Tips for Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called
“Come” may be the most important command you can teach your dog because it could save your dog’s life. Dogs are easily distracted, and sometimes their curiosity draws them toward life-threatening situations, like oncoming traffic. When your dog is charging obliviously toward danger, you want them to respond to your voice above all else.
Training your dog to come when called is fairly simple, but it takes some dogs longer than others to learn. Your dog's ability to learn the recall command largely depends on its attention span and vulnerability to distraction.
While your dog will have to learn to filter out some distractions, don't try to train it in an environment where it will be overstimulated by noise or smells. Ideally, you and your dog will be the only ones in the house with normal conditions (such as lights and ambient sounds) when you start the training.
Begin indoors at shorter distances, like 10 or 15 feet. Perhaps your dog is simply lying on their bed on the other side of the room. Make eye contact with your dog and clearly say “come” in a cheerful voice. You can say your dog’s name but always follow their name with “come”. Try patting your legs or clapping your hands for extra encouragement. Continue saying the command until your dog comes to you. As soon as they get to you, give your dog a tasty treat.
Repeat this process at longer distances. Try going into another room. If that doesn’t work, go back to the same room and practice a couple more times before trying another room again. Repetition is key.
Think about the things that distract your dog. Try introducing a low-level distraction (i.e. their favourite chew toy) into the environment and practising the come command. Be sure to reward them when they come to you.
Once you feel your dog has mastered the come command indoors, it’s time to go outside. You can start in your backyard and then move to a park, practising at increasing distances and with an increasing amount of distractions.
Never use the recall command with an angry or frustrated tone in your voice. You want your dog to have a positive association with the "come" command.
If your dog does not come to you at first, you may need to decrease the distance between you and your dog to make sure it knows what you want it to do. If it's not responding, you may also need to make the reward more valuable—such as a squeaky toy or stinkier treats—or lightly tug on the leash to encourage your dog.