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How to train a dog to come when called

Black, white and brown Shetland dog advice

Teaching your dog the command "Recall" is very important.

© Shutterstock

It comes in very handy at the dog park to get your dog to come when called but, more importantly than that, good recall could one day save them from danger.

By Natasha James

Published on the 06/09/2020, 17:00

Forget “sit” or “roll over”, teaching your dog to come when called might just be the most important thing you can do as a dog owner. While we all want our dogs to know and understand their name, a simple shout won’t necessarily stop them running out in front of a car or going somewhere they’re not allowed – but a good recall response will.

But, while recall may seem like a simple command, it’s surprisingly easy to get wrong.

So, how do you get your dog to come when called?

The process of encouraging your pup to respond to recall training is relatively straightforward. Here’s how to teach your dog to come when called in five easy steps:

  1. Have a tasty treat or toy in your hand and show it your dog – use positive reinforcement and be playful and enthusiastic to get their attention.
  2. Step back a couple of paces and say, “Name, Come” – This is important, if you just use their name alone it’s not a clear enough command.
  3. When your dog comes to you, gently hold their collar and give them the treat or the toy (along with some praise, of course).
  4. Continue the process, gradually increasing the distance between you and your dog each time. You could ask a friend to hold your dog’s collar if “stay” isn’t their strong suit.
  5. And finally, take it outside, ideally a safe space like a garden. There are far more distractions outside, especially if you visit the dog park, so consider putting your pup on a long lead while you continue their training.

Like with all dog commands, asking them to come when called is a process and one you can’t expect them to get right straight away. It’s also important to keep their training regular so if they come when called one day and then aren’t asked to do the trick again for a month, it’s perfectly understandable that they may get a little rusty.

How long does it take to train a dog to come when called?

How quickly you train your dog really does depend on your commitment to the training. Dogs want to learn and want to get things right so if you consistently work on their training, using positive reinforcement every time they get things right then it’s likely that they’ll pick this new skill up within a couple of weeks. If you’re getting annoyed or frustrated then it’s probably time to stop for the day.

What do you do when your dog won’t come?

If your dog is struggling to grasp the recall command then slow things right down. Go back to step one and make it a fun game. If your dog picks up on your frustration then they’re less likely to enjoy the process of learning. If your dog comes when called at home but is less reliable in the dog park then don’t panic, here are some more tips for nailing recall…

Tips for teaching recall to your dog

  1. If your dog doesn’t seem wholly enthusiastic about this new game then try upping the ante with a high value treat. If bits of kibble aren’t proving to be very appealing, then you could try cheese or chicken – if the treat you use is something they don't have very often then it’s far more likely to pique their interest.
  2. …But, it doesn’t have to be food, other rewards can work just as well. If your dog has food intolerances or dietary issues then you can easily up the ante with non-food rewards. Wait until your dog is ready for a walk, take their lead in your hand and issue the “come” command.
  3. Don’t punish them for getting it right. That sounds straightforward enough but see it from your dog’s point of view, if Fido is having a great time at the dog park and reacts perfectly to your “come” command, he’ll think he’s being punished if you immediately put him back on the leash and into the car – and he may be less keen to obey you in the future. Make it part of a fun game, give him a treat and play with him for a few minutes to say “well done” before you put him in the car!

The final word on teaching your dog recall

So, there you have it, a selection of fool-proof tips for encouraging your dog to develop perfect recall. They might not learn right away and you might have to go back and start again if you don't keep up the training but recall is an invaluable skill for your pooch to learn.
 

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