How to teach your dog come

Chris L. from Flagstaff AZ asked:
My dog does not come when I call him. How do I make him come to me?

Zauberberg Team explains:

Come when called (recall) is the most essential behavior to train a dog to do!
Of all behaviors we train, it must be the most reliable, and here is how.

How useful is a recall from a down of sit, a “prepared recall”?
Not very….
When do you call your dog in normal life?
When he is running away, chasing a rabbit, running towards another dog- person or animal.
We call that “surprised recall”!
At this point he is NOT in an obedience command such as down or sit.

 First step:
We choose to teach a recall behavior being attached to his name as a cue.
Very similar to clicker conditioning, when we click followed by a treat. It is a side effect that the dog comes to us after he hears the click. He comes to pick up his treat!
Say his name and provide a treat. Regardless where he is and what he is doing. He hears you say his name. It is just meaningless at this point. It is ok if you have to bring the treat to him after you said his name. No behavior is required on his part. You will see that he makes a connection between hearing his name- he will get a treat. Thus, he will come to you to pick it up when he hears it. Keep in mind that all teaching happens in an environment with no distractions!

Second step:
The dog is now coming to you wanting to pick up the treat once he hears his name.
After he is by you and takes the treat (or multiple treats- remember different volumes of reward keeps it interesting) , he might not easily reset for the next repetition.
Toss a treat away from you.
Make sure you throw slowly so he can see it. When training with “hard treats” he can hear it if the floors are tile. Prevent him from having to search for it by smell!
He will feel rewarded for smelling, as he smells and finds.
As he goes and eats the treat you tossed, you call is name, he returns to you and gets rewarded.


Third step:
Creating the behavior of coming to you. 

Have an assistant hold the dog by the leash. Make sure the leash is attached to a flat collar- not a choke or prong. We prefer to use an assistant that the dog does not know. Show the treat right in front of the dog’s nose. Once he realizes that you have it- move away.
As soon as the dog makes the slightest attempt to follow you, the assistant should let go of the leash. When the dog gets to you, provide the treat.
Grab the leash while he is eating it, so he can’t just walk off. Hand the leash to the assistant and repeat the process.
Do not play the game until the dog gets tired of it, stop at a HIGH.
After the dog learned the game and you have increased distance, we can predict that he will follow you as soon as he recognizes the process.
Now behavior is predictable and we can attach the cue to the recall behavior we have created.
The assistant should raise his hand once he will release the dog and let him come to you.
Call his name when he does so. Raising his hand once he is ready to release the dog, enables you to attach the cue right before the behavior is predictably happening. It is the perfect moment!

Fourth step:
Isolating the dog’s audible senses

We need a recall to be under mostly audible control. Meaning that we have to have his ears.
So far we have worked with mostly visuals.
Take him and the assistant into an area that allows you to hide from his sight. Bush, tree, the corner of a building or car for example.
Go through the process as you have done before, but go out of sight before the dog is released.
Call the dog loud and clear as the sound could be muffled by wind, noise or you being behind the car.
Call every two seconds, so he will use his hearing senses only in order to find you and get rewarded once he does. We don’t want him to look or smell.
You can also work on the game inside the house. Walk down the hallway, while he is held and disappear around a corner into a room (door open). Start calling his name every two seconds. Big party once he finds you!
To conduct a high power repetition, you can walk away and hide with his whole dinner- ready for him.
Important note:
Do NOT ask for another behavior such as a sit when he finds you. You will break the connection of rewarding the recall, as you then reward more for sitting. Worst case scenario is when you ask him for a si, and the sit is not happening until you “make” him. This could actually backfire negatively as you follow with negatives after he just came to you enthusiastically!

Fifth step:
Make the recall reliable through negative reinforcement…stay tuned for more information! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel so you don’t miss it!