Guide Your Dog To Come When Called | Focus on the hometown

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a two-part article, the first of which appeared in our September 25 edition. – Kirsten Reichel, HTF editor

A good recall of your dog doesn’t happen overnight – a reliable recall is taught in small steps. You’ll want to start with short distances on a leash until you get a good recall. Once your dog reliably arrives when called out, increase the distance.

Finally, you can add distractions such as training outdoors with other people or dogs. If you notice your dog not obeying a certain distance or with distractions, go back to the previous step and practice more – your dog was not quite ready to move on.

Like many good things, a reliable recall is built over time. Don’t expect success overnight. If your dog doesn’t come to you in your own yard, he isn’t ready to try command at the park.

Dogs are constantly learning from us whether we realize it or not, so it’s important not to be lazy when it comes to giving a nice reward every time they come on command. Even if they already know what it means to “come here”, it is important to continue to reward them every time they come when called upon. If you don’t reward your dog, he may decide that sniffing in the yard is a lot more rewarding than coming back to you just to get inside.

Dogs learn well when they are rewarded for making their own choices. If you forget to congratulate them, they might wonder if they’ve done something wrong or just decide it’s just not worth listening to next time.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to rewards – it doesn’t just have to be treats. Dogs can be very motivated by play, so try a pull toy or a decoy if your dog enjoys hunting. If they go crazy about squeaky toys, use them. I’ve used everything from frisbees to carrots.

You can make it even more rewarding by making it a game. Puppy in the Middle is one of our favorite booster games; you and a partner practice calling your dog back and forth. Keep your dog interested by generously rewarding him with treats when he comes. Take it up a notch by adding a tennis ball and encourage them to participate. It’s an easy way to practice reliable recall with multiple family members.

Whether you use a clicker or verbal praise, another way to improve your dog’s memory is to let him know he’s on the right track as he comes back to you. If you wait until you show a sign of positive reinforcement until they come back to you completely, they’re more likely to get distracted along the way.

When training a puppy, the game “chase me” is especially fun. As they come back to you, verbally praise them and try to convince them to sue you. You know your dog better, use the higher value rewards when working with new distractions or at a distance.

Any toys you designate as training tools should be kept separate and out of your dog’s reach. Dogs can easily get bored with toys if they have access to the same toys all the time – only use your high-value toys or treats when you are actually training.

When it comes to training your dog to come when called out, it’s important to remember to keep him entertained. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make releasing your dog its own reward.

If your dog was up to something fun before you brought him in, give him his reward and let him get back to what he was doing. For this to work, you must have a release command such as “okay go”. Something to signify that the dog is free to go back to whatever he wants.

When it comes to teaching your dog to “come here”, don’t think your dog is too young to learn. You can create a decent foundation by teaching your young puppy that coming towards you equals all kinds of good and fun things. This positive association will help set the stage for your dog’s recall later.

Puppies grow up following their littermates. They learn by example and following other family members comes naturally to them. Teaching a young puppy to come here is usually fairly easy using positive reinforcement.

Puppies love to follow moving objects, so teaching them to come your way while you run can be accomplished quite easily. If you can lay the groundwork for a great encore with a young puppy, it will be immensely helpful when they reach their rebellious teenage stage.

If you can’t get your dog to reliably come to you within 5 feet of your home, don’t try it at the dog park. Success comes in small steps and your dog needs to be trained in many different situations before you can expect him to come to you in a very stimulating environment.

If you find that your dog is not listening, go get them. Don’t yell or stress your dog, just put him back on a leash and remove him from the distraction. Your dog should realize that not coming when called out is not an option without being too harsh.

Use your callback command only once, maybe twice. Don’t keep repeating it. If your dog ignores you, he will associate not listening as an option to keep doing what he is doing.

This will strengthen selective hearing and you will end up with a much less reliable recall in the long run. If your dog isn’t listening, it’s time to stop training – the dog is either too distracted, bored with the training, or wasn’t ready for that level of training yet.

Dogs trained with negative consequences or punishments are stressed, which can lead to other behavior problems such as fear or aggression. The additional stress can interfere with their continuing education and their ability to learn new behaviors.

Some dogs love to train, but even the most enthusiastic learners do better with breaks. Fifteen minute sessions should be sufficient for most dogs. If you continue for much longer than that, you run the risk of your dog getting bored and / or distracted. Keep it short and sweet, ending on a positive note so that they look forward to the next session.

Reproduced with permission from

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