Teaching your dog to come when called
Before we get started make sure you have some of your dog’s favorite treats ready, you can see what we use here, and remember to keep training sessions short.
A recall behavior, also known as a come behavior, is vital to every dog’s repertoire of skills.
Below I’ll share my top tips for teaching your dog a reliable recall quickly, while I use the pronoun he for simplicity (and my boy Rossi), this applies to all genders of pups!
How to train your dog to come when called
These steps are to be broken up over many days and not done in one session.
- Start your training indoors in a familar enviorment – this isn’t the time to be battling distractions like bugs, neighbors and smelly grass.
- Start off close to your dog, like a foot or two away, and in an excited voice call your dog to come.
- As soon as he does, reward with a delcious treat!
- As your dog succeeds begin making the distance from him further.
- As I call my dog to come I walk a step or two backwards – not towards them – this will help them understand what we want and entice them to come follow us.
- Have a friend or another household member help you out taking turns calling your dog back and forth and rewarding your dog for coming to you – like a game of ping pong. As the other person calls the dog I often turn around to help my dog understand I’m not asking anything of him. Start very close together 4 feet is great and with each turn move further apart. This is a great way for kids in the household to help with training too!
- Next, start practicing this all over the house! Try being in different positions, standing on things, laying down, mix it up and make it fun! Try when your dog isn’t paying attention, let him wander around and be a dog then call him to you and throw him a party when he comes.
- Once you’ve mastered this it’s time to go step up the distractions! Go in your yard or to a local park, in this case I always have my dog on leash – even in my yard (I use this biothane leash in 10-16 foot). Starting with a super short distance and then work up to longer distances. By keeping my dog on leash I can prevent a game of chase from occuring, I can give a very gentle tug to remind him what I want and worst case I can walk up to him to set up a closer situation to ensure he does come when called.
A few important tips!
I often hear my dog won’t come when called, these tips help you make your dog’s recall very solid!
- I love using some of my best tasting treats for my dog’s recall as I want this behavior to be extremly reliable, cause calling him away from danger (such as running into the street or away from something dangerous) really can be lifesaving. This is not the time to be skimpy on the treats.
- I often still reward this behavior! Even through my dog fully knows it, I want it to be his favorite behavior. So while I may not reward with treats everytime, he still does get some sometimes. When I don’t have treats, I make sure I throw him a party with love and belly rubs when he comes to me. I want my dog to come running to me when I ask no matter what he is doing, from sniffing something smelly to considering chassing something. Often times we are calling our dogs away from something they enjoy, from sniffing in the garden to playing with another dog so I want such a strong reinforcement schedule that my dog knows it’s worth it to come to me – sometimes to think about the next time you call your dog away from an activity he may be having fun doing.
- I love encorperating touch into my recall, this helps ensure my dog comes to me when I tell him to come and not stop a few feet away. You can view the touch tutorial on this page.
Don’t get frustrated when your dog doesn’t come when called
There isn’t a lot that is more embarrassing or frustrating than calling your dog to come and having them run the opposite direction or simply ignore you. You can not get frustrated with them.
By getting frustrated your dog will not want to come to you, why come to someone that is upset and frustrated with you vs running around and having fun on your own. So no matter how frustrated you are don’t get mad at your dog when he finally does come – we want him to recall next time too right? Sound as happy as can be when calling him to come, even though inside we all know how frustrating this is, in this situation instead try to act more excited when calling your dog to come.
When your dog isn’t coming, try the steps above of going the opposite direction (dogs do love that game of chase), sounding really excited when you call him, and incorporating that touch behavior.
Do not chase your dog when he doesn’t come
Dogs love a good game of chase! And by chasing your dog, (one) you’re probably not gonna catch him – he’s a lot faster on four legs than you are on two legs, and (two) you are teaching him that not coming when called is a great way to get you to engage in a game of chase! Save your game of chase when it’s on your terms and not when you’re calling him to come.
We hope these tips help you and your dog improve your dog’s recall and grow your bond together.
What to train next?
- How to teach your dog a leave it
- How to teach your dog to wait for food
- Teach your dog to spin in a circle