Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Goal: Teach your dog to come close to you when you give the cue "come."

When and where to use "come"

  • Use "come" when you want your dog to come near you, like when putting the leash on or at mealtime.
  • There are times when "come" can be a lifesaving cue (i.e. for a dog running towards traffic).

What you need

  • Have your dog on a 6 foot leash in a quiet room. Hold the leash in your hand.
  • Have 20-30 of your dog's favorite treats ready. More information about rewards
  • To build distance recalls, use a 30+ foot long line. Hold the line in your hand or attach it around your waist.

How to train "come"

  • Your dog should be 2-3 feet away. Call your dog's name, immediately followed by the word "come" (i.e. "Fido come"). Use a happy, upbeat voice. If your dog doesn't respond, instead of repeating "come," whistle or make some kissy noises to get their attention.
  • If your dog approaches you from the front close enough that you can reach their head, praise and reward them with a treat. Occasionally grasp their collar with the opposite hand while you feed them treats. Your dog should get used to collar grabs when they come when called.
  • Back up a few steps. Repeat the exercise. When your dog masters the 2-3 foot distance recall in your house, increase the distance to 5-10 feet and repeat the exercise.
  • Practice 10 times throughout the day around the house. Once your dog comes every time you call them inside the house, practice "come" outside on a 20-30 foot long line.

Tips and next steps

  • Always praise and reward your dog for coming when called.
  • Coming to you should be a happy event and shouldn't be associated with things dogs might dislike. Don't call your dog to put them in the crate, give a bath, clip their nails or groom them.
  • Don't use "come" to end play with other dogs or toys, instead go to your dog and interrupt their play and then leash them and leave.
  • Never scold your dog when they come to you, even if they ignored another cue. This teaches them that when they come near you they get in trouble.
  • While you're practicing outside, keep them on leash or in a safe fenced in yard. Don't let your dog off leash unless they come to you every time you call them, regardless of the distractions around them.
  • Don't call your dog from a further distance than you've practiced at.
  • Don't call your dog if you aren't sure that they'll come to you, such as when they are overly excited or distracted. The response to "come" needs to be practiced for several months to get your dog to come to you during high level distractions.
  • Add distractions to your practice, but make sure your dog is always successful. Call your dog to you in situations they can handle (i.e. calling your dog from chasing a squirrel won't likely be successful). More about improving how your dog responds to cues
  • Ask your household members to call your dog to "come." Your dog should come to anyone who is handling or cares for them.
  • "Hide and seek" is a great recall game to play with your dog. Start inside the house. Hide from your dog at a distance that you've practiced at. Call your dog. When the dog finds you, praise and reward them with their favorite treat.
  • Practice "come" when you don't need it. As you walk with your dog, every now and then stop, back up and call them to you. Then praise them for coming.

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