Dog Training

Training Your Dog to Come When Called

A recall is, in my opinion, the most valuable puppy training behavior you will teach your puppy. A reliable recall will definitely save your puppy’s life in an emergency situation and will help ensure that your puppy will not become a “lost puppy” statistic.

The most important thing to remember in teaching recalls is that you must establish yourself as “safe” to your puppy. No matter how long you chase your loose puppy, never discipline him when you finally catch him. I say “catch” because your puppy will always be able to out run you so, if you actually catch him it is because he let you.

Now, I am not saying that you should reward your puppy if he did not willingly come to you when you called but I am urging you not to reprimand or discipline him or you will teach your puppy that coming to you is a bad thing and you can bet that the next time you call him, he will only run away longer and faster.

Whenever you begin teaching recalls, make sure you keep your puppy on a leash in a contained, minimal distraction area in case he were to get loose, you will be able to retrieve him safely. Allow your puppy to get distracted at the end of a six foot leash and then call your puppy by saying “(puppy’s name), come!”

Initially, your puppy will most likely ignore your command because they don’t know what it means. If this happens, sneak up on your puppy and give them a poke in the side or grab their ear (gently) to get their attention. The reason we do this is because if another puppy wanted to get your puppy’s attention to play, they would poke them with their nose or bite their ear.

When you try to get your puppy’s attention and he turns around, start to get really animated and even run backwards to initiate a chase from your puppy. Have some arsenal in your training pouch or pockets such as a toy or treats to entice your puppy to come to you.

The key is to be more exciting than any possible distraction your puppy may encounter, whether it is food, another animal, etc.  As your puppy approaches, reel in your leash until your puppy reaches you. When he does, catch him by the collar nonchalantly, then give a treat.

This will teach your puppy that getting caught by the collar is a good thing and will allow you to get control of him should he ever be loose off leash.

Many times, we get frustrated and when we catch a puppy by the collar, it is usually to discipline. Because of this, we get a puppy that lets you get close and then ducks and runs when you reach for his collar. Catching a puppy by the collar when working recalls and then giving a treat will become a positive experience to him instead of negative. Continue working recalls until your puppy is reliably coming to you without you having to get his attention physically.

When he is coming to you reliably when you call in quiet environments, begin slowly adding distractions. Distractions are anything from someone squeaking a toy, treats on the ground, adding length to your leash, puppys or people walking by or even a new room in your house. Expect that your puppy may regress slightly as you add these distractions. Be consistent and seek out opportunities and new places to train recalls so that your puppy will be reliable in every situation.

Recalls will be a behavior you will continue to perfect throughout your puppy’s life because there will always be a new situation you and your puppy won’t have encountered before where recalls will need to be practiced.

Possible Problems:

If your puppy is consistently ignoring your recalls, it most likely is a combination of things. One could be there is too much distraction. If your puppy is not coming when you call the first time 80% of the time, you must either reduce the length of your leash or reduce the distraction level to where your puppy can be successful. Once your puppy is reliably coming at the present situation, then increase the distraction and work there until he is successful 80% of the time.

Another problem could be that you are not being exciting enough. Many people call their puppy and then stand still and expect the puppy to come excitedly away from a difficult distraction like another puppy or a cat. If you want your puppy to come to you, you must become the most exciting thing in the area.

Don’t be afraid to be silly, your puppy LOVES that! Squeak a toy, bounce a ball, run away from your puppy cheering in a high voice, and even flop on the ground when your puppy reaches you and let them fall all over you.

The more fun you are, the more your puppy will want to come away from that yummy treat on the ground and choose you above any distraction imaginable!Some questions from people like you:


Carrie, I have a few questions about training our dog.  She did great with the potty training, learning to sit and stay for short periods of time.  I’m working on her staying at the front door when it’s opened so, she doesn’t escape.  She is learning quickly:)  My husband and I have worked hard to teach her to come but we are perplexed?  The thing is she does come sometimes but then other times is distracted or uninterested in coming.  She is a Lhasa Apso and our older Lhasa is also very stubborn!  Does that play into it at all?  We have played the game Hide and Seek where you both move about the house calling her and she loves to come then:) I started with treats and short distances and she does great!  When she is out in the yard I call her and if she doesn’t come right way I use a squeky toy to get her attention.  Sometimes that works sometimes it doesn’t?  I try and raise my excitement in my voice and it works sometimes.  It’s like she chooses when she wants to come.  I know sometimes she is distracted but then other times she is looking right at me and turns away. urgghh so frustrating.  I even carry treats everywhere with me to keep her attention.  Is there something else I can try? We live in Hawaii and I don’t know if your scheduled puppy training classes would work for us?  Plus we only need specific problem areas to work on.  She barks like crazy and we can’t figure out how to teach her to stop when we command.  Also, when anything hits the floor she runs and grabs it and shreds it.  We didn’t know if you tailored any of your programs?  Other then those 3 things she learns fast and is super sweet.  We know that her behavior is a reflection on our training so, we need help!  Thanks! Help!
Carrie’s Answer:
I am happy to hear that most of the training is working for you.  A couple of tips with working recalls…
If you are finding that she is ignoring you even with toys or treats, I would consider investing in a long line leash.  Since she is a small dog, you could use a light, thin rope instead of a leash since a leash that’s 20-30 feet long is hard to find in a thin, light weight style.  Have her drag the leash around while she is outside and when you recall her, if she doesn’t come, you now have a way to “make” her come.  If she knows what you want and is choosing to disobey, that, in my opinion, is the time to institute discipline.  I would give a quick pop and release on the leash and repeat the “come” command as you do.  If she still refuses to come, I would walk over to her, take her by the collar and say “come” repetitively while walking her all the way back to where you called her from.  This will, most times, humiliate a dog who knows come but chooses not to do it.  Once you’ve made her return to where you called her from, work recalls from a short distance (6-8 feet) on leash, to reinforce what you want from her.

As far as the barking goes, have you tried the squirt bottle outlined in the problem behavior section under barking?  You must be consistent with the discipline, squirting every time she barks when you don’t want her to.  Use a verbal command along with the squirt and try not to allow her to get away with the occasional barking fit.  Consistency is the only thing that will extinguish the barking behavior.  Also, reward her when she quiets down so that she knows what you want.  If you reward the quiet and discipline the barking, the barking will soon diminish greatly.
I would work on the “leave it” command, for her taking things off the ground that you drop.  I will post the link here: http://registered.dogclassonline.com/index.php/Puppy-Obedience-Training/leave-it.html
Start first with her on leash so you can prevent her from getting what you don’t want her to have.  Also, with dogs that steal things and run away from you, it could be an attention getting thing.  She doesn’t care if the attention is good or bad but she has learned that if she runs off with something, that you will give her attention and chase.  Try exercising her more so that she is too tired to want to play those games with you.  Long walks on the beach would do wonders for that behavior, I’m pretty sure.
As far as classes go, I don’t usually tailor for specific problems.  If you wanted to take the class, I did have a student who was in Hawaii and we were able to work out a time that was late evening for her that worked well for both of us. 

I think you’re doing a great job with your dog and the best advice I can give is to be consistent.  I will say that if some of the behaviors you’re training are pretty well trained (ie: your dog performs the behavior correctly 8 out of 10 times you ask) you can begin to start varying up reinforcement.  Instead of giving a treat every time she does the behavior, try giving a treat every third time she does it, then every two times she does it, then a treat after the fourth time, then a treat after the first time.  This is called variable reinforcement and will only make the behavior stronger because she never knows when a treat will come.  Liken it to a slot machine, people play slot machines for hours because they never know when it will hit.  Sometimes it hits on the first pull, sometimes it hits after an hour or two but casinos know that a person will keep playing to hit a jackpot.  Dogs are the same way, so vary up your reward for behaviors to not only get your dog working in the absence of food but also to strengthen the behavior.
Hope all this helps and keep up the good work!!

Close Bitnami banner