their dog’s name at least 50 times a day. If you’re more talkative, you do the math. We call out our dogs’ names not only for recall, but in several other scenarios such as before giving them other training cues, to grab their attention for something, while playing with them, while telling them a ‘no’ for something and so on.

Using a separate cue for recall distinguishes the cue for the dog and makes it easy for them to follow it.

Pro tip: Use a cue that travels far and wide when you yell it out. Eg – the word “here” has a higher sound frequency as compared to “come.” Your dog is more likely to hear the word “here” loud and clear if they are far away from you.

How do you catch a dog that won’t come to you?

When trying to catch a dog that is loose, our first impulse is usually to panic and chase the dog. However, this only makes matters worse as the dog could look at it as a game and try to run further away from you. Worse, if you have an anxious dog and they catch you fixated at them and in a terrified state, it may encourage them to hide and go as far away from you as possible. 

So, no chasing, no yelling, no screaming and definitely no panicking.

Pick your approach depending on your dog’s personality and motivation in that scenario. Here are a few tips that may help -

  • Stay calm and stand in one place
  • Do not stare down at your dog. Avoid eye contact but keep an eye out on your dog’s movements
  • Bend down to your dog’s level and call them calmly. Seeing you at their level can be quite inviting for several dogs. Use submissive body language
  • If your dog likes to follow you, start walking in the other direction and see if your dog stops to follow you
  • Grab something like a stick or branch from the ground and try to grab your dog’s attention
  • If you have treats on you, use them to incentivise your dog to come to you

At what age should you train your dog recall?

Stubborn or not, recall must be one of the primary things to train in a young puppy. Not only is it a life saving cue, but it is one of the best ways to bond with your pup as it helps in building trust and reliability.

It may take several weeks to months to achieve a steadfast recall. The teenage years may especially be quite testing. Training early gives you a head start and a chance to start on a clean slate. This makes the cue far more reliable and fool proof.

Puppyhood is when recall basics must be perfected indoors and in low distractions. As the puppy grows older and becomes more confident and adventurous, it is time to test the cue in high distractions and outdoor scenarios.

Things learned in puppyhood gets hardwired in dogs. With consistent practice and plenty of repetitions, these behaviors then become muscle memories. How cool would it be if your dog could consistently come back to you on cue not for the rewards, but because an ingrained muscle memory!


Author Bio: Siddhika is a certified dog trainer, behaviorist, and professional pet writer. Over the course of her dog training career, she has gained 3 certifications accredited by KCAI (Kennel Club Accredited Instructors) in the field of dog training and behavior, viz - Basic obedience course, Therapy Dog Training Course and Canine Aggression Course. She has the qualifications and experience in the theoretical as well as real-life applications of science-based dog training techniques.

With the expertise to write about a plethora of dog-related topics and a personal interest in dog cognition and behavior, Siddhika is an out-and-out canine nerd.