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Come When Called

The "Come" cue can save your dog's life if they ever get loose and end up in danger. Running to you when you call needs to be one of their most favorite things in life if you want to be able to count on it in an emergency.

How it's Done

You know the drill by now. Work through the levels until successful. Go back a level if your dog is struggling with one.

EXTRA IMPORTANT!

This is in Red because it's extra important! 

Running to you when you call should be one of your dog's favorite things in life. If it's not, then you have zero chance of getting your dog back if they are loose and in danger.

 

So, no matter how angry, frustrated, or annoyed you are at them for not coming to you faster... ALWAYS praise like they're bringing you your favorite dessert when they do.

 

Coming to you should always be followed by something your dog LOVES.
Treats, petting, praise, excited happy talk, playing tug, rough-housing, getting to jump on you, jumping up for a toy, etc. You know what your dog loves, and that's what they get for coming to you.

 

Coming to you should never be followed by something your dog doesn't love.
Bath, nails, medicine, crate, scolding, or even just the end of fun-time. These things punish your dog for coming when called, and they will quickly stop doing it.

 

Coming when called should be more fun than what they are doing at least 90% of the time because there will be times when you HAVE TO call them away from something great. If you've put plenty of deposits in the account then a withdrawal now and then is ok.

Don't call your dog when they are off-leash while they are learning unless you would bet $100 they will. Either lure them with treats or get a leash and go get them. Use careful management so they don't get loose.
 

Step-By-Step

LEVEL 1

Moving quickly to you from a short distance

  1. Start inside your home with your dog leashed.

  2. Get your dog to move away from you by tossing a treat away from you for them to go and eat. 

  3. After they eat the treat, say the verbal cue "Fido, COME!" only ONE TIME

  4. Start running backward

  5. When your dog gets all the way to you, say "GOOD JOB!" and feed a treat from between your knees or ankles
    Do not reach out to feed the treat; your dog should reach to get the treat

  6. Give a "Reward Event"* 

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog is happily and quickly running to you with only ONE verbal cue.

It is NOT succeessful if your dog is hesitant or slow to come to you.

LEVEL 2

Generalize to different locations with no or few distractions

  1. Repeat Level 1 in different areas inside your home.

  2. Repeat Level 1 in different areas of your yard or hallway of your apartment/condo.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog is happily and quickly running to you with only ONE verbal cue.

It is NOT succeessful if your dog is hesitant or slow to come to you.

LEVEL 3

Add the Wait - builds drive to Come When Called

  1. With your dog leashed, ask them to "Sit". Tell them good.

  2. Say the cue "Wait" with the hand signal (finger up)

  3. Back up slowly to the end of your leash. 

  4. Pause for a couple of seconds. 

  5. Cue your dog to "COME!"

  6. Start running backward

  7. When your dog gets all the way to you, say "GOOD JOB!" and feed a treat from between your knees or ankles

  8. Do not reach out to feed the treat; your dog should reach to get the treat

  9. Give a "Reward Event"*

    NOTE: The Wait builds drive for the Come when called by creating ANTICIPATION.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog waits until you call and then excitedly runs to you.

It is NOT successful if your dog jumps the wait before you call or if they are hesitant or slow to come.

LEVEL 4

Add Distractions

  1. Repeat level 3 in outdoor areas with some distractions.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog waits until you call and then runs excitedly to you, even with distractions.

LEVEL 5 

Add Distance

  1. Get a long line (15' - 25'). You can also use a long rope.

  2. Repeat Level 4 from 10', then 15', and so on.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog waits until you call and then runs excitedly to you from a distance.

LEVEL 6

Calling away from Fun Things on Leash

  1. Start with your dog on a 6' leash. 

  2. Look for something that your dog is interested in sniffing or eating. It could be a bush, a patch of grass, an object, or food you placed on the ground. 

  3. Let them notice it, then cue them to "COME!"

  4. Start running backward

  5. When your dog gets all the way to you, say "GOOD JOB!" and feed a treat from between your knees or ankles

  6. Do not reach out to feed the treat; your dog should reach to get the treat

  7. Give a "Reward Event"*

  8. Let your dog have the Fun Thing.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog instantly turns away from the "Fun Thing" and comes running to you without needing any help from the leash.

LEVEL 7

Calling away from Fun Things on Long Line

  1. Repeat Level 7 on a long line, starting with 10' and gradually increasing distance with success.

  2. Practice in different places away from home. If your dog likes to chase squirrels, look for squirrels. Anything you might need to call your dog away from, try to find it to practice on a line to make sure your dog can't refuse.

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog instantly turns away from the "Fun Thing" and comes running to you without needing any help from the long line.

LEVEL 8

Off-Leash

  1. Practicing calling your dog when they are off-leash in a safe fenced area

  2. At first, practice only when your dog is not distracted

  3. Then, let your dog get distracted by something before calling them

  4. If your dog does not come when you call, grab a leash and calmly go get them. No scolding or yelling, just calmly leash them up and take them inside. Fun Time is over. Don't chase. Walk them down.

  5. Practice calling them in from outside, give praise and a few treats, then let them go back outside. 

Success Criteria

This level is successful when your dog instantly turns and comes running to you without a leash.

What if my dog doesn't come when called?

Try an Emergency Recall.
An ER Recall is asking your dog if they want <thing they really love>. Examples: Do you want to EAT? Want a TREAT? Want to go on a CAR RIDE? If they come to you, give them whatever it was you promised.
 

Run the other way. Scream, squeak, squeal, make some strange noise that gets their attention, and run away from them.
The movement may encourage them to chase you.
 

Be Dramatic! Pretend to fall down and that you're hurt.
Be convincing! Pretend to cry while you writhe on the ground. They may come to see if you are ok.
 

Pretend you just discovered something SUPER interesting on the ground and be dramatic about it.
Appeal to their curiosity.
 

If nothing works and you do have to chase your dog, try to drive them away from streets and back them up to cars, fences, or other barriers that will block them in. 
This is the last resort because it can be dangerous.
 

Once you have your dog back safely, determine what went wrong to allow them to get away in the first place and set up management strategies to prevent a repeat.
For example, make sure the garage door is closed or put them behind a baby gate or in a crate before opening the door. Put locks on gates so they can't push them open or be left open by a meter reader. Keep collars and harnesses snug so they can't pull out of them.

Then, determine what went wrong with the recall.
If they normally are perfect with coming when called then it may be that they aren't getting enough walks. The novelty of the neighborhood overrides the reward of coming when called. Walk them more often so the neighborhood isn't novel anymore. If they aren't yet perfect with coming when called in less intense contexts, troubleshoot why. Is the reward not exciting enough for them? Have they not had enough practice?

Ask us for help, if needed.

Oh no! Your dog ran out the front door and took off and will not come back no matter how much you beg. What do you do?