Teaching your dog to come when you call is probably one of the most important things you can teach your dog and should be one of the first things you work on. Many families that have a fenced in yard and walk on leash all the time rarely have their dog somewhere they can get away, so they don’t learn to come back when called.
Knowing your dog is going to come back when you call is a life saving thing for them to learn though. Whether you have your dog off leash and encounter another dog and need to recall them to avoid a confrontation or your dog gets out of your fence or vehicle by accident and runs to a roadway.
This skill can be hard to teach when a dog is in an environment where there is a lot of stimulation. It is best to start as young as you can teaching a dog to come when they are called. Make coming when they are called something that they are praised for and is worth while to them. It should be more rewarding for them to come then to not come to you. Here are my step by step recommendations for teaching recall:
Start with them at a young age. The sooner you start teaching recall to a puppy the better. Start this as soon as you bring your puppy home from your breeder.
Decide what reward you are going to use. Different dogs are motivated by different things. Find your dogs best motivator. This could be praise, food, toys, etc. Most of my dogs are highly motivated by praise and we use praise as a motivator but treats when you are first starting training is also very helpful.
Pick a command. It is so important with any training that you are consistent with the commands that you use. You want everyone in your home to use the same command. Something like ‘Come’ for example.
Pick an environment with no distractions. Pick a room in your house and teach them from only a few feet away to come and give them a treat and lots of positive praise when they do. Repeat this until they are doing it consistently. Make sure with a young puppy to keep these sessions to only a few minutes as their attention span can be shorter. Don’t overdue it.
Use a training leash.Training leashes are wonderful for helping with recall. Buy a long one. You can find a 30ft one easily at any pet store. Use the training leash as a back up if the puppy doesn’t come when you call even with treats and praise. You can pull the training leash in so the puppy learns that they are supposed to come when called. It also works as a safety measure just in case the puppy takes off in an environment where it could be dangerous if they don’t come right back.
Move to a place with distractions. Continue to pick places with more and more distractions doing the same method until they are doing it consistently in each place. Then once they are consistent with the leash as back up, you can remove that too. I would start with your yard, then a family/friends yard, then move to a public park area that dogs are allowed at, adding more and more distractions.
Safety first. Always make sure to be safe first and use a long training leash until you are confident on your dogs recall in any environment.
Praise, praise, praise. I can’t stress this enough. Always praise your dog when they do as you ask. Always make coming to you a positive thing that they want to do.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repetition will perfect this training method.
Always remember to make any training a positive experience for your dog and praise goes a long, long way.