Having your dog come to you when you call is probably one of the most important behaviours you can teach your dog – but it can also be one of the hardest. There are so many interesting things out there – other dogs, smells, animals, people – to distract your dog. To get your dog to come when you call means you have to be more exciting and rewarding that the thing distracting them.
Teaching your puppy to come from an early age is essential so that it becomes a habit, BUT it is never too late to teach a dog to come when called!
So, how do I train it?
Gather up some of your dog’s favourite treats. The treat has to be something very high on the scale of the dog’s reward list to make sure that you can distract them from that other interesting thing.
Go to a small room or space where you can be assured that your dog will find you and your treats very appealing. Call your dog’s name and say ‘come’. Waggle a treat at your dog so that he sees it and when he gets to you, give him the treat. Let your dog wander off again and do it all again. Repeat the exercise until your dog returns to you whenever you call him.
Once you feel that you have this short ‘come’ in place with your dog, you can move outside or to a larger area. Repeat your treat waggling, his name and say ‘come’. Repeat this exercise until your dog returns to you consistently whenever your call his name and say ‘come’.
Next, use a long lead and in particular, see if you can take your dog somewhere a little more distracting, let your dog wander off and repeat your treat waggling with his name and ‘come’. Should your dog not respond try running away a little so that your dog is inclined to follow. If the distractions are simply too good, either go back to training in a less distracting environment, or jsut go home and try again another day.
Some handy hints:
Plant a dish in easy reach of you but out of reach of your dog in those rooms or areas that you allow your dog. Whenever your dog is away from you, call him to you using his name and ‘come’. Or wait for your dog to move towards you naturally so that you can add ‘come’.
Use a happy and enthused tone in your voice when your call your dog. Your cheery voice is more like to encourage your dog’s return.
Never ever call your dog in anger. You will destroy all the good training you have put in place and your dog will be less likely to want to return to you.