How to Teach Your Dog to Come When Called
One of the MOST important parts of training is choosing the right reward, you want a “high-value” treat to motivate your dog. I noticed while I was there that she wasn’t particularly interested in the treats in the jar. I find that grilled chicken can be very effective, or small pieces of hot dog or jerky, the stinkier the better! Just find something she loves that she doesn’t get all the time. I have a client whose dog could not have
cared less about her dog treats but LOVED little pieces of grilled chicken. When we made the switch it was like night and day! All of a sudden she was far more motivated and engaged during training sessions.
You can also use other motivations throughout the day, if there’s something she loves (meal times, going for walks, playing with a particular toy etc), use the command “come” when you grab the leash or the food bowls. She’ll start to make the association between the verbal cue “come” and a fun reward. It’s all about consistency and repetition, so you can use walks, meal times, play time, and treats to reinforce “come” as something positive. I saw how much she loved meal times, so that’s a fantastic opportunity to reinforce “come”!
If you own two dogs, I recommend at least in the beginning separating one dog so you can focus just on the other one. Sometimes one dog seems very happy to steal the spotlight, and your second one is very happy to sit back and let the other be the star, so working one on one will likely be much more effective.
Start with just a short distance between you and your dog, make eye contact and give the verbal cue to “come” with a happy, encouraging voice while offering the high-value reward. You can pat your leg or clap your hands to encourage her and reward her as soon as she comes all the way to you, give her the treat.
Hand Targeting – really like hand-targeting or “touch” as a foundational skill, it’s a super useful behavior that can make learning more complex skills much easier, and it’s fantastic for helping with the “come” command!
Teaching hand-targeting to help with recall
Step 1) Give her a couple free treats to get her excited
Step 2) Place your hand with your fingers pointed towards the ground a couple inches from your dog’s nose – when she leans over to sniff your hand and you feel her make contact, either click (if you use a clicker for training) or a “yes!” or other positive verbal mark of your choosing (just stay consistent with your chosen word). Then move your hand away and repeat the steps above.
TIP: If you’re struggling you can use some peanut butter smeared on your palm to encourage that nose-to-hand contact!
Step 3) Add in some over variables – use the other hand, move your hand higher or lower,or to the left or right.
Step 4) Increase the distance and introduce some movement and changes in posture – try it while sitting down, or walking.
Step 5) Add in verbal cues – “touch” is a common one. I’ve actually just trained my dogs with “come” since that’s the primary context in which I use hand targeting with a verbal cue, but they will target my hand without a verbal command as well when we’re working on other skills.