Puppy Training: Teaching a Puppy to Come

You’ve got a new puppy, and you know that it’s super important that he comes to you when you call him, no matter what.  You’ve had dogs before, but none of them had a rock-solid recall, and you want this puppy to be different.  Puppy training is actually really easy! Here’s my top tips and tricks for getting that perfect recall.

The Recall - Teaching Your Dog to Come Every Single Time

It’s easier with a dog that already has a good recall.

Yep.  If he sees another dog doing exactly what you want, he’ll want in too.  Puppies instinctively follow the pack, so if you’ve got a friend with a couple dogs, get him around those dogs.  He’ll pick up on their enthusiasm and mannerisms, and he’ll be quicker to learn if he sees grown-ups doing it too.

Don’t call him if you can’t make him come.

Really don’t tell any animal (or a toddler) to do anything if you don’t have the ability to compel them to do it.  It just teaches him that you aren’t the boss of him, and he can ignore you if he so desires.  Make sure you never call him if you haven’t gotten his attention, and don’t call him if there isn’t anything in it for him, unless absolutely necessary.  You want him to always pay good attention when you call, so make sure it’s always important to him to listen.

Get a pocket full of high-value treats.

What are high-value treats?  Stuff he’d sell his soul to the devil over.  Bits of hot dog, liver, or cheese are usually a good bet.  You want him to not only feel like coming to you, but you want him to think it’s the best thing he has ever done in his little life.  You’re going to convince him that he always gets the best stuff when he comes to you.

Take his leash off.

Take him somewhere he’s not on a leash.  That can be the dog park, your backyard, someone else’s back yard, pretty much anywhere.  If you put a leash on him, he’ll learn to come because you tugged, not because you called.  You want him to always have an ear perked for your voice.  When you really, really need him to come when he’s called, he’s not going to be on a leash (because then you could’ve just dragged him over), so don’t train him on a leash.

Call him over.

Wait until he’s standing somewhere thinking about what to do next.  You know the look, he’s standing in the middle of the yard with his head up.  Call his name, tell him to come, and clap your hands.  He should come dashing over.  Once he gets to you, give him a treat and tell him he’s wonderful.  Don’t be stingy with the treats or the praise, because you want him to think doing what you want is literally the best thing he could possibly ever do.  Puppy training goes so much better when he thinks you’ve got the best stuff ever.  At this point, don’t ask him to do anything besides walk over and touch you with his nose.

Keep it up.

Puppy training is all about repetition.  Call him over every few minutes and do the same.  Make sure to repeat the exercise at every opportunity.  It’s important to get that positive correlation in before he’s big enough to make decisions about priorities.  As you keep practicing, start asking him to come when he’s in the middle of doing things, like playing with his friends or chewing a toy.  You want him to not realize there’s ever an option, because once he’s a year old, you can’t catch him if he doesn’t want you to catch him.  Any time he’s anywhere off lead, practice a few times, even when he’s old and gray.  The recall will save his life some day, you want him to know what he’s doing.

How’s it going?

Did these tips work for your puppy?  Let me know how it went in the comments or via e-mail!

Matt Aunger

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