One of the most important things you can teach your dog is to come when he’s called. A reliable recall is critical for both their safety and your peace of mind. So, how can we get our dogs to respond to our calls? It’s not that hard to teach, but it’s a hard command to keep reliable. Why? Because we use our dog’s name all the time in other ways, so they get bored or immune to it!
Here are some points to remember:
Be consistent – You may mix it up with, “Rover come” “Rover, here boy” “Rover, get over here.” However, these are not the same to your dog; all 3 sound like different things to him. You have to pick a phrase and use it every single time. Most people say: “Rover, come.” Keep in mind we tend to overuse our pet’s name: “Rover is so cute.” “I love you, Rover.” “Did you do that Rover?” “Rover no.” So, it doesn’t hurt to come up with something else to indicate you want him to come. We know a rescue dog that probably had bad juju associated with his name, and he wouldn’t come to it. His people decided just to say: “Treat!” Guess what? He comes every single time when they say it. If they call his name… not so much. For that reason, maybe consider something other than their name or come. (doći means come in Croatian!)
Train with High-Value Treats – Don’t use a plain old dog cookie, since they get those regularly. Make it super special, real chicken, cheese, or real jerky can be very motivating! Start calling his name (or your designated word) with him sitting in front of you. Call him and give him a treat, then move back a few inches. Call again and when they come, treat. Be sure to treat every single time. Don’t increase the distance too quickly. After you treat your dog, have a party too. Pet them and tell them how smart they are, jump around a bit. Make it fun! Remember, one day their life could depend on them responding without hesitation.
Keep it short – you’re better off to train recall 3 times a day for 2 minutes each time then to go at it for 15 minutes straight. You don’t want them to get bored with it.
Suspicion – Think about the term you use: do you ever use it and scold them, or get angry, or have stress in your voice? Do you use their recall term and grab or yank their collar? If you do these things, you won’t ever get a reliable recall because you’ve essentially trained your dog not to come!
Practice, practice, practice – all the time even if you’re sure they have it down pat. Reinforcement is your friend. Remember – treat every time with a high-value treat. You want your dog to know that when you call them, it means food. If your dog is not food motivated, use a favorite toy that they only get to play with when training recall.
Be patient, go slowly, have fun, and soon your Rover will come running when you call him!