How to Teach a Dog to Come When Called

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August 22, 2023
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Teach a Dog to Come When Called

Teaching a dog basic training commands takes a certain level of commitment and time from the dog and the owner – and it all becomes worth it once results start showing! 

One of the more challenging yet highly essential commands to teach a dog is how to come when called. Dogs are distracted beings and there’s so much out there in the world that constantly grabs their attention – sights, sounds, smells, etc. 

Sometimes those sensory distractions can pose a safety risk for dogs and it’s the come command that can prevent a dangerous situation.

Keep reading to gain an understanding of why this training method works. By the end, we’ll give you the basic steps you need to begin!

Providing a Better Alternative

When teaching a dog this command, the owner is asking the dog to divert their attention from a distracting situation. And like we said, this world is a distracting one for dogs! 

In order for a dog to be receptive to your request for a shift in their attention, you must provide a better alternative for the dog to move their attention toward. How do you do that, you may ask?

Well, when you begin training your dog how to come when called, you start by providing an opportunity for your dog to experience a good feeling: eating!  By meeting their innate desire for their food, you are likely offering a more pleasing situation than the one at hand. You are getting their attention, which is key!

As you move through your training, your dog will begin to associate your request to come with an opportunity for them to eat! And doesn’t that sound like a better alternative to sniffing around in the yard?

Keep reading to see how we lay out step-by-step instructions for how to teach your dog to come when called. 

8 Steps to Teach How to Come When Called

Starting your training in your home is best and as your dog gets the basics down, you can move to an outdoor area. As you move outside, be mindful of the level of distractions as you pick areas to teach. 

So, here we go with the steps:  

1 - Grab some of their food and place a handful in your hand.

2 - Place yourself a few steps away from your dog. 

3 - If your dog can’t stay in place while you step away, have someone else hold his/her collar while you separate yourself from the dog.

4 - Make eye contact with your dog and call him or her to you by using his/her name. Immediately follow up his or her name with the verbal command of come (italics)! Feel free to add some excitement to your voice to capture your dog’s attention! Again, if you call your dog by name, be sure to follow that up with come (italics)!

5 - When your dog comes to you, grab his/her collar and give them a nibble of their food. Verbal praise works well here, too! 

6 - If your dog does not come to you, a consequence needs to be enforced immediately. A simple tap on the back end is all that is needed, and no matter what you do, it cannot involve fear or pain. 

7 - Practice these beginning steps until your dog gets it down. 

8 - Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog to increase the challenge! When your dog can come to you from different locations in your house, you are ready to move to outside training. 

Repetition and consistency are key throughout the process. Applying positive reinforcement with the food nibble when your dog comes is just as important as enforcing a consequence of a tap on the back end for failure to comply. This is all part of the learning process – stay positive!

Conclusion - How to Teach a Dog to Come When Called

Teaching your dog to come when called is not the easiest obedience command to master. Given how distracted dogs can be, it can be a challenge for them to make the choice to abandon their distracted environment in order to meet your command. 

By doing this, you are teaching your dog how to be safe when certain risky conditions appear. And at Minnesota Canine Consulting, that’s what we’re all about: helping you help your dog become a safe, happy, and trustworthy member of your home and community.


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