One of the scariest experiences you can have as a pet owner is watching your dog run away from you and ignoring your calls. The dog may try to escape to chase something down the road. They may get into a fight with a dog that doesn’t want to play. Or they may scare children riding their bikes nearby. You need a reliable recall method that can train a dog to come when you call. Follow the steps below to properly train your dog to come when called.
Watch The Video
For those who like video, you can watch my training process here:
Phase 1: Practice in the Home
It is near on impossible to train a dog when they’re distracted. To avoid frustration on both your parts, you need to start their training in a distraction-free zone such as your home.
Your home is also an ideal place to start training because here they feel comfortable and can focus on what you are asking them to do.
Begin training by equipping yourself with some tasty dog treats. Then call your dog’s name and say, “come.” When your dog responds and comes near to you, then give them a treat.
It may take several attempts for your dog to understand what the command means. You may need to physically gesture to help them get the idea. Once they respond to you verbally, you should stop using physical gestures unless this is your preferred method of communication with your dog.
Once you have a reliable recall in place at home, it’s time for the next phase.
Phase Two: Training Your Dog in a Quiet Park
It’s time to introduce minimal distractions. Choose a park that doesn’t have a lot of people or dogs in it. A dog park with a training area is preferred. This area should have zero exits for the dog to escape through on their own.
Once more, you’ll use the recall cue for them to come. Start by letting your dog walk a distance away from you. Then call their name and give them the recall cue. If the dog responds, then give them lots of praise and a treat.
If they do not respond, then gently pull the lead to bring them to you. This will help the dog further associate the cue with a meaning.
It may take a few days for your dog to master this stage of training. Be patient. This is a firm foundation of behavior that you need to have installed before you can introduce more distractions.
Aim for a very high success rate before you move onto the next phase.
Phase 3: Off-Leash in Quiet Park
In the same place where there are minimal people, dogs, and no exits, you should then remove the harness and allow your dog to wander freely. This phase is to test the waters to determine if your pet will come when called without being leashed.
Begin training as you have been prior. Call your dog’s name and tell them to come. If they come, then praise and reward them. If they do not come, then walk away from them. You want to be at enough of a distance that they come after you.
Once they reach you, start the process over.
Walking away from them also helps them understand what the recall cue means.
Similarly to on the leash, you want to ensure your dog has a high success rate before moving onto the next phase.
Phase 4: Moderate Distractions
It’s time to take your pet to the dog park. Using a long leash, take your dog to the park and stay at a great distance from the other dogs and people. It’s likely that your pet will be interested in the other animals. By staying far enough away, you can introduce distractions but still not allow your dog to get carried away playing.
As before, you’ll give your dog the recall command. If they don’t listen, then tug them with the leash gently in your direction. Do not give them a treat or praise.
Then extract yourself and call them again. As soon as they obey the command, you should immediately reward them with a treat and praise. You have to act quickly to reinforce obeying the command with a treat.
After your dog successfully recalls while being far away from other dogs, it’s time to bring them closer.
Phase 5: Near Dogs and People
While still using the long leash and harness, you can bring your dog in closer to the other dogs. You still shouldn’t let the pet be so close as to play with them. However, they should be close enough that the other dogs take notice of them, too.
As before, continue to give the recall cue and reward your dog when they obey. You may need to walk away now and then to reinforce your command.
This part of the training process may take several days depending on how well your dog interacts with other dogs. However be sure not to skip any stages unless your dog is responding perfectly.
Phase 6: On-Leash Interaction with Dogs
It’s time to let your dog become engaged with other dogs. While still on the leash, let them have fun and play with the other animals. However, be sure to interrupt their play after some time by giving your dog the command to recall. If they come to you praise and treat them immediately. Then let them play again to show them you are not going to spoil their fun. This will teach them that they must come back no matter what the distraction and that they are welcome to play if they listen.
If the pet does not respond, then extract them from the other dogs and get them to focus on you once more.
Phase 7: Extremely Long Leash Training
The next phase requires the use of a long leash that drags on the floor. This allows you to train your dog whilst in the presence of exits, children, and faraway dogs. When you walk around the area, your dog should follow. The long leash allows the dog to believe it can freely run around, but it still gives you the security to control them by quickly picking up the lead if they choose to dart away.
Walk with your dog around exits and distractions. When your dog goes off to explore something, recall them with the command. Treat and praise them if they obey.
Continue to walk around exits and distractions to ensure your dog remains close to your side no matter what.
Phase 8: Off-Leash Training with Dogs
The final phase of training is off the leash. If possible, use a pet owner and dog that you’re familiar with and are comfortable in helping to train your dog. Allow your dog off of the leash to play with their pet. During their playing, recall your pet.
Reward your dog if they obey.
If the success rate is high, then you can try them out for the big test. Take your dog off-leash to a dog park and walk around. Let them play with the other dogs. Recall them from time to time. Always reward your dog when they obey.
At the end of this part of the training, you should feel confident in leading your dog around the park without a leash. They’ll answer your recall cue and come immediately to your side.
How do I get my dog to come every time?
The best way to encourage your dog to follow your commands is with treats. Sometimes, smelly, juicy, treats are the better option. You also need to break your training up into several steps to reinforce their training.
How do I train my dog to come when called?
By the following steps above and through a lot of patience, you can get your dog to come to you whenever you call them. It requires treats and several days of training.
What do you do when your dog doesn’t come when called?
There are a few things that you can do. The first is to pull your dog gently to you to help them understand that’s what you want from them. The second is to walk away from them until they run after you.
Is it ever too late to start training a dog?
While puppies are the easiest to train, it is never too late to train a dog. Older dogs may require a longer training period and more motivation, but they can be trained, too.