How to Train Your Dog to Come When Called

By Laura Agadoni

Training your dog to come is important. If your dog runs outside when you open the door but comes immediately when called, you can divert a possible disaster, such as your dog running away or being hit by a car. Teaching your dog to come might take more time than other commands, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This is especially true for beagles and all hounds, particularly when outdoors, since scents distract them. But if you follow certain steps, you should be successful. Also note that it's typically easier to teach the come command to puppies than it is with adult dogs because puppies like to stay near you.

Train to Sit and Stay

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Getting your puppy or dog to come is the third step of a three-step process: sit, stay and come. The following steps work whether your dog is on or off a leash. If you use a leash, start with it at a short distance of 6 feet. You might need to tug gently on the leash to get your puppy or dog to come. You can gradually increase the length of the leash, up to 40 feet. When your dog consistently comes without any tugging from you, you can put away the leash.

  • Command your dog to sit and then stay.
  • Back away from your dog with your hand out in front, signaling to hold the stay position.
  • Stop.
  • Hold out a treat, and say, "come."
  • Once your dog starts moving to you, give some encouraging sounds, like "yes" or "good boy."
  • Give the treat when he gets to you.

Once your puppy or dog gets the hang of coming to you when called, practice these same steps from various places around the house, both inside and outside.

Make sure you sometimes treat for the stay command without having your dog come. Otherwise, your dog might forget the stay command and break stay, anticipating the come command.

Train to Come from Another Room

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Train your puppy or dog to come to you when he's in another room of the house.

  • Command your dog to sit and stay.
  • Go in another room, out of sight from your dog.
  • Call her to come.
  • Give her a treat when she comes.

You can try variations, such as partially closing the door, leaving it ajar. That way, your dog needs to push her way in. Try calling her to come from a different level of the house as well.

Train to Come in from Outside

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Train your puppy or dog to come in when outside by starting with both of you outside. Use a fenced-in backyard, or put your dog on a long training leash.

  • Command your dog to sit and stay.
  • Walk away from your dog, and call her to come.
  • Ask your children to play nearby, or wait until the neighborhood children are outside playing. This provides distractions. Your dog needs to learn to come even during distractions.
  • Repeat the drills with the distractions of children playing.
  • Go in the house, and call your dog to come in.

Be Patient

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It takes dogs time to learn new commands, so be patient. Keep the training sessions short and frequent, getting your dog to come about five to 10 times per practice session. If your dog is stubborn, as are many Chihuahuas, for example, try running from your dog. Most dogs love a good chase.

Never call your dog to come because you want to punish her for something. She won't understand why you're punishing her, and she might be hesitant to come when you need her to.

Lavish praise and rewards when your dog comes when called. You want coming to you to be the best experience your dog could have. Many dogs, such as Yorkies, love daily interaction with their owners, and enjoy these training sessions. Your dog will be more motivated to come when you praise her when she does. Even when your dog comes to you on her own without you calling for her, praise her for coming, which causes her to check in with you more often.