Some Tips on Training a Dog to Come When Called

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 3, 2023

training a dog to come

For this Pacific Palisades dog training session we worked with 1 year-old Bouvier de Flandres Bruno, training a dog to come when called.

Knowing he liked to jump up on people, I had treats in my hands when I knocked on the door for the sesison; holding my hands low. Bruno’s guardians were quite surprised he liked the treats I was using as he had been notoriously picky when it came to treats. I recommended his guardian pick up a few bags of Tricky Trainers and try out different treats to find a few he likes. Its advisable to have multiple treats of varrying values so you can go up and down as needed.

Compounding matters, Bruno is a very determined dog. He is very boisterous and has a lot of puppy left in him. His bite inhibition wasnt fully developed which led to a lot of mouthing and grabbing clothes, hands or items on the floor. The absolute best way to develop bite inhibition is playdates with other puppied when your pup is under 5 months. 5 months of age is when the window to develop bite inhibition starts to close.

I think a lot of Bruno’s mouthing was due to being bored and the reaction he gets when he does it. Redirection is usually a good way to stop mouthing, but I think in this situation, taking Bruno out for a game of tug, a quick sniff walk or some training he likes like Cookie in the corner or other scent games may satisfy his doldrums.

We spent a good portion of the sesison on basic fundamentals; how and when to use marker words then a hand targeting exercise to help the humans practice using the word with good timing. We also went over dog consent, the importance of recognizing and rewarding Bruno when he does actions they want WITHOUT them asking (Celebrating), asking him to sit or lay down before petting when he demands attention and how mental stimulation can help keep him occupied, boost his confidence and redirct him when he offers unwanted behaviors.

One of the issues his family was having was Bruno refusing to go to them when they wanted to leash him up for a walk. Part of this may have been the use of a prong collar (which the guardians were willing to give up) which causes pain when the dog make a mistake. But the main reason was likely that Bruno got a lot of attention when he didnt respond. His guardians would call him over an dover giving him all kinds of wnderful attention which is rewarding. This is certainly related to his refusal to come when called problem.

We solved his refusal to come to get leashed up by making sure Bruno knew we had amazing treats, then going where we wanted him to go and NOT call him. When he did come, the guardian said their marker word, then rewarded him, From there, we built a new behavior; waiting for the humans to attach the leash. We did this in a number of progressive steps and it worked beautifully. Id like to see each member of the family practice this c0me exercise with Bruno once a day (1-2 minutes each) for a week. If they can spend that time consistently for a week, I think they will see a dramatic difference.

Tips for Training a Dog to Come When Called

If you have a dog who refuses to come when you call them, its important to make sure that the cue doesnt mean something negative to the dog. Many people only call their dog at the end of fun activities or to do something the dog doesnt want to do. This can cause the dog to not want to come when called.

A simple trick to develop a strong come command is to celebtrate and reward the dog when s/he comes to you on their own (without you calling). If you get in to a habit of doing this, your dog will want to come when you call them because it means they get attention or pets from you. And since they are the one who decided to come rather than following your cue, they think of it as “their idea.”

But there are many ways to train a dog to come when called. Teaching a strong come command is all about practicing in a low distraciton environment and using positive rewards so the dog wants to come when called. One secret to getting a dog to come when called is to use a marker word and high value treats. Often I use a warm meat treat for picky dogs as the temperature is usually more important than the taste.

I had the guardian warm up some chicken so I could show them an easy way to get a dog to come when called. If your dog refuses to come to you when you ask, you should check out the free positive dog training video below.

It was great to see how well this trick to teach a dog to come worked with Bruno. After only a minute, Bruno was coming before I got a chance to ask. I recommended the guardians practice this recall exercise a few times a day in 1-2 minute practice sessions. Practicing when you dont need to is a dog training trick used by the best dog trainers. As a Dog Behaviorist, I always like to find multiple ways to teach a dog a new skill or cue and recommend practicing as warm ups when you have time. This way, when you need a dog to do something later, its practiced and motivated to want to come when you ask.

Since coming inside in the evening is one of the times the dog refuses to come, I recommended practicing this exercise an hour before they intend to call the dog to come inside, and again 15-20 minutes before the actuall bringing him inside. Practicing in short, 1-2 minute sessions this way should condition the dog to come when they call him.

Because of the need to install good fundamentals we didnt get to practice stopping Bruno from jumping up on people. If this continues to be an issue, Id love to come back in a month or so and work on a more desired door greeting behavior and loose leash walking.

We covered quite a few dog behavior tips in this Pacific Palisades in-home dog training session. To help the family remember them all, we filmned a roadmap to success summary video that you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr