Teaching a dog to come when called is the most important command to teach a dog. Most people know the basics – put your dog on a leash, call him, lure him in and reward. But here are some important tricks to teaching a dog a reliable recall:
Only call your dog if you can enforce it.
Yes, this is hard! But when your dog is in the yard barking at another dog and you keep screaming at him to come, you are only teaching him to tune you out. He learns that coming when called is optional. It’s not that he wants to disobey. It’s just that barking is so much more fun! It’s self rewarding.
So, unless your dog is in danger, don’t call him unless you are 99 percent sure you can get him to come to you. This might mean he is wearing a long leash so you can “reel” him in. And of course, make sure his dog ID tags are up to date, even when he’s not going to be off leash.
Give the command once.
We humans tend to get louder and louder if our dog’s don’t obey us the first time. But your dog heard you the first time. One of the tips obedience instructors will teach is don’t repeat commands. We’re all guilty of this at times, even if we know better. Dogs “disobey” for all kinds of reasons, usually because they don’t understand what we want them to do. They could also be scared or distracted. And sometimes they are testing us to see what they can get away with. It’s not that they don’t hear us.
Set consistent expectations.
If you’re not sure what you want your dog to do when you call him, then how is your dog supposed to know? For example, do you want him to come to you and sit directly in front of you? Or, is it OK if he comes within a few feet of you and remains standing? There is no right answer, but you do need to be consistent.
And obviously, your verbal command should be short and consistent such as “come” or “here” or “front.”
Practice in challenging environments.
Sure, most dogs will come when called in an uneventful atmosphere such as the living room. But do they come when called while running off leash in an open field? Maybe not. You’ll want to start small, with just slightly challenging situations. Then go ahead and practice with more challenges as your dog is successful. A 50-foot rope is a great tool for outdoor training. Just wear gloves or you could get some serious rope burn. And make sure to browse our collars to find the right training tools such as a martingale collar or a reflective dog collar.
Be the prize.
Hopefully your dog views you as the ultimate reward and not the “fun police.” For example, if you call your dog every time you’re ready to leave the dog park, what do you think your dog will learn? Instead, why not call him randomly and then allow him to go right back to playing? When you’re ready to leave the park, just go get him.
If your dog thinks you’re the greatest thing on earth, he’s more likely to come running when you call him, even with distractions. Maybe this means you keep pieces of hamburger in your pockets at times. Maybe it means you run in the opposite direction yelling “wooo!” so your dog chases you. The point is, keep life fun so your dog never knows what you’re up to!
What are some tricks you use to teach your dog to come when called?