3. Come Back When Called

Exercise 3.4 -  The Shadow Game

For most pet dog owners I think the ultimate goal is achieving the ability to walk their dog at liberty without a lead in a park and on the trails.


This is a wonderful goal to work towards and a recall is probably the most important response to a cue your dog will learn.


The key to establishing a reliable recall is in the foundation that you build and like any building, if there is a weakness in the foundation, the whole thing can come tumbling down!


Playing The Shadow Game often is a deceptively simple and profoundly effective way to build and maintain your foundation for recall, polite walking exercises and paying attention to you!

  • Start at home in a quiet environment with your dog on a lead.
  • Have plenty of small treats for rewards and start to walk around in any direction.
  • Any time your dog catches up to you give him a treat dropped on the floor right by your heel.
  • If your pup gets ahead of you, simply turn gently 180 degrees and place a treat on the ground.
  • As your dog chews the treat, walk ahead a few paces but be ready for him to catch up to you again and give another treat when he does.
  • Go forwards, backwards (your dog comes towards you), sideways, fast, slow, stop, run, walk, go around trees and anything else you can come up with to get your dog to follow you like a shadow.

The idea of this game is to get your dog to follow you willingly, not for you to pull your dog to come to you so the lead must be completely loose.


Take the time to show him what you are doing rather than surprising him with a quick turn. I play this game on all of my walks whether we are walking on lead or running at liberty.


Raising the Bar - Adding distractions & New Locations


Once you see that your dog is really starting to move toward you without hesitation as you step away, you can set up some training sessions with distractions, such as practicing with other people or dogs nearby. Start with low-level distractions, or enough distance so your dog can follow your movement easily.


If your dog goes crazy when seeing another dog for example, you would want to start far enough away so he can still respond to you rather than fixate on the other dog.


Progress to working the Shadow Game in new locations. Stick close to your home for the first few sessions to gauge if your dog is able to respond with the higher level of distractions the outside world offers. On an ongoing basis, work this game any time you are out with your dog in a new place.