Should You Punish Your Dog For Not Coming When Called?

In the realm of dog training, the question of whether to punish a dog for not coming when called is a contentious one. While it might seem like a logical response to disobedience, experts generally advise against it. Here’s why:

Photo Credit: Mark Galer

Punishment Can Backfire:

  • Negative Association: When you punish your dog for not coming when called, you create a negative association with the command. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity for praise and reward, your dog may associate coming to you with fear or apprehension.
  • Damages Trust: Harsh punishment can damage the bond of trust between you and your dog. Trust is fundamental in any training relationship, and using punishment can erode this trust, making future training efforts less effective.
  • Ignores the Root Cause: Punishment doesn’t address the underlying reason why your dog didn’t come when called. It could be due to distractions, lack of training, fear, or other factors. By solely focusing on punishment, you miss the opportunity to identify and address the root cause of the behavior.

Focus on Positive Reinforcement:

  • Reward Good Behavior: Instead of punishment, focus on reinforcing positive behavior. When your dog does come when called, praise them enthusiastically and offer treats or playtime as a reward. This strengthens the desired behavior and encourages your dog to repeat it in the future.
  • Make Recall Fun: Turn recall into a game that your dog enjoys. Use an excited tone of voice when calling them, and make coming to you a positive and rewarding experience. Incorporating fun and excitement into training can increase your dog’s motivation to respond to the recall command.
  • Practice in Low-Distraction Environments: Start recall training in environments with few distractions, such as your backyard or a quiet park. Gradually increase the level of distractions as your dog becomes more proficient at responding to the recall command.

What to Do Instead of Punishing:

  • Go Get Your Dog: If your dog doesn’t come when called, calmly go to them and bring them back to you. This reinforces the idea that coming to you is a positive experience and doesn’t result in punishment.
  • Wait and Reclaim Attention: If your dog is distracted but eventually returns, wait a moment before offering praise or treats. This teaches them that coming to you is more important than whatever distracted them initially.
  • Seek Professional Help: If you’re struggling with recall training, consider seeking assistance from a certified dog trainer. They can assess your dog’s behavior, identify areas for improvement, and develop a personalized training plan to address any issues.


  • Be Patient: Building a reliable recall takes time and consistent training. Celebrate your dog’s progress, no matter how small, and remain patient throughout the process.
  • Address Underlying Issues: If distractions or lack of training are hindering your dog’s recall, take steps to address these underlying issues. Manage the training environment, start with basic recall exercises, and gradually increase difficulty as your dog improves.

By focusing on positive reinforcement, patience, and addressing the root cause of the behavior, you can effectively train your dog to come when called while strengthening the bond between you based on mutual trust and respect. Punishment, on the other hand, often leads to unintended consequences and can hinder the training process in the long run.

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