Can Your Dog Come When Called? Part Two – Foundation Matters

come when called

In Part One of the blog series, I talked about Eagle, my nine-year-old Golden Retriever, and the journey we undertook to give him a RELIABLE, off-leash recall (or come when called). In this part, we’ll develop deep — to the foundation training  — that is!

In order for a dog to WANT to come to you, the dog needs to know that the definition of “COME!” means — go to who called you and good things happen. Here’s several rules I live by when teaching dogs to come when called, and what we teach in our Puppy Kindergarten and Beginner Obedience classes:

  1. Never ever — and I mean NEVER — call them to you and do something they do not like. NEVER call them and clip their nails (I have yet to meet a dog that enjoys nail clipping time). NEVER call them to you and put them in the bathtub. Never call them to you and put them in their crate. It would be the equivalent of calling somebody towards you and slapping them across the face! Sooner or later (depending on how bright they are), you’re going to call them and they’re NOT want to come close to you! If you need to move your dog (into the bathtub, crate or position to clip nails), show them a treat and move in the direction you want to go. Do not use your “come” word but just show them what’s in your hand — most dogs will merrily follow you like you’re the Pied Piper!
  2. ONLY use your “COME” word when you’re AT LEAST 85% positive that they’ll actually comply! If you call them and they don’t comply (and you don’t make them) … they think they have a choice they don’t actually have!
  3. WHEN they get out (and it’s a matter of time, not a matter of if they will) and you spend time chasing him down, you have to remember your mother’s advice — if you cannot say anything nice, don’t say anything at all! If you scold your dog after he returns to you after running around the neighborhood, you’re actually correcting him for COMING!

Now you have the rules, you’re ready to practice. If you’re inside, you can be off-leash. If you’re outside, play it safe and be on a long leash.

  1. Get their attention. Say their name until they look at you. “Fido! Fido! Fido!”
  2. Say the word come …. ONCE! (It’s better to say “Fido! Fido! Fido! Come!” than “Fido Come! Come! Come!”
  3. Praise them …. all the way to you. They made the decision to come WAY over there (where ever there was). Make sure you praise their intent to come!)
  4. Reward them when they get to you.

This teaches the dog that comes means “come to me and good things happen!” — what a great foundation for this life-saving skill!

What type of dog was the hardest you’ve ever taught to come when called?

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