Step 1: Play the “ping-pong” game. This is one of the first games I play with my puppies. To start, you need a friend, lots of high-value treats, and a tug toy. Next, make sure your puppy/dog has used the potty. To teach the recall, sit on the floor in a distraction-free area about 10 feet away from your helper. One person lightly restrains the puppy and one says the puppy’s name excitedly. When the puppy starts running toward you, praise wildly, give a high-value treat, and then play a fun game of tug. After a few successful reps, add the word you want to use for the recall. Repeat and gradually increase the distance between you.

Step 2: Teach “gotcha.” If your dog has gotten loose, you’re going to want to grab his collar after he’s come to you (or maybe before he’s had a chance to run away at all). It’s best to teach him now to get used to it so that he doesn’t pull away when he’s in a dangerous situation. To train this command, show your dog a really enticing treat and hold it against your body. When he comes over and starts nibbling, very slowly and gently reach for his collar. After hooking a finger in it, say “gotcha” while opening your hand and giving him the treat. As training progresses, the grab changes from one finger to your whole hand.

Step 3: Combine “come” and “gotcha.” Now practice the “ping-pong” game adding the “gotcha” command after he responds to the recall. Give lots of high-value treats when your dog responds.

Once your dog has mastered the “come” command, it doesn’t mean that training is over. It’s important to continuously practice the command with him throughout his life so that his skills are sharp when they’re needed most.