Dogs are a treat to look at, but trained dogs are a whole new story!
Whether you’re a dog lover or not, I think we can all agree that dogs are amazing – they’re amazing pets, companions, helpers, and man’s best friends. Dogs are amazing to look at especially when they’re trained. I could watch a trained dog listen to his master and munch at his treats all day.
Training a dog takes a lot of patience, dedication, and hard work. You need to be able to find the perfect way to communicate with your dog effectively. You also can’t just train a dog, the dog needs to comfortable with you first. You need to be able to develop a relationship with that dog before you can teach it any basic commands or tricks.
That is the reason why most people choose to have trainers for their dogs. Yes, there are professionals who excel at developing a relationship with dogs and can train them within days or weeks.
However, it is important to note that you don’t always need a trainer to train your dog. You can do it yourself, too! With the right state of mind, treats, and a healthy relationship with your dog, you can teach your furry pal just about anything.
In this article, we are going to teach you how to train your dog the most basic and fundamental command that they can learn – recall.
How does a dog recall work?
The recall command is used to basically call your dog to you. You, as the master, are going to set a “come” command and will help your dog associate this word with the act of coming to you.
Recall or the “come”/”here” command is one of the easiest commands that you can teach your dog. A lot of dog lovers and even trainers argue that it’s important to teach this to your dog the moment you are able to train them. Most trainers call this a stepping stone command because it can serve you a lot of purposes. Once you’ve trained your dog to come to you every time you call them, it means that you:
- Have developed a healthy relationship with your dog;
- Have learned the right way of training your dog, and
- Have opened the possibilities for new commands to teach your dog.
If you prefer walking your dog without a leash, then you’ll really like teaching your dog to come when called. Wouldn’t it be a lot better if you could just call your dog to come if they start chasing a car or straying far away from you instead of running to get them yourself?
What you need
Much like for any other trick that you can teach your dog, you are going to need to attain a few prerequisites first:
- Develop a strong relationship. Trust is very important in training your dog. No dog is going to listen to you if they don’t trust you. It is also important for your dog to understand that you’re the master – the alpha. Dogs will instinctively either follow an alpha or become an alpha, so if you want to be able to train them, you need to be the alpha in your pack.
- Get the treats that your dog likes. Treats are going to be a reward for our good boys and girls. It might take you a few trial-and-error runs before you find something that your dog likes, so just be prepared for that. If you have a high-energy dog, you might want to have a few extra packs available just in case. High-energy dogs are sometimes quite stubborn and thus difficult to train, because they always think that you’re just playing and not training.
- Decide on which word you want to associate with “come”. A lot of people go for “come”, but that is highly discouraged. The word “come” is overly used on a daily basis, meaning, your dog can hear it from anyone, anywhere, and anytime. The word can easily be ‘poisoned’ for your dog, which is something you want to avoid. Using your dog’s name works, but it is also discouraged, as it can get confusing for at times. It might so happen that your dog won’t be able to tell if you’re simply trying to call their attention or actually asking them to come over.
- Protect your recall word. As much as possible, don’t associate anything negative with your recall word. Whenever you say the recall word that you have decided upon, it should be followed by something positive like a reward, maybe petting your dog or giving them a treat. Whatever you do, don’t spank or scold your dog after using your recall word. Once your dog has associated the recall word with something negative, it is going to be hard to change their mind about that.
- Know what is distracting for your dog. Make a list of everything that qualifies, and treat that list as your guide or plan. Rank it from least distracting to most distracting, because you’re going to want to start overcoming the least distracting once you start training your dog.
- The right attitude. Training your dog can be frustrating, time-consuming, and challenging. Are you sure you’re ready for the obstacles ahead?
How to teach your dog to come when called
Once you’ve got everything ready, you can now start training your dog to come when called!
You’ll want to train your dog in 3 areas: a closed area, an open area that’s new to your dog, and an open area where your dog is comfortable. Begin by training your dog with a leash on; once you are comfortable with your dog’s ability to come back to you, practice without a leash.
Go to a closed area and have your dog on a leash. If you have a friend that can help, that’s even better – if not, that’s fine. Make sure that your dog doesn’t need to potty in a long while to decrease distractions. Once you find a good spot to train, have your friend hold the dog on a leash about 5 to 8 meters away from you.
With a treat in your hand, call the dog as enthusiastically as you possibly can. Your high energy and excitement should get the dog’s attention. Once your dog comes to you, greet them with a lot of positivity. Give them a treat, pet them, and play with them.
While your dog is with you, let your friend call the dog and do the very same thing. Again, your friend must welcome the dog with open arms and give them all the positivity so that they can associate their name with positive things and rewards. At this point, you should call your dog’s name and follow it with the “come” word that you’ve decided upon.
Repeat the exercise until your dog comes quickly. If your dog is not interested in coming to you, try crouching down while calling them. Also, make sure that you give your dog all the praise and affection that you can.
Once your dog is comfortable with this exercise, try playing small hide-and-seek games with them, following the same principles. Make it easy at first, hide behind a small chair or even just turn your back to the dog. Call your dog and give them a reward once they come to you. This will encourage your dog’s enjoyment and listening skills to improve.
Repeat the hide-and-seek games, but now in an open area. Start by having your dog on a long leash, in a place with minimal distractions. Try to vary the location of the exercise to encourage a good response from your dog.
Once your dog has mastered this, go to a place that is unfamiliar to your dog so that they’ll be discouraged from wandering around. Let go of the leash and do the exercise again. Once you call your dog and you see them coming to you, quickly change direction. This will teach your dog to keep an eye on where you are going.
Practice the recall exercise every time you walk your dog. Keep in mind that you still need to reward your dog in this process. Alternately practice with the leash on and off.
Tips for an effective recall training your dog to come
Now that you know how to teach recall to your dog, let me share with you a few tips that might make it easier for your dog to learn:
- Get the RIGHT TREATS for your dog – buy tiny packs of different dog treats and see which ones your dog responds to.
- Vary the rewards you give your dog – keep your dog guessing and yearning for more. Cycle through a number of great rewards that you can give, like different treats, petting, belly rub, praises, toys, and hugs.
- Make yourself a fun person for your dog to be around – your dog is much more likely to come to you if they know that they are going to have a good time.
- Never punish your dog while training – even if your dog takes a long time to come to you, never punish your dog, as this act will only discourage further progress.
- Practice the exercise in different places – this will increase the dog’s reliance and dependence on you.
- Walk away if your dog is not responding – this works best in unfamiliar areas, as your dog will surely run to someone or something that they’re most familiar with – hopefully that’s you in this case.
- Be prepared to take a step back – if your dog hasn’t mastered the exercise yet, do not hesitate to go back to the previous step and master that one first. You may need to ask your friend to help you again, so be prepared for that as well.
Dogs need free time and a lot of outlets for exercise and enjoyment. When your dog is satisfied, he is less likely to be frustrated and ignore your commands.
Meet your dog’s needs and he will surely return the favor to you. Develop a relaxed social behavior for your dog by frequently going out on walks and runs with and without a leash.
The very aim of this exercise is for your dog to learn to stop whatever he’s doing when you called and immediately return to you. Always remember that this is not going to be an easy process. Keep a level head, encourage a positive learning environment and have your treats ready. If you do all of that, your dog should learn to come when called in no time.