Training Puppies to Come
Teaching your puppy to come when called is hard work but can be a lot of fun for both you and your puppy.
Puppy training should start with positive objectives rather than negative ones. It’s much simpler and more effective to teach your dog to “look at me”than “do NOT look at that” and “come here” instead of “do NOT go there“. Make sure to begin training your puppy with positive goals.
Of all the behavioral problems that puppy owner’s face, not having an effective call is definitely the most common.
Achieving a good call is critical and prevents countless problems. The exercise of the call is dog based training.
Before beginning the training, make sure you:
- Know what your puppy likes. This will be very useful as a bargaining chip to reward him with something he wants. Food can work very well but it should not be your only option. Think of alternatives and test.
- Pay attention to your environment. Avoid training when heavy distractions are present. For example, the dog park, with tons of other dogs running around playing, is too distracting and will disrupt training exercises.
- Think about when and why you give the call. If you frequently call him when he’s done something bad or just to get his attention you are teaching him NOT to come when called.
STEP 1: Audible Association
The first thing you need to do is decide on a unique sound that is new to your puppy. It can come from a clicker, snapping your fingers, a whistle, whatever you like. Just be sure it is something that you can easily replicate and be as nearly the same each time as possible.
Help your Puppy Associate the Sound with a Treat
With your puppy in front of you (make sure he knows you have treats) make the click and immediately give him the treat.
Make sure you do not move toward your puppy. He must come to you to get the treat. If you’ve chosen the treat well, he will gladly do it.
It’s best to begin this exercise indoors where there are few distractions.
Repeat this exercise several times and do the exercise at least three times a day. Work this basic call for 7 to 14 days.
STEP 2: The signal “Come”
Next choose a signal for the call (e.g. “Here”). If you’ve been using that word a long time and still have not made a good call, it would be better choose another word like “Come”.
Keep the rewards out of your puppies reach and sight, in a pocket or a satchel.
While at a few feet from your puppy start the call by making the click sound and immediately say your puppies name and “come” (as in “Sasha come!”).
When your puppy comes over give her the treat. While giving the treat add in a verbal reward as well, “good girl”, and a physical reward like a scratch behind the ears.
If you have any problem with her not coming, let her see the treat in your hand. If she still does not come, then you have probably chosen the wrong treat. If she loves the treat she will come.
Remember, never walk toward your puppy when you call. She is to come to you not you to her.
Once your puppy “gets it” and understand what the click and call mean and responds, try it from another room where she can’t see you. This will greatly reinforce that she is to come when called.
At this point, if she comes when called and you do NOT reward her, she is likely to stop doing it. Make sure to have a reward and apply it.
Three or four repetitions at a time, once or twice a day is enough. More repetitions is not helpful. It is far more important to make sure to consistently do the exercise daily for many days. It is the daily reinforcement over and over that will keep her understanding and performing.
When she has accomplished the “come” when called with no distractions add in some modest distractions like the TV or radio playing, other dogs or kids around, etc. When she can do this 100% of the time, take it outdoors and continue the same routine.
STEP 3: Outdoors
Place a long leash on your puppy. Take him to a place he is familiar with that has as few distractions as possible (like your backyard).
As your puppy starts to walk away from you, step on the leash and perform the “come” as before – make the click and say the same “come” line you practiced indoors.
If he comes, fantastic, reward him. But at this point any movement towards you is good, even just a turn of the head to look at you. Enthusiastically say, “good boy” and offer a treat (he will come for the treat).
Next, take two or three steps away from your puppy and try again.
If he gets nervous or agitated just stay calm and motionless. Be patient. If you stay calm and stand still, at some point he will settle down. When he does, and not before, perform the “come” (click plus name plus “come”).
The idea is that the click will help to draw his attention at difficult times so you can perform the “come”.
Do not get upset at your puppy here. Be patient. Do not repeat the call multiple times. Doing so reinforces that he does not have to come on the first call.
If he is very agitated, drop a few treats for him to sniff and eat. That should get his attention.
These sessions should be very short only three or four repetitions. Again, it is important to be consistent, doing this daily rather than trying to make up for lost time with a ton of repetitions at one time.
As he gets better, move to different environments.
STEP 4: Special Situations and Longer Distance
For special situations during the walk, like when you see a threat or something you want to avoid – another dog, wild animal, work crew, etc. – the simplest thing to do that works quite well is to turn around and go to the opposite side of the road.
There is another audible queue you can teach your puppy that works amazing to help in situation like this. There may be too much distraction for the click sound to be effective. What you can use instead is the “Hai” sound that you hear in karate movies.
You can make this sound as loud as needed to be effective.
You teach your puppy that this sound means a change of direction. Every time you are about to change direction on your walk or run, make this sound. Your puppy will quickly associate this sound with a change of direction and will automatically watch you closely to see which way to go.
This can also be used as a sound to perform the “come” from longer distances where the click would be useless. The verbal sound can be made loud enough for your puppy to hear from farther away. The sound tells your puppy, “hey, pay attention to me now”.
No treats are required for this technique. You are already doing something your puppy loves, walking or running with you.
Performing the come in this manner is similar to the click. You loudly call, “hai, Sasha come”.
Keys to the exercise of the call:
- In the beginning, be sure to call only when you are confident that your puppy will come. If he is sniffing something out, exploring, eating, or distracted with something that that is more exciting than the treat, just wait and be patient. Calling in these situations can be very frustrating for both of you. Especially when first starting the training, it is important to make him see that coming to your call is much more rewarding doing anything else. Getting to the point where your call is 100% effective takes hard work and patience.
- Never scold your puppy in response to a poor response to your call. That will make him view the call in a negative light and associate it with your displeasure. Your goal is to create a partnership to the call with your puppy. Something he enjoys. It is possible by following the steps in this tutorial.
- Do not use the call to bring your puppy to something unpleasant. Use and perfect the call for quite some time before calling him for something that he views as unpleasant, like a bath or grooming. This is for the same reason as above; you want him to associate the call with a pleasurable experience.
For a much more thorough and complete video course in training your puppy see our, Doggy Dan Online Dog Trainer Review. This is a course you can use even in the field with your mobile phone.
See our, Doggy Dan Online Dog Trainer.
See our, Sit Means Sit Review.
Visit the ASPCA website.