Teaching your dog to come when called, also known as a “recall”, can literally save his life.You may be thinking that it’s not really necessary for you to teach it, because you have no intention of letting Fido off leash in an unsecured area.To that I say, think again.Even if you’re extra careful when opening the front door, you never know when Fido might slip out behind Uncle Frank.You may use a leash when outside all the time, but what if that leash should break?What if Fido should slip out of his collar?What will you do then?
The earlier in a dog’s life you teach a recall, the better.That said, you can teach an old dog new tricks.Begin by always having treats in an easy to access spot.As an example, I keep dry treats in an open container on a high countertop, near the front door.Say “come” anytime your dog is coming towards you, even if you didn’t call him, and immediately dispense a treat and praise him.Dinner time is a great time to call him, as he will be only too happy to “come” to you.Make sure you give him a treat, even if he is about to have dinner.Another good time to call him to “come” is when you’re going to walk him.Be consistent with this first step.
Once Fido has a solid recall at home, practice outside in a fenced in area with as few distractions as possible.Make sure you have treats with you at all times.Allow him to walk around and, just as his attention is otherwise engaged, call him to “come”.Use a happy, high pitched voice.As soon as he takes even one step towards you, praise him with a “good come” and show him the treat.Give it to him immediately when he reaches you and praise again.If he seems hesitant to come all the way, turn, run away and keep encouraging him to “come” in an excited voice.Do whatever you need to do to get him excited, such as clapping your hands.If your dog has a natural retrieve, call him to come to you when he is bringing the ball/toy/dummy back and praise him.You don’t have to give him treats for coming, the reward will be that you throw the object for him to retrieve again – but always praise him for coming when called.
Once he’s mastered the recall in an area without distractions, move to a more mentally stimulating area.You should use higher value treats in a more distracting environment.Do not take Fido to a dog park and call him when he’s playing with other dogs, until he has a solid recall.You must set him up to succeed.You have to ensure he has a full understanding of the recall and obeys every time, before you expect him to obey you in a highly stimulating environment.
It is important to note that you must say “come” whenever you want your dog to come to you.Don’t just say his name.His name should only be said to get his attention, if necessary.Also, I cannot stress enough the importance of not calling your dog for things that he perceives as negative, such as nail trimming, scolding for soiling the rug or bath time.Don’t scold him for disobeying until you know he has a solid recall.And, whatever you do, don’t chase him.Chasing him will turn the recall into a game – a game where he does not come when called.He needs to know that obeying the recall is a good thing.Train him daily and he will soon associate coming to you with a positive feeling.
If you enjoy Christina’s writing, check her books out! She is the author of “Chester Gigolo: Diary of a Dog Star” and “Insider Training: Chester Gigolo’s Dog Training Secrets Revealed” for which she won the 2016 DWAA Captain Haggerty award for Best Training Book and the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Award (Animals & Pets). She is also a contributing author to “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors”. She has written multiple articles which have appeared in various international publications.