How to teach your dog to come

How to teach a dog to come. A dog running towards it's owner in the foreground

Teaching your dog reliable recall – the ability of your dog to come when called – is an essential part of dog obedience training. Teaching your dog to come when called can be a life-saver in dangerous situations such as when your dog encounters traffic, snakes or cane toads.

Keep reading to learn the steps to teach your dog to come every time.

1) Start your training inside

A great wait to start your recall training is to choose a quiet room or space where there are few distractions, so that you keep all your dog’s attention on the training session. Also ensure that you keep training sessions short (a couple of minutes at the most) and as your dog learn and increases confidence, you can incrementally increase training times.

2) Prepare for your training sessions outdoor

To train a recall outdoor, you will need a 10m long line, or piece of rope, and plenty of high value rewards! The long line is incredibly important in the beginning as it prevents any failure, and ensures the dog always comes back when called. If you don’t use a long line, and they don’t come back, they will quickly learn that the word ‘come’ means ‘come when I’d like to’ instead of ‘come back quickly when I call.’

3) Reward positive behaviour

The aim is to associate the word come with a high value reward, making you dog excited to come when called!

4) Increase the levels of distraction

Once your dog is coming back quickly each time, you can increase the levels of distraction. This will be different for each dog, as each dog will have different distractors, but it might look a bit like this:

    • First practicing it in your backyard.
    • Then moving into the front yard while people walk past.
    • Then outside your front fence.
    • Then to the park down the road but at a quieter time of day.
    • Then you can try it in a busier park, but far away from any distractions.
    • Then move closer to the distractions.
    • Then you can try it using some moving props to simulate wildlife or by throwing toys etc.

It is a process that requires a bit of patience, but it is worthwhile in the end to have a dog who you can reliably trust off lead and will come when called every time!

It’s important that you don’t turn the recall into a negative experience either. How often do you call your dog to you and then put them on a lead and take them home from the park? Dogs are very smart, and they will quickly learn that coming back means the end of fun-time! So make sure you call your dog frequently, only to reward them and release them back to play. This way they won’t associate the recall with home time AND you get a bit of recall practice in!

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