How To Train Your Dog To Come To You: Dog Training 101
All dogs need a good run off-lead in a safe place at least once a day to help them stay happy
and fit and to get rid of some of that excess energy that can lead to mischief-making.
However, it’s an owner’s legal responsibility to ensure that their dog is under control at all
times in a public place – so being able to get your dog to come back to you when you call him
is very important.
Stage One – introducing the basic idea that coming to you is a good thing!
- Feed your dog normally (preferably at least twice a day) – if you are worried that your dog may be overweight, reduce the size of his main meals slightly during the training period.
- Find treats that he really likes eg small pieces of liver, chicken, hotdog sausage or cheese.
- Keep a pot of these in the fridge, so that you have access to treats at any time of the day.
- Pop some treats in your pocket and at random times when you are in the same room together, call him to you in a happy voice and give him a treat. After he has finished his treat, say something like “good dog – off you go!”.
- Repeat this frequently during the day, for a few days, until he is coming to you quickly every time.
Tips for better success
- Never train when he’s really hungry – this can make him frustrated and it’ll be difficult for him to concentrate.
- If using the command “come” hasn’t worked up to now, this is a good time to change it.
- Try “here” or perhaps even a whistle which can be easier for a dog to hear when out on the park. Once you choose a new command you must stick to it, or you’ll confuse your dog and he may never learn what you really want him to do.
Even though your dog may already be happy to come when you call him in the home, you still need to do this initial bit of training and turn it into a great game for your dog.
Skipping a stage may affect the rest of the training. Initially, walk your dog on a long or extending lead, until you complete all of the stages. If you punish him in any way for not coming to you on a walk, during this early training time, it may undo all the good work.
Stage Two – coming when he can’t see you
- Now it gets even more fun for your dog. Do exactly the same as in stage one, but call him from another room or part of the house.
- When he comes every time, call him from the garden as well.
- Your dog should be having great fun by now trying to find you when you call him. Do this for a week and if he is coming every time when you call, you can move onto the next stage.
Stage Three – keep him guessing and he’ll try even harder!
- Change the type of treat from time to time and sometimes give him more as a big ‘jackpot’. Other times play a game with his favourite toy when he reaches you or just give him lots and lots of praise and cuddles.
- If you change the reward every time that you call him, this will actually make him try harder to get it right – just in case he hits the ‘jackpot’ i.e. the treat, game or fuss that he wants the most. Strangely enough it has the same effect as gambling has on humans! You can use this with training any command – not just the recall.
- When your dog understands exactly what the recall command means he should respond to it at speed, every time you use it. Now try it outside in public places.
Stage Four – the great outdoors
- Find a quiet area – other dogs running around may be a distraction.
- It’s important that your dog gets the command right every time at this point. You can slowly build up to higher levels of distractions, but only as long as your dog keeps getting it right.
- Remember to feed your dog 45 minutes to an hour before training on walks.
- Keep your dog on the extending lead or long line, so that he cannot get away or out of sight. Let him go to the end of the lead and enjoy sniffing around.
- When you are ready, call him to you and wait. Do not pull him to you – he must come to you out of choice.
- When he does, give him his reward, praise, then “good dog – off you go!” and let him go off sniffing again.
- Repeat this several times during his walk, so that he learns that coming to you will not automatically mean it’s the end of his walk.
Tips for better success
- Do this outdoors training for around two weeks and if possible, try to do it in different locations – i.e. the park, a friend’s garden, a different park from usual, the woods, a country park etc. This will help your dog to learn to come to you wherever you are in the future.
- Never tell your dog off if he doesn’t come to you on command. If your dog thinks that you are going to punish him he won’t want to come to you at all. Always praise him for coming to you, no matter how long it has taken him.
Stage Five – free running, but still in control
- When your dog is coming to you every time when called on the long line, you can try letting him off the lead completely.
- Initially try this in a quiet area, so that he doesn’t completely forget his training at the first sight of another dog.
- Again, build up the level of distractions slowly, so that you can make sure he sticks to his training. If you are not careful, he could quickly go back to old habits.
- Do let him have a little play with other dogs if he is friendly with them. Call him back after a few minutes; he should come to you if you have trained him well.
- Once you are confident he knows his recall command, you can start to gradually reduce the treats – but remember to praise him every time and continue to give him treats occasionally.
- Try to have fun with your dog on your walks by taking his favourite toys and playing games, getting him to come to you and then letting him go again to play. If you keep his interest with enjoyable games, he won’t want to run off in the first place.
- Walks are one of your dog’s daily highlights – involve yourself actively and your dog will want to be with you