Teaching Your Dog To Come When Called No Matter What!
Teaching your dog to come to you when called will not only make your life easier as an owner, it could very well save your dog’s life in the event of an emergency. Dogs love to get distracted both inside and outside, so being able to draw their attention back to you is critical to successful training and general safety.
To teach your dog to come when called, begin by placing your dog on a long leash, about six to ten feet long, while inside your home. Begin walking away from your dog and call them in a very excited tone. Say “come!” as they are walking towards you. Reward them with “Yes!” and a high-value treat, such as turkey or chicken.
Having your dog return to you reliably, without a reward, requires an extreme amount of patience and dedication. To achieve a rock-solid recall, you need to start slow and consistently reward your dog for coming back to you. Following the proper steps and implementing fun games will help you gain a dog that will come to you no matter how distracting the environment may be.
Teaching Your Recall
Teaching your dog to come reliably begins by selecting a word that you have not overused with your dog in the past. Many owners fall into the habit of saying “come! come! come here!” to their dogs, which causes you to lose authority over that word. Going forward, try using a new phrase such as “Here” or “To Me.” Having a fresh word that your dog won’t ignore is critical to teaching a successful recall.
Next, place your dog in a controlled environment with a leash. I usually start inside so that the distractions are lesser. Then, walk away from your dog and begin calling to them with your selected word. Use a high-pitched voice, clap, or otherwise excite them into coming in your direction. The second they are near you, reward them with “Yes!” and a high-value treat. You can also use a clicker to signify how close you want them to be by clicking when they come near you.
Practice this several times per day, if possible, inside of your home before trying this outside. You always want to ensure success with this command as every time your dog doesn’t come when called, they will begin to think they can come when they want, not when asked. Always have a high-value reward with you to follow through with the come command so that way your dog associates coming to you as the best thing ever.
Keys To Success
When training your dog to come to you, you need to know when to use the command and when not to. For instance, never ask your dog to come to you and then clip their nails, bathe them, or stop a regularly “fun” activity. This will create a negative association between coming to you and receiving a less than desirable outcome.
A word of advice I once received is to always shower your dog with praise when they come to you for at least the first year of training. This can be exhausting and time-consuming but will pay off one thousand times over when your dog will come to you without hesitation. I always do my best to have treats everywhere in my house, so even when I call Kashi from the kitchen, I will have something to reward her with.
I’ve installed small stick-on shelves near both my front and back door so that I can place a small treat jar right by the exit point. We use small mason jars to keep the treats fresh, and we can throw them in the dishwasher when they start to get too dirty.
Whenever our dogs go out to potty, I call them back in saying “Come!” once they have done their business. The second they turn and start to run towards me, I praise them heavily with “Yes!” and words of encouragement until they get to the door. As soon as they are inside, I give them each a treat.
Creating a guaranteed recall requires a lot of practice and consistency. Working with your dog in short spurts or adding an element of fun can help you establish that coming to you is just about the best thing since sliced bread. Switch up your treat selection, use your dog’s favorite toy, or play a rousing game of tug-o-war to keep your dog thinking that listening to your “come” command will always be rewarding.
If you have multiple people living with you or have someone that can come over to help, try setting up a “recall rally” with you and the other person. Ask your dog to come with your selected word and then have the other person repeat the same process from a distance. Increase the distance between you and the other person, all the while having your dog run between the two of you. This is great recall practice and also can tire your dog out at the same time.
It is important to note that your regular recall will be different than your emergency recall. I use my emergency recall with my dogs only in very specific situations where it is absolutely imperative that they return to me immediately. I’ll cover the emergency recall and why I use it in an upcoming article.
Now that you know how to teach your dog to come when called, it is up to you to make sure your dog will listen to your word of choice. Using high-value treats and rewarding them consistently will teach your dog that when they come to you, whatever praise or treat they get will be way more exciting than what they were doing before.