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Teaching your dog to come when called

Teaching your dog to come when called

Now that we are getting finer weather, most of us will be outside more with our dogs and enjoying the local trails and beaches. Perhaps a young dog needs to learn to come when called or the recall needs fine tuning before they can be trusted off-leash.

Here are some tips to help teach a dog to come when called.

Note what your individual dog finds rewarding.
Rewards are anything your dog really likes a lot. Every time you have something the dog loves to do (like a car ride for example), call the dog and use the car ride as the reward.

Pick a safe enclosed space and use games to make coming when called fun.

Teaching your dog to come on command involves rewarding him when he does come. Here, Jane’s dog Dexter has come running. Jane Bowers photo

“Puppy in the middle” is a game where two or more people call the dog back and forth using the puppy’s name once and then rewarding the dog with a quick squeaky toy game or food and praise/petting when he comes to the person who called him.

“Hide and seek” helps with the recall and allows the dog to problem solve (locating their person).  When the dog is not looking, hide nearby with good treats and/or your dog’s favorite toys, call the dog and reward her when she finds you.

If your dog loves to play ball, say “come” as she returns with the ball (so she makes a strong association between running toward you and the word “come” or whatever your recall word is). Immediately throwing the ball again is the reward for coming back to you.

Use a longline attached to the back ring of a harness on the dog and practice the recall in a variety of locations, rewarding every time your dog returns to you. Increase the distractions slowly so the dog has many opportunities to do the recall correctly.

Be reasonable in your expectations.  We have bred some types of dogs to be independent of people, so those dogs may take more time to learn a good solid recall than dogs whose breeds were developed to work more closely with people.

Have fun with the training games and, pretty soon, you will see your dog running back to you when asked to.

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