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How to Train a Dog to Come: Tips on Using the Recall Command

Teaching Fluffy to come when you call her may seem like a difficult task, but it is part of basic dog training. Known as the "recall" command, it is something you can teach your furry friend from the puppy stage.

The command involves calling your dog by its name and then saying, "come!" in a cheerful way. If you train your pup with the recall command, it's a great way to keep it under control, even while it's enjoying some free time off the leash. 

Getting started on the recall command

Training your dog should begin with a foundation of positive reinforcement. This means rewarding the dog after it completes a task. Being patient is crucial as you'll have to repeat the training over and over again. 

You can even train senior dogs that require mobility devices like a bed ramp for dogs to come when called. Although you should take extra care with older furry buddies, an old dog can still learn new tricks with a patient owner.

Eventually, your furry friend may even surprise you with how quickly it catches on. The main thing to remember is to have fun, enjoy your time with your pup and watch the progress it makes.

Train your dog - 6 Tips to get you going

Now that you are ready to teach your dog the recall command, these tips are a great place to start:

#1. Food rewards as positive reinforcement

The easiest way to encourage your dog through positive reinforcement is by using food. Special treats only used for training will help the dog differentiate between a fun snack and one used for training.

#2. Non-food rewards

Although food rewards are probably the best way to train a dog, non-food rewards work as well. For example, that well-chewed ball they like so much, or cuddles and playtime. 

By rewarding the dog's success, it will begin to respond quickly to your commands. If you're searching for guidance on how to train a dog with a shock collar to come, please consider using methods that don't involve pain or force

#3. Practice indoors first

By practicing indoors first, your dog won't have all the distractions of things like squirrels! You can slowly help it to adjust to the outdoors. Eventually, you'll move to other areas, especially places where there are people around. 

Soon you'll know how to train a dog to be calm when visitors come, one of the first things most dog owners try to achieve! However, this takes time, so starting slowly is always best.

#4. Avoid confusing the command with punishment

Using the come command to get your dog to do something unpleasant will confuse it and create a negative association with the command. They may even begin to avoid coming to you when you call.

Here are some examples of how the come command might be confused with a punishment:

  • When it's time for their bath (most dogs hate bathing!)
  • Grooming time, like brushing, nail clipping, haircuts, etc. 
  • Taking medicine.
  • Going to the vet. 

#5. Using commands such as "here" or "come" instead of its name

Pet parents may use the recall command for things like finding out where they are and what they're up to. This can be confusing for the dog because it's not telling them what the owner wants them to do. 

Replacing your dog's name with "come" or "here" when you want them to come will be much easier on your dog and your training. Remember to reward your furry buddy when it does come to you!

#6. Your dog has to come all the way to you

Having the dog come all the way to you is an excellent example of how to get your dog to come when called. It is essential in dog training. It shows that you are in full command if the dog stops right beside you.

It also ensures that the dog thoroughly learns the "train dog to come here" command. This is important, especially if a volatile situation happens. By having it come right up to you, you could avoid a potentially dangerous encounter.

If the dog does not come to your side, they may think you only need to see them. This is not good enough for the dog's safety or if the dog is acting (or reacting) to other stimuli, such as another dog or a small child. Better to be safe than sorry!

How to teach a dog to come step by step

  1. Start slowly - Begin indoors, but at short distances. It is best to start at about 10 to 15 feet from your pup. By keeping the distance short, you can maintain eye contact and clearly say "come" in a pleasant manner.
  2. Extra elements - If you want to use your dog's name, you can use it, but always follow with the command "come" to identify that you want them to come. By patting your legs, you can add extra encouragement for the dog to come when called.
  3. All the way - When you practice learning how to train a dog to come when called, always keep at it until the dog comes right next to you and sits. This follow-through is essential for effective training.
  4. Reward the success - As always, a successful come command is rewarded with a treat of some sort. Make it a special treat specifically used for training. 
  5. Increase the distance - Keep repeating the process, but gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. If you don't have immediate success, get close again and start over. Eventually, you'll use the command from another room.
  6. Repeat, repeat, repeat - Keep repeating the process over and over again until you are successful. The key is not to give up, but keep repeating until your dog understands exactly what you want from it.
  7. No distractions - Create a no-distraction atmosphere first, so the focus is just you and your dog. As the training begins to work, slowly introduce distractions like toys or a TV that's on.
  8. Outdoors, eventually - Once you have mastered the indoor command successfully, take your dog to an outdoor setting, but start slowly. Go to a smaller outdoor setting first, like a fenced backyard, where there will be fewer distractions.

Once Bingo is trained in that environment, move him to a larger area, like a park or a field. Remember always to reward your furry buddy, and keep repeating the process until you are successful.

How to train a stubborn dog to come 

If you've tried all these tips and you're still struggling to train your dog, or you're having a hard time with a willful pup, get help. Check out this list of the best dog training books to address the problem. 

A final word

There are many steps to teach your dog when it comes to the come command, but above all, you need one thing: patience. Be patient with your pup, and reward the small successes. 

Whether you're learning how to teach a dog to speak, give you its paw, or simply to come to you, rewarding is the only way to go, and repetition is the key. If you stick to it, you'll soon have a well-trained, well-behaved dog who will come when you call.

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