“My dog won’t come when it’s called” – this sentence is struggle for most dog owners. Many dog owners have had the frustration of owning a dog that just will not come when called, or will only come after a treat has been grabbed as a last resort to get them to come. However, the reason why most dogs don’t come when called is due to a lack of communication once your dog DOES come to you. Getting your dog to come when they are called both in front and in the heel position can be achieved through the use of marker words, body language, a leash, praise and rewards!
When your dog comes to you NEVER act frustrated or yell at your dog even if they just took a 15 minute run around the neighborhood If you yell at your dog for finally coming to you, then your dog associates coming to you is what he is getting reprimanded for and in the future will not want to come to you again. Make sure to praise your dog heavily when he comes, and work on recalls right away! You do not want your dog to get in the habit of he dictates when he comes, so working on a few comes right after you get your dog to you will reinforce come means to come the first time.
Too many owners fall short by giving their dog too much freedom too soon. A leash should be attached to your puppy or dog at all times – both inside and outside for the first month of new dog ownership. This allows you to control your dog’s space and extends your arm by another 6 feet. When you call your dog to you, give your dog a short tap of the leash to get their attention to you (just like tapping someone on the shoulder) along with the word “come.” Make sure to reward your dog for coming to you by marking the behavior with a “good” and delivering a treat from within your body. If you are unfamiliar with marker training, read our Marker Training blog for more in-depth info on this great tool! If you then want your dog to sit, ask him for that behavior AFTER you have marked and rewarded for coming. You need to separate these two commands, that is why most dog’s best obedience cue it “sit” because it is typically “come, sit” – then a treat reward is given. It should be “come” then reward, then “sit” and reward. Rewards come in many different ways – treat, praise, play session, getting to meet someone or something or getting a release from training.
To switch things up on your dog and to solidify their heel command as well, you should practice calling your dog in front of you and to the side of you “heel.” The proper heel position is on the owner’s lefthand side, while your dog is coming to you the best way to get them to position correctly is to step your left leg back while using your left hand with a food lure to position your dog to go past your leg, once they pass your leg step your leg back forward while moving the lure to your left side. Reward when they are in the correct position.
Begin working on recalls both in front and in the heel position inside your house with minimal distractions, then move to a fenced in yard (still on leash) with minimal distractions, then front of your house with slightly more distractions, then go to a new low-distraction area….keep ramping up the distractions if your dog can handle it. If your dog seems too unfocused, take a step back to the level your dog was able to perform the recalls. You do not want to set your dog up to fail and work on recall work with 10 other dogs around in the beginning, but expect every day for your dog to get better and better. Small daily improvements lead to staggering long term results.
Watch Jessie’s video below to assist you in training your dog to come in front and in the heel position correctly. As always, have fun with your training!