Does your dog not come to you when you call him? Well, then you should teach him the recall or come cue. Naturally, your dog or puppy will follow you when you walk away. However, making him respond to the ‘come’ cue might take you months.
The come cue is one of the essential safety skills for dogs. As soon as you get your new dog or puppy, begin training him to respond to the word slowly.
When training your dog to come when called, make sure that you create positive experiences for him. Doing so will make it easy for him to respond. Additionally, train the dog at his pace, and only move to the next stage if he is proficient.
How to Train Your Dog to Come When Called
You are going to train your dog to come when called by playing the following games:
- Start in an environment with limited distractions such as inside your house so that your pup can focus on you only.
- For this stage, you need a toy or a treat, depending on which is most reinforcing or valuable for your pup, and another person that your dog is comfortable with. Make sure that you are in a quiet environment where the dog can focus, for example, inside your house.
- Have the other person hold your dog by the harness or take the dog and hold him by the chest.
- Kneel down a few meters in front of your dog (one or two meters) and call him without using his name or the cue. You can use a different cue such as ‘ready, set, go.” Run with the toy or treat behind your body.
- When he catches up, give him a high-value reward – let him catch the treat or toy.
- Repeat this exercise, but this time, hide the toy in front of your body to get your dog to chase you instead of the toy.
- As soon as he catches up, reward him.
Note that: Rewarding your dog will teach him that coming to you is a good thing. After he begins coming to you reliably, you can increase the distance and only use the cue after he starts coming to you at a greater distance.
Remember to reward your dog every time he comes to you, regardless of how long it took him to come to you.
High and Low-Value Rewards
- Start this game inside your house, where there are no distractions. You need high-value rewards – something tasty like chicken and low-value rewards such as dry cookies.
- Take your dog by the harness and throw out the low-value reward. Once your dog runs out and grabs the reward, wait for them to turn their head to look for the next reward.
- Run and call him using his name or the come cue. Once he catches up to you, give him the high-value reward, and praise him.
- Do a few repetitions, but keep them limited to avoid boring the pup.
Push Back Recall
For this game, you need a high value treat such as food or a toy.
- Bend down and push your dog back softly by the chest or by the loop of his harness to create resistance so that the dog wants to move forward.
- Let the dog go and take a few sprints forward. Make sure that you are holding your reward behind your body so that the pup chases it and catches up to you.
- Repeat this process with the reward in front of your body so that the dog chases you instead of the reward. When he catches up, give him the reward.
- Practice this exercise a few times before moving on to the next stage. Make sure that you practice in different environments, say outside your house, in the dog park, and inside your house.
The Big Challenge
This game will be challenging if your dog likes food.
- Start with an empty food bowl and your dog in a restrained recall position. You need another person for this game.
- Put a treat in the bowl and let the dog eat it to make him think that there is food in the bowl.
- Let the other person do a restrained recall while you place the bowl a few meters in front of the dog and a little bit to one of the sides instead of directly in front of him.
- Call your dog using his name or the ‘come’ cue. Hopefully, the dog will run past the bowl. If they get distracted by the bowl, repeat this exercise until he powers on and chases you without getting distracted by the bowl.
- Make sure that you reward the dog with a toy or treat once he runs past the bowl and catches up with you.
- Avoid leaving the treat inside the bowl the first few times. Eventually, you can grow this exercise by leaving good treats inside the bowl (your dog should see you leaving the treat) and getting him to run past it.
Control the Chase
- This game helps you to control what the dog is chasing so that your dog does not chase something – like a rabbit –as you walk him. You need another person for this game too.
- Tie your dog’s toy at the end of a rope. Hold your dog, and when you are ready, let him go and let the other person get the dog to chase the toy around. Try and call your dog off of the toy.
- Ideally, the dog should stop chasing the toy and come back to you once you call him. If the dog catches up with the toy and does not respond to your call, the person holding the toy should pick it up so that the dog doesn’t catch it. Every time your dog comes back, reward him with his favourite toy or treat.
Teaching your dog recall will get him to come to you whenever you call, and it can be a lifesaver. Make sure that you do not rush through the training. If your dog is having a difficult time at any stage, repeat steps in the stage till you get a better outcome.