One of the #1 requests I receive when people are inquiring about dog training is ‘Coming when called’. It seems to always boil down that people are teaching the command incorrectly as well as unknowingly teaching their dog ‘not to come’.
What you may be doing wrong:
- Calling your dog to you for punishment
- Calling your dog to you and immediately putting them up, or leashing, ending the fun
- Not being more interesting, or enticing than what the dog is already interested in
- You use the wrong tone of voice, creating apprehension
- 20′ training leash
- flat nylon buckle collar
- Yummy, high reward treats
Teaching the Recall:
- Begin by standing directly in front of your dog, already in a sit position
- Hold the leash in one hand with the high reward treat in the other hand
- In a solid tone, call your dog with your chosen ‘come’ word as you take 1 step back.
- As you step back hold the treat against the front of your legs at nose level of your dog.
- When the dog moves forward to follow, prompt him to sit as you give him his reward.
Taking it a bit further…
The long term goal is to be able to call your dog from anywhere and they high tail it to sit in front of you. Practice the above steps as written and after a few repetitions start to move the treat towards your face, keeping it in his visual, and hold for a few seconds before feeding the treat. This is an effort to get the dog to eventually focus on your face once seated at your feet following recall.
As your dog becomes more reliable in the short distance, start increasing step distance between you and your dog, summon him with your chosen ‘come’ command. As he comes towards you start with the treat in front of your legs as before and when he’s in position for the sit lift treat towards face as he sits, hold and then reward. Always remember to have a party afterwards, make it fun and rewarding to actually come to you. As he gets more reliable, start phasing out the treats need to be in front of you.
Keep things fun! If your dog stops pay attention and starts to sniff around and refusing to listen, take a break and play a game.
Keep Training Fun… a game to help keep your dog’s interest:
Dogs are far more willing to do something if it’s exciting.
Start by having a helper hold your dog. Do not place the dog in a stay and should not be in a sit, as this exercise will cause him to break it, potentially undoing some training.
Show your dog that treat and then run backwards and say “[Dog’s Name], [Come Word]!” (example: “Spike, Come!”) in a very excited voice. Be care and watch where you’re going so you don’t trip.
The holder should release the dog upon the handler’s ‘Come’ command.
If the dog is successful and comes when called, praise – treat – play. Make a big party out of it.
Then Repeat, increasing the distance and not showing your dog the treat. When the dog reaches you praise – treat – play. Make another big party out of it, make it fun for him to come to you.
photo credit: buster looks up at the camera cropped via photopin (license)