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Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called

Training Exercises for Dogs of Any Age continued...

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.

You can also teach your dog to come to you from a sit-stay or down-stay. Ask your dog to sit or down and stay. Then walk to the end of the leash and turn around to face her. Smile and call “Sasha, come!” in a happy voice. If she comes running to you, praise her while she’s moving toward you and reward her with tasty treats or favorite toys when she gets to you. If she hesitates, turn and run away, encouraging her to chase you. Lavish her with rewards (tasty treats or favorite toys) when she gets to you. (Be sure to regularly practice a basic stay with your dog, returning to her to release her from her stay. If you always call her from the stay, she’ll start to anticipate and break her stay, and then you’ll have to retrain her to stay.)

After you’ve practiced on-leash recalls for a few days, you’re ready to try it with your dog off leash. Be sure to do this in an enclosed area, such as your fenced yard or an outdoor dog park. Call “Sasha, come!” and put a treat right in front of her nose. Run backwards a few steps, luring your dog with the treat. Reward her when she catches up with you. After a few repetitions like this, call your dog’s name, and when she turns to look at you, show her the treat rather than placing it in front of her nose. Say “Come!” and turn to run away. Praise her as she chases after you, and reward her with treats and toys when she gets to you. The final step is to call your dog without showing the treat at all. Call her, turn, and run away a few steps. Praise and pull a treat out of your pocket for your dog when she reaches you. If she’s so excited about being off leash that she stops paying attention to you or the treats, switch to Long-Line Training, described below.

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