Teaching your dog to come to you when called is an essential part of proper dog training. Often referred to as a "recall," it is one of the most important basic dog commands. You can teach a recall to a young puppy as soon as it learns its name.
Training your dog for the recall cue can help you keep it under control while allowing it some off-leash freedom. Once this cue is mastered, you can protect the dog from a potentially dangerous situation by calling it to you.
Plan Short Training Sessions
Training your dog to come when called is fairly simple, but it takes some dogs longer than others to learn. Your dog's ability to learn the recall command largely depends on its attention span and vulnerability to distraction.
It's important that you work on training regularly and use valuable rewards. Plan to train your dog in short training sessions of between 5 to 15 minutes at least three times a week but no more than twice a day.
While your dog will have to learn to filter out some distractions, don't try to train it in an environment where it will be overstimulated by noise or smells. Ideally, you and your dog will be the only ones in the house with normal everyday conditions (such as lights and ambient sounds) when you start the training.
In the beginning, use a favorite toy or your dog's favorite training treats. Hold up a toy or treat, then say your dog's name followed by “come” in a clear, excited tone. If necessary, make movements such as tapping your knees and stepping backward. As soon as your dog comes to you, give it the reward, then praise it lavishly–but try not to cause overexcitement.
Don't Chase Your Dog
Never run after your dog if it bolts during these training sessions. This will confuse the dog and turns training into a game. Try turning it around by calling the dog's name and running away from it. Your dog may then run after you in play. If so, reward it with praise when it gets to you.
Problems and Proofing the Behavior
Repeat five or six times, gradually moving to different areas of your home, including outdoors. As your dog improves, move to areas with more distractions.
Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. You may wish to use a longer lead. Once your dog has mastered the recall while on the long leash, practice it without any leash, but only indoors or in a fenced-in area.
Slowly phase out the toy or treat rewards, but keep rewarding with much praise. It's important that your dog learns to come to you without food or toy rewards. In the real world, you may need it to come, but not have anything to give it except praise.
Tips for Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called
- Never use the recall command with an angry or frustrated tone in your voice. You want your dog to have a positive association with the "come" command.
- If your dog does not come to you at first, you may need to decrease the distance between you and your dog to make sure it knows what you want it to do. If it's not responding, you may also need to make the reward more valuable—such as a squeaky toy or stinkier treats—or lightly tug on the leash to encourage your dog.
- If you or your dog get too frustrated, end the training session.
- Once your dog has mastered this basic recall, move on to teach it an emergency recall, which is to be used in very dire situations.