Teach Your Dog to Come When Called, No Matter What!
Sometimes I think I am a Golden Retriever, everything is exciting to me, everything is fun, everything should be a game and everything is important, but I guess I am blonde.
I giggle when I look back at my dog training videos and my articles because to me EVERYTHING is critical! Teaching your dog to come, to leave it, crate training, leash training everything is vital to you and your dog. And, to be honest, it really is. All dog training and the victory over behavior problems ensures that you keep your dog and that you both remain happy.
But, Teaching Your Dog To Come Is The Most Important
Dog Obedience Command Every Dog Should Know
Does Your Dog Come When Called?
So what happens if your dog is off leash, he sees a bunny or a deer and goes chasing after it? Will he leave that distraction and come to you when you call him? What if there is a car coming?
Recently a good friend lost his world champion obedience dog because he was chasing deer and was blindsided by a car. I am still devastated for them both. It can certainly happen to anyone who’s dog is off leash, and I can only hope and train hard and pray it never happens to me or my dogs.
How To Teach Your Dog To Come When You Call
You HAVE to train, train, train for a good recall! This is not something to let slack or ignore, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you will ever do! Your dog’s life may sometime depend on this exact command!
NEVER, ever call your dog when he is in trouble, your mad or if you are going to do something bad to him! His name and the word “come” should never mean something bad. So if he is in trouble go and get him. If you are going to crate him or trim his nails, go to him, but do not call him.
You never want your dog’s name or come to = something bad or even slightly negative. Imagine your dog and the bunnies…if “COME” means sometimes he goes in his crate, then there is NO WAY he is leaving those bunnies to come to you!
Would you come to YOU if you were mad or sounded that angry?
When You Call Your Dog It Should Mean FUN, FOOD, and PARTIES!
Does your dog drop everything and run to you when he hears the cookie jar rattle? When you whisper “cookie” would he wake up from a dead sleep to rush to your side? Why is it that he listens so well to the rattle of the treat bag or a word that means treat?
Because with 100% reliability you are going to give him a treat! How often do you get into the dog biscuits but then don’t give him one? Or ask him if he wants a cookie only to give him nothing? Chances are you don’t. Chances are you reward him and so he is familiar with the reward that is tied to the sound or the word. If these things were not paired with something good or a treat, he would stop coming and they would stop being meaningful cues.
You must make sure that your command to “come” = something meaningful and good almost 100% of the time!
Pair the word come with treats, with games and with jackpots of chicken breast and other wonderful things. Don’t call your dog and then take for granted the fact that he actually came to you. And, just know that your praise is never going to be as exciting or as motivating as a scuttling or taunting squirrel. However the knowledge that FOR SURE you are going to be rewarded and you might get some chicken breast is often worth the gamble for your dog!
Look at it from his perspective and stop comparing him to “Lassie”. Dogs want to fulfill their own needs, what is important is to pair what he likes with what you want!
My favorite way to teach my dog to come is to play hide and seek at home. Games are FUN! I don’t care if you are 80 or 20 or if you do or don’t have kids at home. You need to PLAY with your dog in order to teach him you are fun! Just like you play with your children or grandchildren; sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone because it is important for the dog or the child!
Have someone (your spouse, friend or your child) hold your dog’s collar as you tease him with some treats and dash away to hide. First hide in easy to find places and as he gets better you can truly “hide” and make him find you behind doors, in his crate or other silly places. As you call him praise him, this is critical even though you can’t see him coming you must assume that he is scampering after you so continue your praise.
“Fury COME, good girl, good girl, Come, good girl” until she gets to me.
“Fury COME!” just isn’t motivating or exciting and she is likely to get bored and stop coming. I have to motivate her to me and make it FUN! The teasing and dashing is also important. Just showing your dog a treat and sauntering off, is boring.
Which would you prefer? Now which would you prefer if you were 5? Remember your dog has the mentality of a child and needs fun and games!
Once he is finding you with exhilarating excitement in your home, all over your home, in funny places (yes I think dogs have a sense of humor), it is time to move this game outside.
Get a long line of 25 or 50 feet and play the same game; dashing behind trees and bushes. Hide up inside trees or underneath things like your car; make this game the most fun thing your dog has ever done! This imprinting of FUN, FUN, FUN along with reliable treats means your dog will be more likely to automatically leave the bunny, squirrel or deer to rush to your side when you call him!
It isn’t enough to teach this or play this once or twice, you MUST continue to play this game throughout your dog’s life. Once it is imprinted and he is enjoying it, you can play it less but play it occasionally to keep it sharp and reliable. If you notice him not coming to you when called go back to making it FUN and playing!
What Not To Do?
Don’t call your dog when he is in trouble or you’re going to do something negative to him. I know I said it before but it begs to be repeated! This will RUIN this command’s reliability!
Don’t be boring! If you are boring your dog is less likely to listen!! Dogs often mirror our behavior so the more excited and animated you are the more likely your dog will be to listen and enjoy himself. Even if it is out of your comfort zone, get animated and have fun!
NEVER, EVER call your dog if you think he won’t come and you have no physical control of him (unless it is an emergency).
If your dog ignores you don’t give him the opportunity to ignore your commands! This goes for any command but especially the COME command. If your dog ignores you and doesn’t come, this means the command means NOTHING to your dog and nothing happens to him to make him come.
The more often you call him and he ignores you, the more the command loses its meaning and the less likely he is to ever come. This is one of the 5 training pitfalls for training your dog to come that you need to avoid.
Instead, put him on a leash and work on the command by playing games OR at least put him on a leash so that if he ignores you, you can then make him listen by reeling him in!
You may have to slowly work on the command so that he listens off leash in a safe area like your yard, or a fenced in area. When he doesn’t listen go to him, clip on the leash and encourage him to listen to you by restricting his ability to run away and by encouraging him with treats, toys and fun.
It is much easier to teach him this is fun, than to rely on force!
As always have as much fun as possible, this is what bonds you to your dog and your dog to you! But work hard so that, if that moment comes and your dog’s life hangs in the balance he has a desire to play and to please you and leave any distraction behind!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.