5 Approaches To Teaching “Come”

5 Approaches To Teaching “Come”

Image by Erin Bessey - Bessey's Positive Paws

Image by Erin Bessey – Bessey’s Positive Paws

It’s a life saving behavior and one that needs to be taught like any other behavior. It is one of the most difficult behaviors to get reliably but it shouldn’t have to be. With practice, patience, and consistency anyone can achieve a reliable recall. There are many different ways to teach “Come” and below we’ll examine 5 of them.

“How to Train a Whistle Recall” by Pamela Dennison

Pamela starts with the first steps of teaching the whistle recall. It begins with charging the whistle. With every blow of the whistle she delivers high value treats. She puts a lot of emphasis on the use of the high value treat versus commercial treats. She gives a timeline of how long your should work on charging the whistle and the importance of not rushing the first steps of any recall. This video does not cover it but with the following videos you will see how to gradually add distraction to begin proofing the recall.

“How to train “Come!”” by Emily Larlham – Kikopup

Emily teaches the first steps of “Come”  with the dog on leash. She begins by just simply backing up, clicking & treating when the dog moves with her. Once this becomes reliable she adds the recall cue. Once the dog is reliably coming, Emily then works on adding distractions while the dog is on leash. The art of teaching come on leash first is to set the dog up for success so that it never learns that not responding to the cue has any value.


“How To Train Your Dog to Come” by Training Positive

In this video, the fundamentals are brought into training the recall. The focus is on rewarding your dog for checking in while in a distracting environment and utilizing a “watch me” cue. These behaviors are a precursor to letting your dog off leash so that your dog remembers that you exist while in a stimulating situation and increases the likelihood that they will continue to check in with you. The other aspect of teaching come that Training Positive uses is once you have your dog come to you engaging them with other behaviors or tricks.


“Come When Called” by Zak George

Zak George begins teaching the recall by making it a fun game for you and the dog. Making it fun will get a faster recall.  In his video, Zak uses a footage from training a puppy recall for the first time which is useful because you are able to see when real life issues arise and how to troubleshoot them when they happen.


“Come Here and Sit” by Ian Dunbar

In Ian’s short video, he starts with luring the dog backwards to follow him, then into a sit and as he delivers the treat he is touching the dog’s collar. Ian explains the importance of touching the collar as part of the recall because if you need your dog to come to you it will do you no good if you can’t actually catch your dog. As in other videos he keeps the distance short and the distraction low while practicing the sequence of events.

While all these videos are similar, they offer different perspectives on teaching the recall. The one thing that is consistent within these videos is that you can’t rush this behavior. If you want to get a reliable recall you have to practice and build the behavior by starting with low distractions and always proofing.

What ways have you found most effective to teach a dog to come?

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5 Steps To Teach A Reliable Recall

5 Steps To Teach A Reliable Recall

5 Steps To Teach A Recall

When asking a client what their goals are for the end of a session, coming when called is almost always on the list. It only makes sense, because it is a life saving behavior – behavior being the key word. A lot of owners have a misconception that dogs understand the word “Come” and expect them to appear when the magic word is used. However, “Come”, just like sit or walking on a leash needs to be taught. Here are 5 step to teaching a reliable recall.

1. Charge the Word

If you use a clicker or marker word, you need to give meaning to the noise by pairing food or rewards with the noise. People often introduce the word “come” without it having any meaning to the dog. We want to charge the word with a very tasty, very high value treat. With the dog on a 6 ft leash, say the word “Come”, start to back up, and click or use your marker word when the dog moves with you and give them their reward. It is important to do this exercise for a solid week so that our dogs are developing a muscle memory response when they hear that word.

2. Never Punish A Recall

Never punish the dog for returning. Take it as a learning experience as to why the dog didn’t come back. Was the distraction too great? The key to getting a reliable recall is to always keep it positive and enjoyable from the dog’s perspective.

3. Make It A Game

If coming when called can be as exciting as a game of fetch or teaching a favorite trick, dogs would be far more reliable. Playing a game of round robin where the dog runs as fast as he can between two or more people to get his tasty recall reward can be a lot of fun and a great way to create a reliable recall. A game of chase where the dog chases you is also a great way to work on recall.

4. Increase Distractions Gradually

Once the word has been charged, it is time to gradually build distractions. Begin indoors and then outdoors while keeping the dog on a light long line. This provides the dog with some freedom while preventing them from running away. “Come” should not be used unless the client is willing to place $100 on the fact that the dog will come. If they aren’t willing to wager that then the distraction is likely too great and therefore the word should not be used.

5. Be Unpredictable

Don’t always call the dog when he is doing something that we find is less than desirable or something fun (like playing with other dogs or chasing a squirrel). Call the dog when he is doing nothing at all, too. The more often recall is practiced when it is easy, the quicker the dog will build muscle memory. Muscle memory will make it so that when distractions are tough the dog will quickly leave whatever is exciting and come back to you without thinking at all. When the dog comes to you be unpredictable in your generosity. Sometimes its only one tasty morsel of steak or sometimes its 10. This helps to prevent the dine and dash effect. This helps to create a dog that will hang out for a moment when he comes back.

Taking the time to build a reliable recall will allow the dog to have more freedom off leash in the future. This is one life-saving behavior where I encourage students to reward for life and always practice so that it never gets rusty.

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