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How To Train Your Dog To Come When Called Every Time

November 2022

 

Sit, stay, and come are the most popular skills we teach our dogs and puppies. Specifically, learning to come when called to a guardian is an essential skill all dogs should know, and this skill is also called recall. 

It can be frustrating to teach a dog a recall skill because dogs are often too “busy” to come to their owners, especially when outside or when there are many distractions, such as at a dog park. However, with practice and effective teaching, any dog can learn to perform a reliable recall in time.


What Does a Dog's Recall Look Like?


A dog's recall skill is essentially seen as a dog's reaction to being cued "come" or "here." A dog will come to its owner immediately with good recall skills, and with poor recall skills, it will likely ignore its owner. As with any skill, a dog's recall will improve with regular practice.


A reliable recall is also an important life skill that an owner can perfect with practice. Of course, dogs could be better, and there may still be a time or two when a dog chooses not to come to its owner, even when the owner is sure they have a reliable recall. However, if we set the stage for success in our training, these moments should be few, far and few between.  


Why Should I Teach My Dog to Come?


Many new dog owners may wonder if teaching their pups new skills is worthwhile. In some cases, such as teaching a dog to shake or roll over, learning new tricks can be just for bonding with the owner and providing mental enrichment for the dog. However, with some skills, such as sit and stay, additional benefits can result, like good impulse-control behaviour. Dogs that can sit and wait before being fed can translate this skill into sitting and staying when the owner asks during other exciting times, too, such as when meeting other dogs at a dog park.

Teaching a dog to come when called includes many benefits, such as safety and reliability. When a dog can perform a reliable recall, it can be called to its owner when the owner sees that the dog is in an uneasy or even dangerous situation. For example, if the dog is rushing towards a road to meet another dog, the owner can call his dog away to avoid injury or worse. 

A dog that has developed a reliable recall can walk off leash more often, allowing the dog and guardian more freedom, which is why owners teach their pups to come. However, remember that if you would like to teach your dog a recall skill so that you can walk them without a leash, many public areas still require dogs to be leashed, such as on hiking trails and in stores. It’s always best to check with local bylaws to understand off-leash laws in your area. 


How to Teach Your Dog to Come


Recall Basic Training


When you want to start teaching your pup to come for the first time, take them to a distraction-free safe area indoors and on the leash and bring a handful of small, high-value treats. Be sure to house these treats in a treat pouch or your pocket so they do not distract your dog focused. Stand about three feet away from your dog. From there, turn and face your dog, and give them the verbal cue you want to use when you want them to come to you. This verbal cue is usually a simple "come" or “here.” Use the verbal cue in a cheerful, upbeat voice to get the dog's attention and back away.


Once your dog comes to you, immediately reward them with a treat and praise them; remember to smile!  If they do not come to you directly, try patting your knees or making a kissy sound and then reward the dog if they come forward to sniff your hand.


Step back and repeat the same process when you're ready to teach them to come again. Be sure to reward your dog each time they perform a good recall, and try repeating this basic training with them about five times a training session. Depending on your schedule, you may also have one to three training sessions a day. It is best to give at least an hour between every training session to give your dog cool-down time.


Recall Advanced Training


Once you feel that your dog has mastered basic recall training, you can up the ante and continue following the same teaching process with some added distractions to challenge them. Consider taking your training sessions outside with a leash, then after a few successful sessions and in a safe, enclosed area without a leash. You can also try training in a room with noise, such as television or radio, and strong smells, such as around cooking food.


Recall Training Games


When you want to switch your training routine with your dog, consider trying a training game that will keep things exciting and challenging for both of you. Some standard training games that work with recall training include:

  • "Find me" games in which an owner calls their dog from another room of the house, rewarding the dog each time they find him.
  • "Catch me" games in which an owner calls the dog while moving around in a house or yard, rewarding the dog every time they catch up to the owner.
  • "Hot potato" games in which multiple dog caretakers call to a dog individually, rewarding the dog after successfully coming to each caller.

 

What to Do When a Dog Doesn't Come


When you believe your dog has a good recall but is not showing a reliable memory, there are some troubleshooting options you can try. For one, you can reevaluate how you react to your dog when they do not come to you during recall training. For the best recall training results, you want to respond in a happy, excited voice when your dog comes to you and wait to respond when they do not follow through. You may discourage them from trying again if you react in anger or disappointment when they fail to come.


You can also reevaluate the recall cue you use with your dog if training is not working. As said before, "come" and "here" are great recall words, but they do not always work for every dog. Try coming up with a new word that your dog responds to if necessary, like "close" or "near." and re-start the process. 


Other Training Tips

  • Choose a recall cue word and stick to it to avoid confusing your pup. 
  • Do not repeat yourself during recall training. You may say your recall work once or twice, but then you must give your dog a full minute to respond to you before repeating the word.
  • Begin recall training on a leash, especially when starting exercise outdoors. Keeping your dog on a leash limits the environment and keeps the dog safe.
  • Slowly increase the difficulty of your dog's training, and only add a few distractions around them. Be patient with your dog's progress, and do not rush them; otherwise, they will likely backtrack and give in to distractions.
  • Always end your training on a positive note! 

Teaching a dog how to come when called can be a lengthy training process, but it is very rewarding and comes with benefits like the ability for you and your dog to walk without a leash. If you are a new dog owner looking to instill a reliable recall in your dog, take your training one step at a time and always reward your dog for noticeable improvements.

 

 
 
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