Part One: Getting Your Dog To Come When You Call
Five simple rules provide parameters and expectations for your dog.
One of the most frustrating moments for dog owners is when their dog refuses to come when called. This also can be a very dangerous situation if the dog is off leash and out of control.
Training a dog to have a reliable recall (come when called) takes a lot of practice. The best time to start teaching this behavior is during early puppyhood. The longer you wait to begin teaching this behavior, the harder it is to achieve the reliable recall.
Let’s look at the recall from the dog’s perspective:
- Fido is outside involved in his favorite activity. Chasing squirrels and birds, for example, is a rewarding behavior for him. You open the door and call him to come inside. He ignores you because he still is patrolling the yard, looking for more intruders. You call him again, and again, and again. Why does he want to come inside when there is so much fun and activity outside?
You can achieve a reliable recall by following these five simple rules:
- Teach the behavior first with little or no distractions, then in controlled situations with distractions. You should practice the recall daily over a period of many months.
- Reward your dog for coming with high-value food rewards 100 percent of the time at first, gradually decreasing the food in low-distraction situations. Over time you can decrease the food in all situations.
- Prevent your dog from learning that coming to you is optional by using a leash or long line. Until your dog learns the recall, he may need to be on leash even in the yard.
- Avoid calling your dog to you when you are always “turning off the fun” or for something your dog considers unpleasant. For example, if your dog does not like to be crated, don’t call him to you and then immediately confine him to his crate.
- Never call your dog to you and then reprimand him! If coming to you is a bad thing, why should he come to you?
When teaching a dog to come when called, I begin by making it fun! I use a lot of food rewards and a high-pitched, excited tone of voice immediately as he begins to move in my direction. Young puppies find the recall to be more of a game and respond in a very positive manner.
Adolescent puppies and adult dogs may require a bit more coaxing by patting your legs, running backward, or using a favorite toy in addition to food rewards.
Most owners do not practice this behavior nearly enough to attain a reliable recall in all situations. Most work on it a little at first, indoors with no distractions and with food rewards, and then expect their dog to come instantly when he is outside, off leash, and the owner has nothing to offer but a “good boy”.
You must practice coming when called in a variety of situations, using a combination of food rewards and praise, with your dog on leash and at a distance. If he is on leash, you can give a quick tug and then “reel him in,” praising him each step of the way!
Next month we will explore some exercises to help your dog learn to come when called.