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Bulldog responding to a dog recall command

Teaching Your Dog To Come When Called: Sanity Saving Tips To Help You Train A Solid Dog Recall Starting Today

Stop pulling your hair out and start training your dog to come when called. Learn how to teach a strong dog recall and how to avoid common training mistakes.

Teaching Your Dog To Come When Called Is Important For Your Sanity And Your Dog’s Safety.

Having a dog that doesn’t come when you call can make you want to pull your hair out! How many times have you stood on the back porch hollering your dog’s name for the one-hundredth time only to have him look at you and then carry on sniffing stuff? Too many times is my guess. If your dog won’t come to you in your own yard, what hope do you have out at the park or on a hike? Having a dog who won’t come when called is frustrating — no one likes to be ignored — and it can also be dangerous!

Teaching your dog to “Come” on command (known as the recall command) is one of the most important things you can do. Unfortunately, it’s often neglected. Getting your dog to come when you call doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, right? The reality is, it can be tricky. You have a lot to compete with! 

The good news is that once you know how to teach your dog a solid recall (and which common mistakes to avoid along the way) you’ll feel confident taking your dog out with you and your dog will be much safer. 

Small tan and white bulldog runs in the grass toward the camera.

The First Step Is Deciding What You Want Your Dog To Do When You Say “Come.”

When you teach your dog a command it’s important to know what your expectations are. Does “Come” mean run over to me and check in? Does it mean come to me and sit down until given the next command? When you call your dog to come, how quickly do you want him to act? When you have a clear understanding of the behaviour you want to see it is much easier to train consistently. You can reward the behaviour you want and correct the behaviour you don’t.

For me, the foundation of a solid recall is to have your dog return to you right away, every time, when given the command once, without repetition. Whether you then set the expectation that they sit and wait is up to you. The important part is that they leave what they are doing and return to you quickly. 

Why Is Teaching A Dog Recall So Tough?

The concept of coming when called is not hard for most dogs to understand. The hard part is motivating the dog to leave whatever they are doing. They hear you calling but don’t be shocked if they don’t come right away (or even at all) until you have this command firmly established. 

Dogs are nosey (quite literally). A big part of their day is spent sniffing and checking things out — especially when they are having “free time” playing in the yard or a park. Dogs are also highly social and some are very driven to hunt and track. There is a lot going on in your dog’s world!

So, in essence, you have to convince your dog that coming to you is better than hounding around the bottom of that fire hydrant or running in the field with a new pup pal. (You’re up against some pretty stiff competition.) That’s why it’s reasonable to expect some setbacks and frustration along the way when training your dog to come when called. 

Large black and white dog sniffs in the tall grass.

Establishing A Good Dog Recall Takes Time. Don’t Give Up!

No one said training a dog was going to be easy. It takes time and lots of consistent effort! Teaching a solid recall is one training milestone that may test you. Some dogs pick it up right away and others take a long time to consistently come when called, even if you are training daily. 

It’s O.K. to be frustrated — but not while you’re training. If your dog is ignoring you and you start snapping at him or getting agitated, you aren’t giving them good incentive to want to come when called. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a break. Try again or switch it up and go back to some commands you know your dog can ace to build up your confidence again. 

Be patient – no one likes being ignored but your dog isn’t doing it on purpose. 

Tips For Teaching Your Dog To Come When Called.

You can’t rush recall training. More than some other commands, getting your dog to come when called takes some time and persistence. Some of the most common mistakes I see people make are being inconsistent with training, not taking the time to make sure the dog knows what is expected of them and training while they are frustrated or overwhelmed. Most of these issues can be resolved by slowing down and being intentional with your training. 

If you are starting to work on your dog’s recall, try working through the following steps to build a solid understanding of the command with your dog. Remember, don’t rush! Take the time you need to get it right and keep the energy high and positive.  

  1. Teach your dog what is expected when you say “Come.” 

Start in a quiet, distraction-free (or minimal) space like your living room or backyard. Put your dog on a leash. Kneel or squat down and open your arms wide and say “(dog’s name) Come!” Guide them to you with the leash if they need encouragement. When your dog gets to you, give him or her treats, lots of praise and affection. Repeat this until you are sure your dog understands what “Come” means.

  1. Start to put some distance between you and the dog.

Next, put your dog on a longer leash. Practice telling them to “Come” and start praising them as soon as they make a move toward you. If they need help staying focused, guide them with the leash. Go at your dog’s pace and keep adding distance between you. Reward BIG if your dog comes on their own without guidance. 

  1. Add in distractions.

Once your dog is really getting the hang of things, slowly add in distractions. This could be practicing on your driveway where people or cars pass by or in a room when there are people or toys available. In time, you can start working with your dog (on leash) in a park or local sports field. 

Work at your dog’s pace and don’t be afraid to step back and try again if (or would I say when) you hit bumps along the way! Offer loads of praise and rewards (treats, toys, time together) when your dog gets it right and try to end each training session with a win. 

Medium white dog shown wearing an e-collar around his neck.

An E-Collar Can Help Enforce Your Recall Command. 

One of the greatest perks of having a dog with a consistent recall is the chance to go off-leash in appropriate settings. But, if your dog is inconsistent, off-leash life isn’t safe. Because you can quickly be a field apart (even small dogs are fast!), your dog could get lost or hurt and you might be too far away to respond quickly.  

If your dog has a great recall in your yard (aka. he knows what he is supposed to do when you tell him to come) but the distractions of the park are just too much, an e-collar could be the right tool for you. E-collars give you the ability to give your dog a well-timed correction if he doesn’t respond to your command right away. In a way, it’s like when you used your leash to guide your pooch to you. The e-collar stim tells your dog “you better listen to that command!” and makes it hard for your dog to ignore you. 

If you want to learn more about e-collar training, contact us today to Tell Us About Your Dog or subscribe to the newsletter to find out when new training and group classes become available. 

Investing The Time In Recall Training Now Will Pay Off Later!

If you’re tired of watching those well-behaved dogs come bouncing across the field to their owners without a fuss and thinking “Why can’t MY dog do that?” rest easy. Your dog CAN do that — they just can’t do it right now. Training your dog to come when called takes time and patience. You need to start with a solid understanding of the command and then keep at it, adding distractions and distance as you pass each milestone. Remember, you can’t rush recall training. And, if you’ve been at it for a long while and need a tool to help you reach that off-leash goal, consider e-collar training. It’s a big favourite of mine personally and as a dog trainer here in Peterborough, ON.

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