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Ask the Trainer: Teaching a Dog to Come When Called

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Dear Kevin,
How do I teach my dog Carleigh to come when called?

Hi Pat!

Having a good recall (coming when called) is something that takes a lot of practice.

I would recommend using a long leash (30-50ft) during the learning phase. When training, stay very happy and use a lot of high value rewards – some dogs are treat or toy driven while others just love to perform for the good attention they get. Choose whichever reward Carleigh best responds to.

To teach recall, use a consistent word (like “come”). Practice this with her in a sit or a down position as well as when she goes to put her nose down to sniff. Say your recall word and try not to repeat it. One common mistake pet parents make when training is repeating the command multiple times and then rewarding when the dog finally performs. As a result, some dogs will only sit when they hear, “sit. sit. sit.”

If she doesn’t come when called you have a few options:

– You can get low to the ground and make some happy fun sounding noises.

– Another option you have is to start running the opposite way. (Be aware of how much room you have until you run out of leash).

– And one other option you have is to start reeling her in gently while praising her.

Build that repetition of her coming every time she is called. When she is coming every time you can then start to practice without the leash (make sure she is safe from running off, like in a fenced yard or park).

Mastering a dependable recall requires a great deal of practice and patience. It can take  up to 6 months to have a solid recall. Just keep working on it, it will be worth it once your dog masters this command!

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. A couple things I want to add. In regards to repeating yourself. If you say, “come” and your dog does not come, you have the option of taking a few steps in and then repeating the cue. This is different than standing in the same spot and repeating it. If your dog has some sort of an understanding of what “come” means then at some point when you get close enough it should start to come toward you. With reward and repetition each time you try this you’ll be able to be further away. Also, to get a quicker response time on your recall, give bigger rewards for the quicker response times. This can get your dog to come quicker in the long run.

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