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How to Train Your Dog to Come When Called

Updated on January 12, 2015
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

The secrets for the perfect recall
The secrets for the perfect recall | Source

The Come Command is Different in Many Ways

Wondering how to train your dog to come when called? The come command is quite different when compared to other commands in a dog's repertoire of learned behaviors. There are many subtleties that differentiate this command from others and teaching it takes a slightly different approach. Unlike other commands which require a firm, matter-of-fact tone, the recall is a command that is not ordered, nor asked, but actually the dog is invited to join in for the fun. It takes the right tone of voice, the right body motions and some special strategies to make the come command worthy of attention.

The Come Command From a Dog's Perspective

If your dog is at the park, chances are high he may be overwhelmed by scents capturing his attention every where. Equipped with more than 200 million scent recepetors, the nose of dogs are constantly at work and this makes dogs less receptive to other stimuli. Have you ever called your dog when he is actively sniffing? Most likely, you would get a blank stare, almost as if he was on another planet! Scent hounds are particularly distracted by smell, which is why they tend to have owners complaining about their poor recalls. If you own a scent hound, read my hub specifically crafted for these dogs equipped with super noses: How to Train Your Scent Hound to Come When Called.

Also, keep in mind, if your dog was closed within four walls for most of the day, he may be too busy celebrating life to pay attention to you. Romping through the grass, smelling the lamp post and nibbling on a bit of grass, may feel so exhilarating, your dog may be in a state of trance: "Life is great; enjoy the moment!" almost sounds like a statement coming from the dog's mouth. The worst that can happen in a moment as such is being called to snap the leash on and go home back to those boring four walls. To understand's the dog's emotion in such a case, imagine taking a day off and spending a couple of minutes at Disney World only to be called to go back to the office.

So what is the secret to a dog enthusiastically running towards the owner no matter what? There are some amazing videos on youtube featuring dogs being called while they are in the middle of chasing other dogs. Are those results really attainable or are these dogs just owned by a few fortunate and reputable dog trainers? How can you make yourself much more salient than anything else your dog is attracted to? We will take a look at some secret strategies and methods to train your dog to come when called.

Helpful reads and tools

Really Reliable Recall
Really Reliable Recall

Offers easy-to-follow steps to teach your dog to come when called. This DVD teaches dog owners and trainers surefire ways to train a dog to come in a any situation, removing the fear of your dog running into the street and traffic.


How to Entice Your Dog to Come When Called : Seven Secrets

When I train the come command in group classes, I tend to get a lot of giggles and fun remarks. My clients have loads of fun because they have a license to act silly. Men, at times, especially the most composed, have a bit of a problem but as they loosen up, they notice how their dogs respond nicely and know it is all well worth it. I often tell clients, they have to do some troubleshooting and figure out a way how to become more interesting than a boring lamp post or an intriguing dog's butt. Let's take a look at what strategies you may find useful to grab your dog's attention.

  • Secret 1: Use the Right Tone of Voice

The perfect recall requires a certain tone of voice. Call your dog with a firm, mad or upset tone of voice and you will suppress dog behavior. An inhibited dog will come to you slowly in an attempt to appease you. On the other hand, an upbeat, happy tone of voice, full of promising fun, will open your dog up and will make him speed up his pace.

Women are pretty good in calling their dogs to come when called because they have the 'good dog' tone of voice. Dog trainer and behavior consultant Pam Young in her article "Why won't my dog listen to me" explains that women are equipped with a high toned, soft, sweet, and generally in a falsetto tone of voice. Men on the other hand, have a better time with the "bad dog" tone of voice which is generally deep stern, and at times gravelly.

  • Secret 2: Use the Right Words

Does your come command have a history of being ignored? If so, you may want to switch command. If you have used the word "come" over and over as a broken record or if your dog has a history of ignoring it, you are better off switching to a fresh new command. Truth is, from your dog's perspective the word "come" has become pretty irrelevant just as the birds chirping or the cars honking. With a new command, you can establish new behaviors and create new positive associations. I also encourage dog owners to make silly noises to grab their dog's attention at times; this is how my classes get their reputation for being silly!

  • Secret 3: Use the Right Body Language

There is no shadow of doubt that movement attracts dogs. Stand still as a light pole and your dog may ignore you. Move a bit around and you get attention. Have you ever watched how a dog invites another dog to play? Typically, the other dog will lower their front legs and stick their rump in the air in what is known as a "play bow". You can mimic this action by slightly bending down and clapping your hands and them moving suddenly backwards as you take off running. This is an irresistible way to invite your dog to chase you. Granted, this will get your dog's attention as not many dogs cannot resist a game of play!

  • Secret 4: Use the Right Rewards

In order for your dog to learn that wonderful things happen when you call him, you will need to find the best rewards. If your dog is food motivated invest in high-value treats, if your dog is toy motivated, give access to his favorite toy. Use whatever makes your dog happy and feel rewarded for coming when called. Hide the treat or toy behind you back and surprise him every time with a different treat/toy. Throw a party; fun things happen when your dog comes to you! And remember: unlike other commands, the come command must be rewarded EVERY time in some way. You want the behavior of coming to you to become a sort of involuntary reflex, a response taking place without much thinking.

  • Secret 5: Use the Right Setting

To create new positive associations and set your dog for success, start in an area with little distractions. Try at home. At mealtime, try to not make any noises that suggests you are getting your dog's meal ready. When the food is ready, call your dog and immediately put down the food bowl. Later, call your dog and give him treats, then call him and play a game of tug. Repeat for brief sessions in gradually more and more distracting environments. Dogs are not that good in generalizing, so the more you practice in different places, different settings and at different distances and with different distractions, the better.

  • Secret 6: Use the Right Tools

Never let your dog get away from you and ignore your recall. This means, if your dog has a poor recall, you should remove the privilege of allowing him to take off and roam off leash until you attain better control. Truth is, when your dog is off leash, he may know too well you are not in control when you are at a distance. Your dog may take off and play a game of "catch me if you can". To prevent this and for safety sake, invest in a long line. If your dog fails to come and bolts towards a busy road, you can always reel your dog in and back to you.

Long lines come in different lengths, for the most part ranging anywhere between 15 feet to 40- and even 50 feet. Use shorter lengths until your dog learns and attains a more solid recall. After ward, more and more length can be granted. There is nothing worse than training a dog to come and allowing the dog to take off and choose to ignore the command. Being off leash is a big privilege that dogs should earn only after understanding the command and reliably coming when called.

  • Secret 7: Use Consequences

If your dog happens to not respond, keep in mind that you may have advanced too fast rather than taking baby steps. So what now? If you call your dog and he ignores, this will only teach your dog that he can decide to ignore the command. Don't call your dog again risking to burn your command; rather, go and get your dog. Since your dog is on a long line, your dog cannot play a game of keep-away or escape. Don't be angry; just matter of fact. Get your dog and then repeat asking the recall in a less distracting area or a closer distance and make sure you reward lavishly.

Have your dogs flying to you when called!
Have your dogs flying to you when called! | Source

Dog Recall To Do List

  • Start with a young puppy. Puppies tend to cling to you more and will stick around more. Just avoid the flight period!
  • Start with low distractions and close distance.
  • Praise your dog the moment he moves towards you and reward when he reaches you.
  • Make yourself interesting and more salient than anything else
  • Practice off leash in a safe, fenced area.
  • Bond with your dog through positive training. The more your dog bonds and trusts you, the more likely he will want to be around you.
  • Always reward your recalls, no matter what!
  • Play fun recall games such as putting your dog in a stay, hiding and calling your dog to come search for you.

Dog Recall Do not do list

  • Never call your dog when you are angry, upset or in a bad mood.
  • Never call your dog for something unpleasant such as snapping on the leash and leaving the dog park. Rather, call your dog and play a game and then after a few seconds snap the leash followed by a treat and a fun walk around the park before leaving.
  • Never call your dog twice. Come, will soon become come, come, come.
  • Avoid practicing recalls with an under exercised, under stimulated dog that was kept at home all day. Once out in the real world, his main thought will be to get rid of pent-up energy which will make your recall look exercises pretty irrelevant.
  • Do not call your dog unless you are certain he will come. Don't set your dog for failure by calling him when he is eating, sniffing or playing with another dog unless absolutely necessary. If you must do so, make it really worthy!
  • Never use a command with a history of being ignored. This is a poisoned cue which needs to be cancelled from your dog's mind. To learn more about this read the article about poisoned cues.

As seen, you can train to come when called with practice, consistency and patience. Make sure to invest a lot on training you dog to come when called because it can turn out being a life saver.

Alexadry© All rights reserved, Do not copy


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    • geetbhim profile image

      sangeeta verma 

      6 years ago from Ludhiana India

      useful hub, my puppy only comes when I call him during his feed time,if I call him beside his feeding time sometimes he comes with hopes to get feed and most of the time he ignore it.

    • ZoeSophia profile image


      6 years ago

      Good tips. I am working on Zoe to "come", but am using a sound (like "sssst-sssst", hard to spell) but she seem to react to it. And I love when she comes running, super excited. And I reward her with a treat. Good to know that I'm on the right track, will keep repeating it before we try it outside the yard.

      Great Hub :-)

    • Lawrence Da-vid profile image

      Lawrence Da-vid 

      6 years ago

      When "house Boss" came home with our present pup, it was then that we were resigned to taking the back seat to "The Madam." A female German Shepherd whose parents were both attack trained K9 police pooches. It was when "the Madam" became a year old, that training really got serious, and was slightly rejected when we called her to "come" and she did so without stopping until we were knocked down...."the Madam" on top of either of us looking down with that "see what I did" look of satisfaction. She indeed, had come when called. It took us a few months to rid "the Madam" of this action. Since that time, she obeys every thing we ask, for the exception of when a neighboring dog goes by the front of "her" house and says something to her in dog talk that appears to be slanderous. We found that most dogs learn quickly from repeated commands and rewards of either petting or sometimes, a small treat until that behavior is established.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I made a big mistake when my miniature schnauzer was young NOT to train her to come. Now, it will be more difficult. I will try your suggestions, though.

      Great Hub. I voted it UP, and will share.


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