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Healthy Dogs

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Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called

Training Exercises for Dogs of Any Age

Round-Robin Recalls

Have your family members spread out around your living room or fenced yard, at least 20 feet apart. While your family stands quietly, call “Sasha, come!” and encourage your dog to come by clapping, slapping your thigh or making high-pitched noises she likes. When your dog approaches, gently take hold of her collar, tell her “Good girl!” and give her a tasty treat. Release her and, when she’s done eating, have someone else call her, just like you did. If your dog wants to stay with you since you called her first, just look away from her, put your hands behind your back and wait.

Give each family member a chance to call your dog. While one person calls the dog, everyone else should remain silent and still. Once your dog catches on to this game, your family members can move farther apart or even hide in different rooms in the house. You’ll need to coordinate who’s going to call your dog in what order, though, or you’ll confuse her with multiple people calling her at the same time.

On-Leash Recalls

Whenever you’re training or out with your dog for a walk, you can practice on-leash recalls. Use a six-foot leash so that you can get some distance from your dog. Start with short-distance recalls on leash and, over time, work up to longer distances off leash. While walking, call your dog, “Sasha, come!” in an upbeat, happy tone of voice, and hold a treat right in front of her nose. Take two to three quick steps backward, luring her along with the treat still in front of her nose. Praise your dog for moving toward you. Then stop moving, take hold of her collar when she reaches you, and lavish her with rewards (tasty treats or a favorite toy). When your dog is happily and reliably coming, switch to a “running-back recall.” Call your dog, reach forward and put a treat in front of her nose. Then run a few steps backwards. Reward her with the treat as soon as she reaches you. If she doesn’t follow the treat, tug gently on the leash until you get her attention (similar to what you would do if you were tapping someone on the shoulder). The first few times, praise and reward her just like you would if she’d come on her own. But after a few more repetitions, teach your dog that she only gets the goodies if she comes without you using the leash to guide her.

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