Teach Your Dog to Come When Called With This Easy Guide
Recall, or to come when called, is a crucial skill every dog needs to know. Of all things for them to learn, a solid recall might be the most important—especially if you plan to go out in public with your dog, visit parks, or let your dog off leash in any scenario. When you first bring home a bouncing puppy, recall (and potty training) should be where you focus your attention.
It takes time, and consistency, to build a recall cue and ensure your dog can respond to it in all sorts of situations and locations (known as "generalizing" the cue). One of the most important factors in teaching this cue is making sure it's always a stress-free and fun experience. Sometimes owners accidentally teach their dog that the cue is a bad thing (known as "poisoning the cue"). This occurs most often when you use your dog's name or the cue for coming when called when you feel angry or are scolding your dog. Of course, you should never scold your dog—and especially don't do it when you need them to come back to you and fast. Make it fun, make it positive, make it something you and your dog enjoy practicing together.
Use this quick and easy guide to help you create a wonderfully helpful, and effective, recall.
Before You Get Started
Select Your Pup's Favorite Treat
A great reinforcer is something your dog loves, is small, and easy to provide. For dogs of any size or breed this is some kind of food or treat. Cut-up hot dogs, small pieces of cheese or lunch meat, store-bought training treats, or even veggies like carrots or green beans (for the veggie loving pup) are all good options. Make sure you pick what your dog loves best and don't be afraid to switch it up as your training progresses.
Use a Marker
A marker (also a conditioned reinforcer) is a signal that literally marks the exact moment your dog did something that earned them that reinforcer. A clicker is a great example of an effective marker. If you don't have a clicker you can use word like "yes" but pick one word and stick to it. In this guide, we will use a clicker and wherever we say "click" you will use your marker. Click (or mark) the behavior the second it happens. See the behavior, mark the behavior, give a treat.
An Easy-Peasy Guide To Teach Your Dog Recall
Things To Consider When Teaching the "Come" Cue
Abide By Leash Laws
Always remember to observe leash laws and practice this cue with your dog on-leash whenever you are outside of your home or not in a fenced area. Recall is a necessary skill for your dog to understand, especially if they accidentally get away from you or find themselves not on leash or even lost. But leash laws come first and you should never allow your dog to be roaming freely, even for the purposes of training, while in public for the safety of your dog and others.
Don't Only Practice With a "Stay" Cue
Don't only practice teaching your dog to come when called in conjunction with a "stay" cue otherwise your dog will learn that "come" only occurs after they have stayed in a position for a certain period of time. It is alright to sometimes ask your dog to perform a stay cue and then walk away and ask them to come to you, but make sure this is not the only time you practice recall. It's important your dog learns that coming when called can occur in any scenario, with or without having to stay put first.
Your dog already loves to be nearby you but with time, patience, and lots of lots of positive reinforcement your dog will learn that coming when you call is an easy-peasy thing they love to do.