How to teach my dog to come back when called?
Teaching your dog to come back is an essential step in dog training. This is what will allow you to let him off the leash and trust him. There are several exercises and attitudes that can be used to quickly teach your dog to come back.
What is recall?
Recall is the order that allows your dog to come back to you. It is different from your dog's first name and may be different from the order “Heel”.
Indeed, in general, the order “Come” or “Come back” asks the dog to come back to you, in your area. The order “Heel” asks the dog to walk beside you. The command “Here” asks the dog to stand in a specific place.
The distinction between these orders is important because each will be learned differently. In this article, it is about the dog coming back to you, in your area, for example after being walked without a leash.
Why teach your dog to come back?
Teaching your puppy to come back is essential and it is one of the first commands that must be instilled in him. Indeed, it's an order that will bring a certain serenity in your relationship with your dog.
First of all, if he finds himself unintentionally in a situation of freedom like running away, loss of collar or harness, leaving it on the ground… Several situations in everyday life may result in your dog running free, against your will, like sudden fear, an attack from a dog, clumsiness, an open gate … It's reassuring to know that your dog will easily come back to you if you call him.
Then again, this order will be useful if you want to walk your dog without a leash. This exercise will be impossible if your dog does not master (understand and/or execute) the command “Come back”.
Teaching your dog to come back
Now you're convinced that it's important for your dog to master the come back. But now, how do you do it? Here's how.
There is only one prerequisite before you start teaching your dog to come back: he must know his name. In other words, it is possible to teach your puppy to come back very soon: as early as 3 months of age, your puppy can start learning!
As is often the case in dog training, the exercise is divided into three stages: the first one at home, the second one outside in an enclosed and quiet place and the third one outside in an enclosed and more hectic place.
Settle down with your dog in a quiet room of your home. Take some food with you – it should make learning more enjoyable for your dog! Proceed as follows:
- Clearly say your dog's first name and then the order. Don't just say his first name because you must be able to name your dog without him coming to you (and then teach him the order “Stop” or “Don't move”, for example);
- When your dog comes to you, reward him. If he does not come towards you, wait a few seconds and start again by saying his first name and the order. Reward him every time he comes. Stop once you feel that he's getting out of breath or easily distracted.
Once your dog reacts positively in one room, extend the exercise to your entire living area and then move outside. The first thing to do is to start in a quiet, enclosed area (a large garden or park). If you don't have access to an enclosed area, do the exercise with another person, getting your dog to come from one to the other. This will give you more security in case of an escape.
Finally, go to a place with more distraction – other dogs, people… – and see how your dog reacts. If you see that it's complicated, move back to an enclosed area to avoid putting him in a situation of failure.
The right attitudes to adopt
Training your dog is a blend of:
- Rehearsal: Three daily 5-minute sessions are better than one 20-minute session when your dog gets exhausted;
- Patience: Repeat, repeat, repeat again. For some dogs, it will take two outings to install the recall, for others, more stubborn or distracted, it will take more time;
- Caring: If you feel you're annoying, stop. If you shout at your dog – or even hit him (never do that!), he may be afraid of you and choose not to come back. Coming back to you should be positive, like a game for him and for you.
What about adopted dogs?
There is a tendency to think that puppies are harder to train than older dogs adopted from shelters. That's true and not true at the same time. It all depends on the dog.
A 3 month old puppy will certainly have more difficulty concentrating, he will be devoid of any learning and will want to please you. An adopted dog will certainly concentrate more easily, but will also have skills that will come into conflict with those you are trying to teach him, which will create doubts. In addition, it will take time to build trust.
In conclusion, never forget that these exercise sessions are above all moments of intellectual stimulation for your dog. He'll be amused and positive at the thought of you playing together: enjoy it and create a bond!
Passionate about dogs since I was a child, I adopted my dog from a shelter 4 years ago. Thanks to her, I learned many things: the most adapted food, education, how to welcome a dog… I keep on discovering new things and share them with you here!