When I tell people I’m a dog trainer, this is usually the first question I hear. Or first request I get “How to make my dog come when called” or “my dog won’t come when called”. Usually I’m polite about it, too, and I say some non-committal “give it treats when it does” — because you don’t want to hear the truth.
The truth is, to get your dog to start coming when called, you have to STOP doing things that make him want to run away.
Why Your Dog Doesn’t Come When Called
- You call him to you to punish him. I think this is the main culprit. People don’t know what else to do, so when the dog does something wrong they scream the dog’s name and start in with the “come here, no come here NOW. Right HERE. You’re going go GET IT.” If that’s what coming when called means, I wouldn’t do it either!
- You call him to you to put his leash on and leave somewhere. If your dog is a dog park dog, coming when called usually means you’re leaving. If he’s going from freedom to being back in the house, why would he do that?
- You call him to you as a joke and give him nothing (I don’t know why some people do this, but they do). This is clearly a mean thing to do, but I’ve seen people do it. They call the dog just to call the dog and SEE if the dog comes. And then the hold up their hands and are like “nothing for you!”. So again, why would the dog keep coming? No idea….
Think about it, how often do you call your dog for something good, like to give him treats or affection, or just a secret surprise he didn’t know about? How often do you yell his name to make him get off the counter or stop putting his face in something? Exactly.
So how do we fix the problem? Luckily dogs are pretty simple, the work has to be done on YOUR end.
First, you have to stop calling your dog’s name for negative stuff. Your dog is going to do bad stuff sometimes, that’s true, but instead of calling his name, say something else like “Stop” or a buzzer noise to redirect his attention. However, if you want to tell him to stop and THEN call him, that’s acceptable. You just have to follow up with a reward.
Second, you gotta bring the goods. This is the most important part of having a good recall, and that’s bringing something your dog WANTS to have. For this, location matters 100%. If you’re indoors, a soft chewy treat may do the trick. If you’re at the dog park? Yeah try again. You have to bring a special, exclusive treat to get a response at the dog park.
Training Your Dog to “Come”
You can do this three ways. The first way, if you are patient, is to just go for it. Take your dog to the dog park, get some boiled chicken, and work on it. The way I taught my first dog was like this. This works on dogs that aren’t easily distracted by nature, or dogs that you have a really strong “bond” with. The way I did it was like this:
- Say the dog’s name. You don’t want the dog to come at this point, you just want to get their attention. My goal here was for my dog to look up at me and wait for the command.
- Give the recall command “Come”.
- Praise praise praise praise until your dog reaches you. Once they arrive, make them sit, and give the reward.
The second way to do it is to use a long leash and start off with a short distance and slowly increase the distance. This also works for if you do want to train your dog to be off leash (I don’t generally recommend training your dog to be off leash, but if you’re going to do it, do it right!)
- Start at a distance of 10 feet or whatever point you can where your dog isn’t pulling you or the leash is essentially dragging on the ground. Let your dog sniff and what not.
- Call your dog’s name. Again, your dog doesn’t necessarily have to look up at this point, this is just the first half of the command.
- Give the recall command “Come”
- The expectation here is that your dog didn’t stop doing what he was doing to come to you. That’s okay, that’s what the leash is for. Now you slowly reel your dog in while praising him until he reaches you. Then you make them sit and reward them.
The third way is a lead in to either of these two methods and is best utilized if you have a large house or a backyard space. If you have access to a backyard space where your dog is comfortable and used to it, then this method is a perfect start off before switching to one of the other two methods.
- Take your dog to the backyard and let him do his business. And let him do whatever he wants out there until he’s bored.
- Say your dog’s name.
- Give your dog the recall command “come”
- Praise praise praise until they approach. Then you make them sit and reward them
Optional: If your dog just isn’t responding, or taking forever to respond, be more exciting. Run backwards or lay down on the ground. I know that sounds weird, but those things are unusual to dogs and they’re going to get curious and approach you and then the praise and excitement will excite them and then in no time your dog will be right next to you ready for a reward.
So those are a few tips for getting a reliable recall installed in your dog. A reliable recall is invaluable, but it won’t replace the security of a leash. Dogs should only be off leash in designated areas and under your voice control. Happy training and see y’all next week!