How To Train A Dog To Come When Called
Make recall training fun by playing Hide & Seek with your dog
We learn by repetition, and so do dogs. Training doesn't have to be laborious. In fact, it shouldn't be! Take some pressure off by turning your recall practice into fun and games. This can help you and your dog enjoy the training and take it to the next level. Some of these games focus on a specific element of "Come," while others help build enthusiasm for the recall.
How to play Hide & Seek with your dog at home
Hide and seek is a fun game to play in the house, in your yard, or on off-leash walks. It can be played with your dog knowing the game is afoot or as a surprise game, played at unexpected times throughout the day. It helps your dog learn to look for you when they hear your recall cue and, when played randomly, it also helps your dog learn to come when they are otherwise engaged.
To get started with the basic game, have your dog wait in one place or one room. If your dog doesn't know how to wait (or "stay"), you can also have someone restrain or distract him. Go into another room, or, if you're outside, get behind a tree or around a corner and hide. Ask your dog to "COME find me" (emphasize your cue for the recall). When your dog finds you, celebrate with a game, some happy petting, or a special treat. Repeat a few times, and stop while your dog is still really engaged.
How To Play Hide & Seek With A Dog On The Go
Once your dog understands the basics of this game, you can play the surprise version at various points during your day. For example:
When walking at the beach, while your dog is busy sniffing something, hide behind a nearby rock. Call out to them - "Come find me!" - and when they find you, get crazy happy and play one of your favorite beach games such as tossing the ball or a Frisbee, or running into the water together. Note: If your dog doesn't head in your direction pretty quickly, pop up from behind the rock and wave your arms so they are prompted to get to you.
In the woods, duck behind a tree when your dog is just a little way in front. Call them enthusiastically and when they get to you, reward them with a small handful of great treats.
When your dog is hanging out at home or cruising the backyard, hide and call, "Come find me!" Reward them with a great game of tug when they find you.
Tips: When you're away from home, avoid making the hiding place too difficult. This can be stressful for your dog, and it won't be much fun. Also, time your calls for when you know your dog will easily disengage from their exploring. We do not recommend hide and seek as a way to frighten your dog into thinking you've abandoned them because he wasn't paying attention. Make this game fun, upbeat, and full of happy reconnections.
Los Angeles dog trainer Alexandra Bassett is the owner of Dog Savvy, a dog training company based in Los Angeles that specializes in positive, science-and-game-based dog and puppy training and solving problem dog behaviors like dog anxiety, dog separation anxiety, leash reactivity, and aggression.