How to teach your dog to come when you call

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2004

Doggie Do'sBy Linda Shipman

CBJ Dog Task Force testimony revealed a concern many Juneau citizens share - better control of dogs in public spaces.

Dogs become a problem when they harass wildlife, jump on people who are afraid of dogs or don't want their clothes soiled, bowl over children and the elderly out of exuberance, or interfere with bicyclists or joggers by chasing them. Most dog owners want to avoid the financial and emotional toll exacted when their dog runs in front of cars, acquires a muzzle full of quills, or runs off and doesn't return.

You can be spared many of the above scenarios by training your dog to "come" consistently and promptly on command. A reliable recall means the dog puts aside its own personal agenda and defers to your command. It doesn't remain where it's at or run farther away. It leaves the object of its attention and returns to you promptly.

How do you train this behavior? The overall strategy is to be the most interesting object your dog knows. Observe for a week what highly motivates your dog. Is it food? A toy? Games? Some dogs will work simply for your heartfelt praise or a loving pat. They want to know they've pleased you and be rewarded for their efforts.

Web links

For more on dog training, check out:

A short online-training video:

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In addition to using rewards, you can also gently discourage disobedience by removing privileges. If your dog doesn't return when commanded, catch up with him and put him on a leash for the rest of the walk or return him to your car to wait while you walk. If you do this consistently, your dog will learn that it's in its best interests to obey.

NEVER, EVER punish a dog for returning to you, even if it returns slowly. If you yell at or spank your dog when it returns, it just learns to stay away in the future, making training even more difficult. For a better understanding of this concept, read this article:

Use the "come" command only once. If your dog doesn't return on the first command, catch up with it and put it on the leash. If you call numerous times without enforcing the command, your dog learns it's OK to disregard you until it wants to return. Use a different command word, if your dog has learned to ignore "come."

Integrate training easily into your day by calling your dog to "come" when its meals are served. Also use this as a time to reinforce that your dog must sit and wait until you give it permission to begin eating. You can also train your dog to potty quickly and return promptly to your "come" command, if you offer a treat at the back door upon successful completion of its duty.

Puppies that have reached adolescence, or breeds that by nature are not prone to returning promptly to your side, may require long-line training. Attach a 10- to 30-foot lead to your dog's collar and allow it to drag freely on the ground behind it on your walks. Call "come" and if your dog doesn't return to you, step on the end of the lead near you and slowly tow the dog to your side with the rope. The objective is to never provide your dog an opportunity to disobey. Over time, your dog learns they have no option but to return. For more information about how to train in this fashion, read 1&SourceID=47, or mountaindog/berner1/train.htm.

While training the reliable recall, consider these four aspects of training: distraction, distance, duration and detail. Many times, attention to these factors will help you solve training issues.

Begin training in an area with no distractions, i.e.: inside your home with no other dogs or humans present. When your dog demonstrates it can successfully obey 80 percent of the time, introduce people and other animals. After experiencing success in the house with distractions, take your dog into the back yard, and help your dog generalize its lessons in a new location. Using the 80 percent success rule, eventually progress to more public areas.

During this time, you'll also want to introduce the variable of distance. Start at a three-foot distance in your home and gradually progress to 20 feet and out of sight. When you go outside, you may need to reduce the distance a bit and work back up to progressively longer distances.

Reward your dog for speedy returns, as it advances in training (duration). You may also wish to reward your dog for returning to your side and sitting (detail). You can read more at

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