6 Reasons Why Do Dogs Run Away When You Call Them?

It’s an all too familiar story: you call your beloved pup, only to see them sprint in the opposite direction. Whether this is a regular occurrence or it has only just happened for the first time – rest assured, there are reasons why your four-legged friend may be reluctant to return when called. In this blog post, we’ll cover five possible explanations as to why your dog isn’t responding to your call and what you can do about it.

#1. It’s a Game

If you have watched dogs play together, you have likely noticed that most dogs love a game of chase. Dogs will take turns chasing each other and often play “keep away” when they have an object. When you move towards your dog and they begin to bow, bounce, and run off just out of reach and wait for you to take another step towards them before taking off again, your dog likely sees this scenario as a game and is initiating play with you – whether you intend to play or not!

What You Can Do About It:

You can communicate to your dog that you are not playing by “ending the game.” This means turning around and walking away from your dog. If they follow you, give them some treats as a reward for coming to you.

If you have walked away and they haven’t followed you, kneel or sit on the ground to spark their curiosity. If they come then, reward them with treats.

#2. Dogs have been punished in the past

Sometimes pet parents get frustrated when their dogs don’t come, and when the dog finally listens, they scold or physically punish the dog.

It won’t teach your dog what he should do if you get mad at him. Teach him what to do once he’s at your side, and he won’t come running to you in the future because he knows you’ll get mad.

Your dog should think coming to you is a wonderful thing, so even if he doesn’t respond quickly, don’t scold him when he does. Make it easy for him to “win” the recall game so he can do well in future training sessions. Whenever your dog recalls, reward him with high-value treats, like Pet Botanics Training Rewards, which have a bacon flavor that’ll get his attention. 

#3. They Aren’t Sure About You

If you recently adopted your dog or you haven’t spent much time with them in the past, they might not be sure about you and may want some distance. More fearful, nervous, and undersocialized dogs are likely to keep their distance when called until they are more comfortable and have a solid relationship with their human.

What You Can Do About It:

You should focus on building a strong relationship with your dog to instill trust and a sense of comfort when they are near you. You can build a strong relationship by:

  • Rewarding your dog for being near you
  • Spending some downtime relaxing with your dog
  • Going for regular on-leash walks
  • Practicing reward-based obedience
  • Teaching your dog tricks
  • Playing with your dog

#4. They’ve Learned to Ignore You

A common problem among pet parents is the tendency to over communicate and bark commands at their dogs all day. If you constantly talk to your dog or repeat commands without follow-through, you are nagging your dog and they have since begun to tune you out. If you try to get your dog’s attention for any reason and they don’t acknowledge you, this could be the reason.

What You Can Do About It:

You should stop talking to your dog when it isn’t necessary and start adding value to your voice by following up with praise and rewards. Whether your dog likes treats or toys, grab something they enjoy after you have called them. They will likely ignore you the first few times, but after they notice a new pattern forming, they will likely become more interested in what you have to say.

#5. They Have Associated Your Call With Something More Valuable

When you call your dog, do they immediately start scanning the area as if they are eagerly looking for something before they take off? This could be because they have associated recall with something exciting and valuable in the environment. If you only ever call your dog when something is happening, such as coming up on another dog or a rabbit crossing your path, you accidentally trained your dog to be on alert when called rather than actually coming to you.

What You Can Do About It:

You can counter this habit by calling your dog randomly and always rewarding them for coming when called. Keep high-value rewards with you to add value to yourself. Over time, your dog should start building a new habit of coming to you, excited for a high-value treat, rather than taking off in the other direction.

#6. They Haven’t Been Properly Trained

Did you send your dog to obedience school or take classes with them? If not, they likely don’t understand the concept of coming when called. No matter the age of your dog or how long you have had them, if you never formally trained them to come when called, they simply don’t know what you are asking of them and they are left guessing.

What You Can Do About It:

Take some time to learn to formally teach your dog to come when called. No matter your budget, there are many ways to learn how to work with your dog, from in-person obedience lessons, board and training, to blogs and YouTube videos.

Key Tips When Working on Recall

  • If your dog is not reliable off-leash in public, you should always keep them on a long line to prevent accidents from happening. Dogs don’t understand that they should avoid cars or that not all dogs are friendly. Keeping them on a long line will prevent them from making a potentially fatal accident.
  • When you call your dog, always reward them with treats or a toy when they come back. This builds lots of value in you as their human and will make them more likely to come back in the future.
  • Would you work for free? Your dog shouldn’t have to either and your dog deserves a paycheck for working with you.
  • If your dog isn’t very toy or food motivated, consider working with a professional dog trainer to form a customized plan to get your dog excited to come when called.
  • If your dog gets squirrely when you reach for their collar, you can help work them through this by rewarding them after grabbing their collar and repeatedly do this a few times to help desensitize them.


A dog that tends to run away when called is a problem that many dog owners face but it is also a fixable one. By addressing the root cause of the issue, you can help your dog build a more reliable recall. With some patience and training, your dog will be responding effortlessly to your call in no time!

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Richard Hayes

Hey there! Meet Richard Hayes, the big boss and marketing guru behind Pet Dog Planet. He's been a total doggo fanatic since forever and loves all kinds of pups, from tiny teacup Chihuahuas to big, burly Bulldogs. His absolute favorite pastime? Snuggling with adorable puppies—he can't get enough of those cute little faces! Plus, he's totally into iced coffee, chilling in hammocks, and, of course, more puppy cuddling!

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