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3 Super Fun Games to Improve Your Dogs Recall

Holly Leake
We all want our dogs to enjoy some freedom,
but the fear that our dog won’t come back when called, can cause us to be restrictive. 
Granted, recall is one of the facets of training dogs struggle with most because the world is so interesting and let’s be honest we aren’t always as exciting to them. So, how can you be as exciting and interesting as the environment? This blog is going to consider 3 super fun games that will instantly improve your dog’s recall. 

Target Training

Target training is one of my most favourite things to teach and use with my own dog. After teaching clients this training in class, many have given me amazing feedback on how its revolutionised their recall. Target training is used to train large animals, such as tigers, turtles, Stingrays, whales and dolphins, in order to move them in certain positions and to perform medical examinations. It works by creating an association between touching a target and receiving a tasty treat. This target can then be moved to encourage certain behaviours.

To teach your dog target training, place one treat in the palm of your hand and hold it out near your dog. When your dog touches your hand with his nose, praise them and release the treat. You are just after a gentle nose bop so don’t reward any biting or mouthing of your hand and be careful not to move your hand towards your dog. You want your dog to move towards you.

Practice this a few times till your dog becomes confident and then you can begin adding the cue word “touch” as your dog touches your hand. After several sessions of this, you can begin saying “touch” to cue the behaviour. Once your dog is competent at this game, you can place an empty hand out to your dog, saying “touch” and then rewarding your dog with a treat from your other hand. You can also begin holding your hand at different heights and on the move, to challenge your dog.

Now you can build this fun game into your recall by allowing your dog to move away from you and then shouting “touch” and holding your hand out. Your dog will eagerly run to you to play the game! You can even build this into another game, such as recall tennis and have 2 players taking it turns to ask for touch and having your dog run backwards and forwards. With target training, the sky’s the limit!

Counting Game

The counting game was introduced by behaviourist Chirag Patel to improve recall. I admit that it’s one I was rather sceptical about at first, however, after trying it with many clients to address recall issues, I, and many others, have experienced huge success with it. So to play the counting game you are going to need a lot of treats. It is advised you practice this game off-lead in your garden first and then place your dog on a long line to practice it in other environments.

Allow your dog to wonder off for a sniff and then crouch down to the ground and start counting aloud, whilst placing one small treat down for each number. Now when you do this, you need to use a loud voice and exaggerated arm movements as you place each treat down. This is necessary in order to grab your dog’s attention in distracting environments.

Keep counting each number out until your dog comes over. Walk to another spot in the garden, whilst your dog eats the treats, and start counting out treats again using a loud voice and exaggerated arm movements for each treat. Once your dog comes over, allow them to eat the treats and walk away to repeat the game. Don’t be discouraged if you have to count over 30 to begin with, just keep practicing and soon you won’t be able to reach 10!

Each time you play this, your dog should be anticipating the food and should be coming to you quicker. This means that eventually you won’t need to be counting for very long before your dog remembers the game and runs over to play. Once your dog is confident with the game, put them on a long line and practice in a field and gradually add distractions. Hopefully after a few weeks practice you will be prepared to practice this game with your dog off lead. It’s a weird and wonderful game but trust me it works!


Funder is a fun game created by Absolute dogs to improve focus, engagement and recall skills. You can begin playing this game indoors, if you have the room, or in your garden. To play, have a large handful of treats ready and stand with your feet wide apart. Stand, facing your dog, around 2-3 feet away and throw one treat backwards between your legs. Your dog should run through your legs to chase the treat. As they are eating the treat, turn around, so you are facing them again, and place your feet far apart. Then throw another treat backwards through your legs and allow your dog to run through your legs to chase it.

Keep repeating the game until your dog becomes confident. You can even add a cue word, such as ‘funder’ when you throw the treat through your legs, in order to be able to shout this to your dog when you want to recall them.

All these games improve recall because they teach focus and engagement. They also demonstrate that being near you is a really fun and interesting place to be. It is easy to become lazy with your recall and just expect to call your dog and have them come straight back to you but if you seem annoyed and you aren’t offering anything exciting, your expectations are unrealistic, especially in busy environments. Nevertheless, if you introduce fun games into your recall training, your dog will not only come back to you, but they will also be excited to!

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