- Start with baby steps. Before you take your training outside, practice with your dog in a quiet, low distraction place like in different rooms of your house. Once your dog is reliably coming to you inside, practice in your backyard, your front yard on a leash, on walks, and on a 10-15 foot long line in your yard or neighborhood. Then, try bringing your dog to a park during a quieter time of the day and practice on a long line there.
- Have the right kind of motivation for your dog. A high value treat like a bit of turkey, dog food roll, or a small piece of turkey hot dog works well. If your dog is toy obsessed, use a brand new toy with a high pitched squeaker or a favorite tennis ball. If your dog likes running, call your dog to come and let your dog chase you around the yard. Remember, when you are competing with other dogs, the environment, and other interesting things, a milk bone isn’t going to cut it. When we teach coming when called at our Austin Dog Training Center, we always start out with very high value food for a few weeks and then mix in toys, games, and other reinforcers.
- Be fun. Instead of just saying “come” and standing still, make kissy noises or whistle and start running away from your dog. Show your dog that you are more fun than the environment you are competing with and that you know how to have a good time!
- Only use the word “come” for positive things like toys, treats, and praise. If you call your dog to you and then do something unpleasant to your dog (like bathe him or put him in his crate), you are punishing your dog for doing the right thing.After your dog has mastered coming when called, you can ease up on this rule a bit but be very conscious of it during the first few months of training.
If you need more help with getting your dog to come when called, check out our A La Carte Class: Hey You! Coming When Called and Focus. This two week class meets for 30 minutes two weeks in a row and works on getting your dog to come when called and to have better focus on you.
Tina Zarate, Austin Dog Trainer