A Lesson on Teaching a Dog to Come When Called

This is the one of the most important commands you will ever teach your dog.

It doesn’t matter what else your dog knows, if he doesn’t come when called he’s always at risk of being lost, injured or worse.

Unfortunately many dog owners systematically teach their dogs not to come.

An untrained dog allowed to run off the leash. When the dog doesn’t come on the first command the owner does one of two things. They either repeat the command several times teaching the dog that he doesn’t have to come, or when the dog does return, he is put back on the leash. This teaches the dog that when he comes play time is over. The only thing accomplished here is self-rewarding the dog for not coming,

The second scenario is the owner who will repeatedly call the dog and when he finally does come he is punished. This will cause the dog to come slower or not come at all anticipating punishment if they do return to the owner.

Another mistake owners often make is calling the dog for an unpleasant action. If the dog has soiled the floor and the owner calls the dog to receive punishment, they are not likely to come the next time.

When teaching a dog “recall”, you are creating a “space” of control between you and your dog. First the dog needs to be taught to come on a leash or in a confined area. Once this is accomplished you can go to a long line and begin teaching distance. After this you can begin off leash training. If you do not follow through or punish your dog for not coming, you will basically be back at square one.

Puppy-hood is a great time to start the recall. Let’s say you have a litter and want to begin foundation training because this will greatly benefit the new owners. Every time you catch the puppies running toward you, throw in the command “here” or “come” and praise them as they approach. This teaches them from the beginning that coming to a person is a pleasant and wonderful action.

For older dogs it is important that they too learn that coming is a pleasant experience. Call your dog several times a day even in the house. Always follow with a treat and or praise. This will begin the process of imprinting what the dog has to do. I will again repeat if you are about to do something unpleasant or anything you know the dog will not like do not call them. Go get them. Coming to you must be associated with something they like. Do not give them the option of not coming to you. As they approach, praise them. I call this “praising a dog to you”. Once they get to you treat them and praise them again. Then do something they like. Go for a ride or take them for a walk. Play with them.

“Praising a dog to you” is something I have tried successfully with dogs I don’t even know. Once while working animal services I was patrolling a neighborhood. I turned a corner to see a Lab mix happily running for yard to yard, ears flopping and having a great time. Just behind him were several people yelling at the dog to come. The dog obviously was not paying any attention to these people; on the contrary the dog was completely ignoring him. This was evident by the profane language spewing from mouths of the people chasing him.

I stopped my truck a few houses in front of the dog. I got out and asked the people chasing him to stop. I entered the middle of the street in front of the dog, bent down and started praising the dog and clapping as loudly as possible. The dog looked at me as I continued to shower him with praise. Soon he ran right to me. Not creating a game of chase and not showing anger.

Things to remember are:

Not calling the dog to punish him

Praise praise praise. Even after the dog is recalling consistently.

Do not get ahead of yourself and call your dog off leash before the dog is ready unless in a contained area where you can get the dog and follow through if he does not respond.

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