There are few things more fun or funnier than a dog who’s excited to see his owner. Unbridled joy, wagging tails and flying slobber make for some of the best home movies. But it’s no laughing matter when your dog is loose in traffic or heading for poison ivy.
Teaching your canine friend to come when called is one of the most important training lessons you can master as a pet parent. It’s also a basic command that lays the groundwork for more advanced obedience training down the road. It might seem like common sense to teach your pup to come back when he’s called, but even experienced trainers sometimes need a reminder that it’s not always as easy as it seems.
After all, if dogs always came when they were called, we wouldn’t have lost pets in the first place! Fortunately, with some patience and persistence (and lots of treats), you can train just about any dog to come on command.
Create a list of five to 10 favorite rewards and treats.
- Make sure the treats are healthy.
- Don’t give your dog too many treats.
- Use small, easy-to-eat treats that won’t cause digestive problems or leave crumbs all over your floor (or worse, your carpet).
Teach your dog to “sit.”
- Sit is a great first command to teach your dog because it helps you develop a relationship with them and is useful in many situations.
- When you’re teaching your dog to sit, make sure you have his attention before giving the command. If he isn’t paying attention, he won’t know what you want him to do!
- Once they’re sitting properly, reward them with praise and maybe even a treat if they like treats. This will tell the dog that they did the right thing when they sat down and it’s something positive for him/her.
- If your dog doesn’t sit right away after hearing “sit,” then gently push down on their rear end until they get into position (and be careful not to hurt their tail!). You might have to repeat this step several times before he/she figures out what’s required of them!
Pick a word or phrase, like “come” or “here,” and use it consistently when you call your dog.
The first step to training your dog to come when called is choosing a word or phrase, like “come” or “here,” that you will consistently use when you call your dog. You want a word that is unique to your dog so that he knows exactly what it means and can distinguish it from other words in his vocabulary. Your dog should also be able to hear this word clearly regardless of whether he’s far away or close by, so pick something short and easy-to-remember.
It’s important not to use someone else’s unique word for the command (e.g., “Here!”), because then both people would need their own commands for calling their dogs—that could get confusing (and frustrating) pretty quickly! Likewise, don’t use words commonly used around either yourself or others in your household; otherwise there will be confusion when one person calls the dog while another doesn’t want him coming over just yet.
Repeat the exercise with the leash on.
Once your dog is able to come when called with a leash, you can move on to training him or her to do so without one. While this is generally considered an advanced trick and will take some time, it can be done in several weeks if you stick with it. You’ll need a long line for this exercise—about 20 feet should do the trick.
This will allow the dog room to roam around and still make it easy for you to reel them in when they get too far away from you. Don’t use anything that’s too heavy or too light; choose something sturdy but flexible enough that your pup won’t feel weighed down by it as he runs around freely outdoors!
Practice outdoors but in a controlled setting, such as an enclosed yard or other area where your dog can’t run away.
Outdoor practice is the best way to get your dog used to the command. However, it’s important that you do so in a safe and controlled environment where there are no distractions or hazards. A fenced-in yard with gentle grass is ideal for these exercises.
Add distractions one at a time, such as another person holding your dog’s toy or treating your dog to his favorite food from across the yard.
When your dog is distracted by a new and exciting thing, call him. If he comes, reward him with praise and treats. If not, try again later when he is less distracted by his surroundings.
Repeat the process with increasingly greater distances between you and your pet and practice frequent recalls in unfamiliar but safe places.
- Practice in a controlled environment. The first step is to let your dog get comfortable with coming when called in a safe and familiar place, like at home or in the back yard.
- Practice in an unfamiliar place. Once your dog has mastered the recall command at home, take him to a new area that has fewer distractions (like people) and give him time to explore while you stay out of sight.
- Practice with increasing distances between you and your pet. Once he’s mastered being called from across the yard, try calling him from inside another room or even upstairs!
With patience, persistence and lots of treats, you can train just about any dog to come when called.
With patience, persistence and lots of treats, you can train just about any dog to come when called. The command is a very useful one for keeping your dog safe and out of harm’s way when he or she gets too far away from you. It’s important to be consistent with the command so that it becomes second-nature for both you and your pooch; keep practicing it every day until your pup responds immediately upon hearing the words “Come,” “Here,” or whatever word you’ve chosen to use.
It’s also crucial for you to be patient with your dog during training: make sure that he understands what’s expected before rewarding him with praise or treats (and don’t forget those treats!). If necessary, stop training sessions early if they become frustrating instead of fun; don’t expect perfection right away!
Congratulations! You have successfully trained your dog to come when called. If your dog still needs some help, don’t worry—remember that every dog is different and you may need to spend a bit more time and effort training yours. But as long as you approach the process with enthusiasm for learning, consistency and patience, we’re confident that you will be able to master this bond-building skill together soon enough.