Any puppy I have gotten has been a wonderful addition to my family. Puppies are playful and full of fun energy; however, they can require some training before their energy gets the better of them.
Training a puppy to come when you call is one of the first steps to a happy life with your companion.
Here I have laid out some of the most often used steps to help train your new companion, use what works best for your family, and of course, have fun!
Recall Training Preparation
Recall, or the “come” command can be one of the most useful things you can teach when training your puppy.
Not only does it teach her to listen to you, but it can also save her life. Getting her to come when called can pull her back from getting hit on the road. And I certainly would hate to see any dog in danger, especially my own.
As you delve into teaching recall, remember to have patience, some high-value treats, and keep a positive association with any command.
Consistency…Words or Whistles
Before you begin to train the recall you might want to invest in a training whistle. As your dog hears your voice every day, it is possible for her to tune you out when you are trying to train her.
I have used a training whistle in the past and have found them to work quite well. However, if this does not seem to be the case with your pup, at least use a consistent cue, i.e. the same word (come or here).
Poisoning the cue
Your dog is a wonderful part of your family, and like your family, you want to associate being around you with something to enjoy.
If you tend to command your dog to come to you and then do something she may perceive as a bad thing (scolding, crating, or taking something out of her mouth) this is known as poisoning the cue.
Make sure that when you are training your pup, you reward her for coming to you with something good.
Words for your recall
Since we all are human and can make mistakes, I know have made many in training my pups, there is the possibility that you have already used “come” too many times and used punishment afterward.
If this has happened to you, then it might be a good idea to choose a new word. Any word you choose should be fun and used in a light-hearted way. Instead of just barking out “Come!”
I have gone so far as to clap my hands to my knees and almost in a laughing way say, “Here girl / boy!”
I keep a smile on my face to give my pup all the clues that I am happy in every way to see her running towards me.
Positive use of names
Your dog may have heard you use her name in a bad way before. This can make her less willing to come when called, sometimes at the exact moment, you really need her to.
If you have made negative associations with her name, feel free to start changing that. Offer her rewards, treats, and praise when you say her name and she pay attention to you.
I tend to be playful with my pups, but there are times when I can’t be. Being positive and stern can be difficult but will be completely worth it.
Related Reading: How To Train Your Puppy Not To Bark?
Training with Distraction
Dogs will innately want to run free and play with other dogs, instead of letting this be a distraction to training, let it become a reward! When she comes when called, use a treat, praise, and then let her resume playtime.
You are going to want to start with low distractions, then work your way up.
Start out with a long leash on your dog, that way should she not want to come to you right away, you have things under control.
You don’t want her to think that coming to you as an end to her play, but more as a break.
Enforce your command until she has learned to come when called, no matter the distraction.
Making a List
One of the ways you can help your dog through distraction training is to make a list of what distracts her the most. This can be a mental list, or even a physical one.
Make sure that while you are training to either remember the list or have it on you.
A good way to do this, if you are going for a physical list is to put it on your mobile device. There are many good and free lists-making apps available.
Another way is to simply write it down on a piece of paper and memorize or take it with you during training.
The “Come” Command
As you train your pup to come when called, there are many ways you can approach the recall training. Every dog is different and will respond to training differently.
Try as many approaches as it takes to get through to your pup, whichever one’s work are the ones you are going to want to stick with.
There is a training game called “ping-pong” you can play with your pup and not only is this a training technique it is a heck of a lot of fun!
First off, you will need a friend, high-value treats, and a tug toy. Make sure that your pup has used the potty before your start.
Sit on the floor about 10 feet away from your friend, making sure there are as few distractions as possible. Have one of you lightly retrain the puppy as the other one calls the pup’s name excitedly.
As the puppy runs towards you, give lots of praise, feed a treat, and play a short game of tug.
After that, switch the rolls with your friend. With a few good repetitions, begin adding the word you will use for your recall. Keep going and slowly increase the distance between the two of you.
There may come a time when your pup wants to get loose and run, your first instinct is to grab her collar. This can startle her, and she may pull, you will want to get her used to this grabbing before it is a critical moment.
Start by holding an enticing treat close to your body. When she comes over to nibble at the treat, hook a finger into her collar and say “gotcha”. Then open your hand and allow her to have the treat.
As training progresses, move up from a finger to your whole hand, and from slowly to quickly. This will teach your dog that “gotcha” is rewarding and will not be as prone to pull away.
Once each training procedure has been mastered, it is time to move on to combining them. You can play ping-pong and use gotcha when your pup comes over to you.
Always remember to have some high-value treats available and understand that training never truly ends. If you keep up using your techniques, they should stay sharp in your pup’s mind.
There can be times when training can go awry. Mistakes can be made on both sides of the coin.
There are many ways to correct these mistakes and bring your training back on track.
Be patient and consistent and the training will take off faster than you think. Remember, your pup has bad days too, it may be difficult at times but keep the fun and the progress will come with it.
Most times when you get a brand-new puppy, they have not had time to learn their names. When you are trying to command them to come, you might as well be shouting gibberish at them.
It takes time for them to learn not only their names but the things you are trying to teach them. Make sure to take time to teach your pup your language, in a way she will understand.
I also find when a newly born puppy comes into my life, I sometimes have a hard time naming them, and their name changes sometimes.
That is ok if it happens to you! Keep reading and you may even find a reason why name changes can be of benefit!
Little to No Benefit
There are times your pup may not be responding to your calls and one of the reasons is there is no real reason to.
Your pup may not see coming to you as a reward when it is not as thrilling as what she is currently doing.
You need to make sure that during your training, whatever you have to offer your pup is better and way more interesting than what she has in front of her at the time.
One of the worst mistakes that can be made is to punish your dog when she comes to you.
Now there may be a few things that do not seem like a punishment to you but is to your pup. There are other times when you are irked and upset, and it gets translated to your dog.
You inadvertently transfer this feeling to your dog, and when she does finally come, it can make her feel bad instead of rewarded.
This can make your pup less likely to respond well the next time you call her name.
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Hansel and Gretel Training
There is a training technique or game you can play with your dog. It is called Hansel and Gretel training, or Hide and Seek.
Now, who doesn’t like a good game of hiding and seek? You might think it is only for human kids, but pups love it as well!
Start by running around your house or yard and encourage her to keep up with you. When she does catch up with you (keep in mind the age and speed of your pup) drop a few treats on the floor behind you.
Make sure she sees the treats and gets to them. When she has finished eating the treats, immediately takes off again and says, “Name, come” and runs away again.
Do this about 5-10 times per training session. As she grows more confident in this training and gets older feel free to extend the distance you run away from her.
Distance to Maintain on a Walk
Taking my dog on a walk is one of the best parts of mine and my dog’s day!
When you take your pup on a walk, keeping your training recall in mind, you might wonder what kind of distance is safe to have her at.
First, you want to make sure that she knows and is confident in the come command.
Also, distance can depend on the age of your pup, older dogs can have a bit more leniency as they are more likely to come when called.
A new puppy with not a lot of training will need to have a closer eye kept on them. Some breeds of dogs also have more of a tendency to run than others.
Training at any Age
Yes, it may seem easier to train a new puppy, but any aged dog can be trained given enough time and patience. A new puppy is basically a clean slate to be added upon with training.
An older dog can be trained as well, but some older training may have to be erased and rewritten upon.
Round Robin Recall
One training technique that can work with any aged dog is Round Robin recalls.
Have you and some family members stand in a circle in your home or fenced-in yard, about 20 feet apart. Call your dog using your cue word and/or her name. When she comes to you, give her some praise and a high-value treat.
During this, your other family should be standing quietly and still. Once your dog has finished her treat have another family member call her name.
If at first, she looks to you, ignore her until she goes to the other member.
Again, all others should stay quiet and still.
Have each family member, one at a time, call your dog and give her treats when she comes to them. As your dog catches on to the game, have everyone increase the distance they are standing apart.
Not only is this fun for your pooch, having other members of the family in on the fun can bring all of you closer together!
When you are out training or on a walk, you may want your dog on a leash or are required to by the laws of the town you live in. You can still train while your pup is leashed.
Keep about a 6-foot leash handy so that there is a good distance between you two.
Start with short leash commands. Hold a treat in front of her nose and begin walking backward from her, luring with the treat.
If she loses interest, gently tug on the leash to get her attention. As she gets used to the technique you can progress to running backward and having her follow.
Remember to use her name in a happy and lighthearted way when calling.
Instilling insecurity can sound like a bad thing; however, insecurity means that your pup will want to be around you more, thus making her easier to train to come to you when called.
Young pups are more insecure, but as they age dogs, like humans, will become more independent.
Instilling insecurities can happen by causing slight anxiety when you two are apart. This will get your pup to want to keep an eye on you and be more likely to come to you when you call.
A long line leash is a lightweight leash or rope that is about 20 feet long.
Until you are certain that your dog is reliable to come when called, a long line leash can be one of your best tools. Let the leash drag on the ground between the two of you on walks, you don’t want the line to be too tight.
At any point, if your pup turns to look at you or nuzzles against you, give her praise, and reward her. I mean, getting a nuzzle can be rewarding for you as well!
Watch her carefully and when she looks like she is about to turn around to look at you, call her, this will help encourage her to come when called.
It is important to remember that until your dog can be relied upon to come when called, you will want to keep her on a leash.
Training can happen on a leash as well as off and can eventually lead to more freedom in the form of a longer leash or even being completely off the leash.
Proper Training Mindset
You need the right frame of mind to begin training your pup. She can pick up on your moods, if you are upset or angry it might be better to wait until you can calm down to begin training.
Just think, if you don’t want to do this, how might your dog feel?
Also, you can take obedience classes with your dog and do training as homework.
Have patience, your dog and you will have some failures along the way, but with persistence, you and your pup can be totally worth it.
The Right Location
With all the training sessions, you are going to want to start with a place your dog knows well already. It should also be a place where there are little to no distractions, which allows your dog to focus on the training at hand.
If living with other people in the household, make sure that they are involved in the training process as well.
Leashing your Dog
All initial training should take place while on a leash, this ensures safety and more focus on your dog’s part.
Choose an appropriate distance to stand from your pup. If you have a smaller dog this may only be a few feet, increase the length with the size of your dog.
Your dog naturally will want to chase you, so build on this. With your pup on a leash, begin taking quick steps backward and issue your come command only once.
Ensure you give the command before you start moving backward. If your dog does not respond right away, give the leash a slight tug to get her attention, and encourage her to move towards you.
I know when I play chase with my dog she and I have lots of fun!
Hand signals can be used in addition to verbal training. Most dogs are visual learners as well as verbal.
Using a hand signal can get her attention and get your point across more clearly. Also, hand signals can be used in high noise areas where verbal cues may be drowned out.
In the golden years of your dog’s life, she may become deaf, another reason hand signals can come in handy when used in conjunction with verbal cues.
Your pup can associate your mood with your commands. When training your dog to come, you want to use a positive voice as well as a reward.
Also, since every dog is different, you will know your dog better than anyone else.
You know what a great reward for your pup will be. Since you know her so well you can make the decision to give her a treat or a toy, or even a game.
Distractions and Distance
As your pup progresses through her training, you can add certain things to the techniques.
When she gets more reliable to coming when called, you can add distractions in the form of toys or a play park.
You can also add the distance between you and your dog. This can be progressed all the way to coming off the leash entirely.
Using Method On Walks
To keep up with consistency in training, you can train while on walks. Always make sure you and your dog are safe.
This provides a more diverse amount of locations and distractions to your training and will challenge your dog to be more focused on you.
Commands Without Backing Up
As your dog gets used to following you when you issue your come command, you can begin to give the command while standing still. This is a new challenge for your dog and can take time to master.
Have patience and be willing to go back a few steps if needed.
A personal trainer can help smooth out rough edges in your home training, should your pup hit a wall in the process, figuratively speaking.
A trainer can help you and your dog communicate better, as well as keep the training going in the right direction.
Never be ashamed to seek the help of a trainer, as they are there to make sure that everything is going well.
Trail Walking or Cycling
Dogs are more adept at following trails because most prey animals follow trails as well. So, when taking your dog off-leash on a trail it can be a good way to train your dog to come.
If the path is straight, do not say anything to your pup. However, when you reach a fork in the road, choose the path that your dog has not taken.
Call your dog’s name and allow her to understand that you are not following her anymore. She will not want to stray far from you so that can help with training.
This can be doubly true when you are cycling as bicycles can go faster than walking can be. This increases the anxiety your dog has with keeping up with you and will make her want to stick closer to you.
No matter how long it takes for your dog to come to your command, always reward her.
It is easy to get mad when you have been training for a while and it still doesn’t seem to be sinking in.
However, the more upset you get the more possible it is for you to poison your cue by punishing your pup when she finally does come to you, which is what you don’t want.
There may come a time when you call your dog and she doesn’t come at all. Try to refrain from repeating your command over and over as all this is teaching her is how to ignore your calls.
Say the command once, if she doesn’t come, say it once more in a stern voice. If after the second time she still does not respond, go and get her.
However, if you know that you cannot get your hands on her do not chase her.
Neither of you can win if you are playing a game of catching me if you can. If she won’t stay for you to catch her and won’t come when called, then turn away and ignore her to show her you mean business.
If she is loose and you must get her back, try walking away and hoping she sees you and follows. DO NOT chase her, as this can cause her to dart farther away from you.
If All Else Fails
No matter how hard you try, sometimes your dog will fail at coming to your command. You can go through the steps mentioned but you can also change the cue you use.
She may have tuned out your cue word, so giving her something new to listen to may catch her attention.
If that does not work you can also change the name you use to call her as she may have tuned out her own name. Changing things up while consistently working through the steps you have learned could help.
Not To Do
You do not want to send your dog the wrong messages when training.
If you call your dog to come to you and then do something that she doesn’t like, she may not be willing to come in the future. Refrain from using your command repeatedly if she doesn’t respond.
All this will do is teach her how to ignore you more. Also, try not to call her when she is unlikely to come.
If she is incredibly distracted it is a recipe for failure right from the start. What you have to offer must be better than what she has, or she may not respond in the way you want.
When Never to Scold
To you, if your dog takes forever to respond to your call, it may seem like she never will. I know I have called my pup and it seems like I stand there forever waiting for her to respond.
However, low and behold after a while she finally does come. Your first reaction may be to punish her for not coming right away.
STOP! This is not a good tactic at all.
When she comes to you she is saying that she is finally ready to listen, by scolding her you are showing her that you are mad.
This in turn makes her not want to come to you at all, since she views it as coming to you, even in her own sweet time, will mean punishments, not goodies.
So, you may be upset, but don’t take it out on her. Reward her and perhaps take a break to regroup so that you are both backs on the same page.
Read: How Do You Bring A Puppy Home For The First Time?
Read on and I will share with you some pro tips that can make training with your pup a breeze!
#1 High-Value Treats and Strong Recall
As you go about your training it is always important to keep lots of high-value treats on your person. You will need to keep your pup’s interest if you want to keep up the recall.
A high value means not the normal everyday treats you would give her.
With the treats, it is also a good idea to keep up a strong and consistent recall as this will allow your dog to know exactly where she stands in your training.
#2 Increased Motivation
Your pup wants to make you happy and be near you as much as possible. While this in and of itself is a fantastic motivation for training, some other motivation may be needed.
You can offer praise and over affection to encourage her to want to do what you want her to do.
#3 Non-food Based Rewards
While treats are a wonderful way to get your pup’s attention, sometimes they are not all the end all and be all for the reward.
You can offer her favorite toys as a reward. Walks, play parks, and any other forms of exercise can also be used.
#4 Every Call A Party
No matter how many times you call your dog to come to you, it should be a fun time every time. You want your pup to look forward to coming to you. So, you want every call to be a mini party in a sense.
Be happy and excited when you call, and be even more excited when she comes to you, even if it is not right away.
I like to do little dances with my dog, she might not completely understand what I am doing but she knows that I am happy and will run around me to share my enthusiasm.
#5 It Will Be Worth It
Through all this training and preparation you may be wondering when will all this pay off?
It will become very apparent the first time your dog wanders away from you and you are not sure where she is. You will call her and there she comes running towards you.
That is when it will pay off, when you see her in danger and can prevent that, that is when you will know it was all worth it.
#6 Here and Come
As previously stated, there are times when your dog may tune out her own name.
To keep this from happening, you may want to use words like “here” and “come” instead of her name. This way she will be able to differentiate between a command and you just talking to her.
There is a different way to approach this and it is changing your dog’s name. (I told you it would be here!) Perhaps she doesn’t listen to her name anymore, or her name just doesn’t fit anymore.
You can change it, just make sure to let anyone involved in her life, and her vet know when you make this decision.
#7 Prime the Training Pump
As with all training you want to make sure your dog is ready and motivated to train.
If you start showing treats or kibble and the dog does not seem interested, perhaps it is best to delay training for about an hour or so.
Your dog may have just eaten and is now a victim of the puppy dog syndrome…or being too sleepy after food to move.
But isn’t she just the cutest all curled up and asleep?
Find out what motivates your dog the most and use it. Also, it might be helpful to withhold treats unless training during these sessions as it makes the reward special.
#8 Random Recall and Training Motivators
There are times that no matter the situation, your dog will come to you without needing to say a word. These times can be when you are about to go for a walk or a ride in the car.
After all, these moments are some of the best ones in a dog’s day, the opportunity to go somewhere with their favorite person…you!
These events can be used to help get your pup used to the idea of coming when called. Before going on a walk, for example, use your cues to get her to come.
If she comes, then grab the leash and put it on her. If she does not come, just grab the leash and wiggle it a bit, and walk around the room.
This will confuse her for a bit, but this time when you use your cues, it will normally get an immediate response. Give her some praise, then take her on her walk.
Read To Learn: Puppy Development Stages And Growth
It is never completely easy to train a puppy to do anything you want or need her to do. However, it will be worth it in the end. Training your dog to come when called can be a process, and requires patience, as well as consistency.
Remember to be happy for your pup, as this will motivate her to keep obeying you.
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