Teaching your dog to come when called is one of the most important things you can do for your pet. There are quite a few rules that need to be followed for successful training, but with consistency and commitment your dog will be easily drawn back to you whenever you ask them to come to you!
This video features trainer, Carrie Seay of PHX Animal Behavior Center, walking through all of the steps to help teach your dog “Come”.
5 Rules of Recall:
1. Only call your dog for enjoyable experiences.
Make sure that when you call your dog, that something good follows. If you only call your dog to you so you can give them a bath, or leave the dog park, or put them in their crate when you’re leaving and they find any of those things to be annoying or scary – your dog will start to make the connection that coming when called means negative things happen and their recall behavior will decrease (aka they will stop coming to you!). When you need your dog to join you for something you know they probably don’t want to do, walk over to them, clip their leash to their harness, and give them the “Let’s Go” cue to walk with you.
2. Only call your dog if you are sure they will come.
Would you bet me $20 that your dog will come when you call while chasing a squirrel? If not, don’t use the recall cue yet in this situation. Skill building takes time and you shouldn’t expect your dog to do a behavior without practicing successfully in a lot of different circumstances and locations.
3. If you call your dog and they don’t come, you must make it happen.
Walk over to your dog with a high value treat (something that your dog will find comparable to whatever already has their attention). Put the treat right in front of their nose, and then slowly walk backwards in the direction you want your dog to follow you. After they have followed you a few steps, treat and leash them up to continue movement with you using your loose leash walking skills
4. Say your recall cue once, and only once!
If your dog isn’t coming to you on the first cue, you’ve probably moved too fast through the process. Go back to working in a low distraction environment and ask your dog to cover a much shorter distance. Keep practicing at this level, increasing the difficulty in small increments as long as your dog continues to be successful.
5. The best rewards get the best behaviors.
Since a solid recall is one of the most important behaviors your dog can learn, it’s critical to use a reward that your dog can’t pass up. If you normally use training treats for your training, switch to diced chicken pieces or string cheese bits for your recall practice to up the value for your dog. Is your dog extremely excited about tennis balls? Use your recall cue every time you kick off a game of fetch to inspire your dog to keep finding you when you call.
Step 1. Call your dog in a loud, happy voice. Remember to give the verbal recall cue when you call your dog (“Jasper, come!”).
Step 2. Encourage your dog to come over to you by making yourself interesting – clap, pat your leg, whistle, squat down, squeak a toy, and cheer on your dog to come to you. As your dog moves toward you, hold a treat out in front of you. Your dog will come all the way over to you to get the treat. If appropriate, release them to go back to whatever they were up to. Practice this several times.
Step 3. Now call your dog in a loud, happy voice. Remember to give the verbal recall cue when you call your dog (“Jasper, come!”). As your dog is coming over to you, pull out a treat and hold the treat down in front of your knees or place the treat on the ground between your feet. By treating in one of these two places, you are “treating in position” – you want your pup to come all the way over to you when you call instead of an arm’s length away.
Trying it at Home
Have all family members (or some friends) participate in recall practice! Make sure everyone has some treats. Stand 5-10 steps from each other. Take turns calling your dog (“Jasper, come!”), when the dog comes to the person that called they should treat each time. If your dog starts ping-ponging back and forth before you give the verbal cue, make sure to wait until your dog stops moving and then whoever is farthest from the dog should call the dog to them. Practice this as long as your dog is enjoying themselves.