Prime Your Dog to Come When Called

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Teaching your Dogalini to come when you call her takes practice, practice, practice -- you really can't expect her to come to you when she's barking at a squirrel, if she hasn't already learned to come to you when nothing special's going on.

But you can give yourself a huge edge if you make yourself fun to be with in the first place. Three easy ways to do that (and they're fun for you, too):

  • Treat and run away. Exactly what it says on the box! Throw a treat just behind your dog, so she turns to get it. As soon as she turns, run away from her. As she turns back from getting the treat, call her and keep on running. When she catches you, give her a treat, then throw another one behind her and ... you guessed it, run away again. Works with fetch toys too.
  • Find cool stuff, get really excited about it, and show it to your dog. Look! A ball that just happens to be lying in the grass! Look! A used take-out container with peanut butter inside it! (Wow, who could have put that there?) Look! Can you believe there's a liver treat behind this rock? "Wow," says your dog. "I better stick close to you -- you are TOO GOOD at finding stuff, and you SHARE."
  • Play the world's stupidest game (never boring for dogs): Find It. Like so: Say "Find it!" and toss a small treat on the ground right in front of your dog. Amazingly, she'll find it. Odds are high she will then look at you: "More!" Toss another piece. Toss a piece farther away. Ask her to stay, go hide the treat under some leaves, come back and reward her for the stay, then give her the okay to go find the treat.

Dogs want to be where the good times are. If we let all the fun and interest be way out yonder, well, way out yonder is where they'll want to be. Play games with your dog and you'll still need to teach her to come when called, but boy, do games make the lessons easier!

I cover coming when called and about a million other useful subjects in my brand-new book, The Dog Trainer's Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).

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