One of the most basic tricks you can teach your pet is to come when they are called, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. So, how fo you train a dog to come?
When teaching a dog to come, you have to use recall training. Recall is an important part of controlling dog behavior, whether that’s for tricks, or simply getting your dog to listen to you. When your dog has good recall, he’ll be able to recognize certain commands and obey them.
While this does depend on your dog’s ability to recall things, there are certain tricks you can use to make it easier for you to teach your dog to come when called.
There is plenty of information collected through research by experts, as well as dog owners about how to train your dog and we have put that all together in this article.
Teaching Your Dog to Come
While training a dog to come when called is a seemingly simple trick, it is a very useful one too. When your dog knows that he is being called, you can make him come to you for simple things like wanting to pet him, to actually saving his life.
Dogs get distracted very easily, and sometimes this curiosity results in them entering dangerous, and even life-threatening situations, like walking into the oncoming traffic. In such cases, you want them to hear your voice and come when you are calling.
As is the case for teaching anyone to do anything – whether that’s pets or people – positive reinforcement is necessary. To start off, you should give your dog positive reinforcement and use high-value treats that you don’t give him on a daily basis. This could be some cooked chicken or sausages. If your dog feels that he is getting something out of listening to you, he will be more inclined to do so.
You can also use non-food rewards.
For example, dogs like walks, and many dogs are already conditioned to know that if you grab the leash, it probably means it's time for a walk. You can use this to your advantage, by telling him to come, and if he listens to you, you can bring out the leash and let him know that you’ll be going for a walk.
Most times, dogs will take some time to understand what the ‘come’ command means, and many will also not know that you’re going to be taking them for a walk after they listen. In this case, you can use audible cues, such as the clink of the leash or his ball, along with the command. When your dog hears it, he will be more likely to listen.
You can also use verbal praise as positive reinforcement and pet your dog as a reward. By using things your dogs like as a reward for listening, you can get him to associate obeying the ‘come’ command as a positive thing.
Practice Commands Indoors
Your dog will not pick up on the commands immediately, and you shouldn’t expect him to. Just like people take time to learn things, so do animals. If you want your dog to have good recall around commands outdoors, you must first train him to listen indoors.
First train him over short spaces, so he can get used to hearing the word ‘come’ and also be able to correctly associate it with what you mean. Once you’ve managed this, you will be able to train him to listen to you outdoors as well.
Keep from Unintentional Punishments
When trying to teach your dog to listen to you, you want to minimize any negative associations he may have with obeying. For example, if you tell your dog to come to you while you’re at a dog park, and then you have to leave, your dog will start associating the command with leaving something he has fun with.
Even if you don’t intend for it, and have been using positive reinforcement alongside, if your dog develops a negative association with the command, they become averse to obeying it and you will have a hard time making them listen to you after that.
Some examples of accidental punishments include getting a bath, having their nails clipped or hair brushed, or giving medicine.
If you’re using the command to teach your dog how to obey it, you want to avoid doing anything he doesn’t like. For these kinds of situations, the best way is to go to him yourself and gently lead him towards whatever you want to get him to do.
Using Commands Instead of Names
Many dog owners usually use their dog’s name instead of the command when they want to know where they are or what they’re doing. Sometimes, you also tend to use their names when calling them to you!
While this does get their attention, it doesn’t do the job of letting your dog know what you want them to do, so it is not a good way to train him.
It is difficult to get rid of the habit of using your dog’s name, but if you start replacing it with the command you want him to learn, it’ll be much easier for him to recognize what it means and what you want him to do.
Make Sure Your Dog Comes to You All the Way
Dogs can also get confused if you use the ‘come’ command inconsistently. For example, if you use ‘come’ as a replacement for his name, like when you’re trying to get his attention, your dog may get confused.
You want your dog to know that when you say ‘come’ you mean that he should come all the way to you from wherever he is right now. If you reward him from coming half the way, or simply responding the way he would when his name is called, he may get the wrong idea of what ‘come’ means.
Therefore, use the word ‘come’ when you want him to come to you, and only reward him when he obeys fully.
How to Teach a Dog to Come
So how do you actually train your dog to obey the command?
For one thing, start indoors at a shorter distance of a few feet, such as with your dog on the other side of the room. Make eye contact and say ‘come’ clearly. Be cheerful, so your dog doesn’t think you’re angry at him. You can also say his name to get his attention, and pat your hands on your legs to indicate what you want him to do. Repeat the command and continue until he obeys.
When he comes to you all the way, give him a treat as a reward.
Start trying this process over longer distances. For example, instead of a few feet, try a longer distance. After some time, switch to being in a place where you’re outside his line of sight and get his attention by calling his name. From here, he won’t be able to see any non-verbal cues that you are calling him to you.
If this doesn’t work, try again in the same room until he gets used to it. Then try again from another room.
Don’t give up if your dog doesn’t understand it the first time – training a dog is a difficult process, but repetition helps and will eventually bring about results.
Once you’ve managed to train your dog to obey your command when he’s not doing anything, try again with a distraction. Think of things that distract your dog, such as a toy and introduce this into the environment. Make sure the distraction is a mild one at the start and then move on to more distracting things. Again, make sure to reward your dog when he obeys.
Once your dog has started obeying you fully when you are indoors, it’s time to go outside. You can start in a more familiar place, like your backyard, before moving to a place with more distractions and greater distances, such as a park. Here, you should try again and see if your dog listens and obeys your command.
Once again, don’t forget to treat your dog when he listens to you. In fact, keep the treats for the first few days before slowly moving to verbal praise and pets. Make sure you don’t accidentally punish him!
At the end of the day, recall is the basic principle behind teaching your dog to do anything. When you know your dog has good enough recall to listen to you, you can rest assured that he will be able to come to you in any kind of situation. Take time to train him properly, indoors and outdoors, and keep reinforcing his behavior with treats and rewards every once in a while.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright