How To Teach Your Dog To Come When Called

At Cape Canine Academy, we understand the significance of teaching your dog to come when called. It’s not merely a command; it’s a crucial skill for ensuring your pet’s safety.  Whether you’re at the park, at home, or out on a hike, having your dog reliably respond when you call them is essential.  In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of training your dog to come when called, offering expert tips and techniques for success.

A dog learning how to come when called

Understanding the Importance of Recall Training

Training your dog to come when called goes beyond simple obedience; it’s about teaching your dog to make a conscious decision to return to you, even in distracting or enticing situations. This skill can be lifesaving, preventing your dog from running into danger such as traffic or confrontations with other dogs or wild animals.

Establishing a Foundation

Before embarking on recall training, it’s crucial to establish a strong foundation with your dog. Spend quality time together, engage in activities that your dog enjoys, and use positive reinforcement to build a language in which you can tell them when they did something you like. Your dog should view you as a source of safety, comfort, and fun.  A solid foundation of trust and clear communication is key to successful recall training.

A Chihuahua coming when called

Start Early and Be Consistent

Puppies are like sponges, soaking up information and learning quickly, so starting training early can help establish good habits right out of the gate. However, it’s never too late to start training and dogs of all ages can learn to come when you call them. Consistency is crucial; ensure that everyone in the household uses the same command and reinforcement methods to avoid confusion. Dedicate regular, short training sessions to your recall, gradually increasing difficulty as your dog progresses.

Choosing the Right Rewards

Treats are what most of us think of when we consider what to use to reward our dogs while training them. While many dogs do love treats, not all treats are created equal. Our dogs are not computers that we can program to like what we wish they would, so consider your dog’s unique personality and preferences when choosing your rewards. Treats are one option, but you can also use toys, play, or affection as well if your dog prefers one of those over treats. It’s important to remember that when teaching your dog to choose to come to you over a distraction, you’re competing with those distractions for your dog’s attention. Make sure to choose a treat or reward that they find valuable. Experiment with different rewards to determine what resonates best with your furry friend.

Use Inviting Body Language and Tone of Voice

Oftentimes when we call our dogs and they don’t respond, it’s easy to get frustrated. However, think of this from your dog’s point of view: if they think you’re angry with them or that they’re in trouble, will they really want to come to you? Of course not, they’re likely to do the opposite and avoid you. Always use an upbeat, positive tone and inviting body language. Be fun and interesting, give your dog a reason to want to come to you.

A woman rewarding her dog for coming when called

Recall Training Exercises

Name Recognition: Teach your dog to respond to their name by saying it in a cheerful tone and rewarding them when they make eye contact or approach you. While their name isn’t necessarily a formal recall, you want to make sure that you can easily get your dog’s attention when you need to call them. 

Start Indoors: Begin training them to come when called in a familiar, low-distraction environment, such as your living room. Call your dog’s name and reward them when they come to you. It’s okay to start this exercise with a standard 6 foot leash on your dog. To avoid repeating your commands several times (which will only teach your dog how to become a master at ignoring you), use your leash to gently guide your dog to you if they don’t respond after the first or second command. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog as they become more reliable. 

Gradually Increase Distance and Distractions: Once your dog reliably responds indoors, transition to different rooms and gradually introduce distractions such as toys or other people. Practice your recall in various environments, gradually increasing the level of distraction as your dog improves. 

Use a Long Line: When progressing to outdoor recall training, use a long line to ensure your dog’s safety while allowing them more freedom. Attach a long line to your dog’s collar or harness and let them roam while still maintaining control. For safety, always attach any leash over 15 feet long to your dog’s harness, not their collar. You’ll also want to be careful not to get your feet tangled in the leash. 

Consistent Practice: Practice recall regularly, even after your dog has mastered the skill. Reinforcement and repetition are crucial for maintaining a reliable recall. Incorporate recall games and exercises into your daily routine, such as during walk and playtime.

Troubleshooting Common Challenges

  • Lack of Motivation: If your dog loses interest in training, try using higher value rewards or incorporate more engaging activities into your sessions. Use a fun tone of voice and inviting body language. Keep your training sessions short to keep your dog’s interest and enthusiasm.
  • Ignoring Commands: Avoid repeating your commands multiple times, as this can teach your dog that they don’t need to respond immediately. Instead, use a cheerful tone and wait a couple of seconds for them to comply. If they don’t, simply use your leash to gently guide your dog in your direction. Walking backwards while you do so will help draw them in and encourage them to follow you. Even if you need to help them out, reward them once they come to you. If you find that your dog is really struggling even with the help of the leash, go back to an easier environment with less distractions to strengthen their skill at an easier level before adding difficulty again. 
  • Fear or Anxiety: If your dog shows signs of fear or anxiety during training, take a step back and work on building their confidence gradually. Create a positive association with recall by pairing it with enjoyable experiences and rewards. Seek professional guidance from a dog trainer if necessary, especially if your dog’s fear or anxiety prevents them from making progress. 

Training your dog to come when called is a journey that requires patience, dedication, and a deep understanding of your furry companion. By investing time and effort into recall training, you can ensure your dog’s safety and enjoy more freedom together. Remember to celebrate their successes and be patient with setbacks, as every dog learns at their own pace. With dedication and love, you can master the art of recall training and enjoy a lifetime of joyful adventures with your beloved canine companion. So, grab your treats, toys, leash, and enthusiasm, and embark on this rewarding journey together! 

Need help? Here at Cape Canine Academy we’re dedicated to helping the dog owners of Cape Cod, MA achieve success so you can enjoy everything our beautiful beaches and walking trails have to offer.

A dog running on the beach
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