Training a dog to come is usually one of the first things owners will do, right after they've mastered "sit" and "stay". Having a dog that will come to you when called is extremely important. Not only does it help establish a bond between owner and dog but it can also be a safety factor when you encounter potentially dangerous situations. So it is worth putting in the extra effort to achieve what is known as reliable recall.
In many ways, dog recall training is no different from any other type of training. You need to communicate effectively with your dog by establishing a command associated with that action and then teaching your dog to respond properly to it. As with most training, the key to achieving success is with positive reinforcement. Simply put, you need your dog to associate coming to you when called with something exciting and fun so that he'll want to continue doing it.
Unfortunately becoming distracted, especially when they're outside, is part of every dog's nature. There are so many smells, sounds and sights that they can discover and they have a natural inclination to explore them all. The challenge when training a dog to come is overcoming all of those distractions so the dog will do what you need him to do in that moment.
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Training your dog to come reliably is one of the best things you can do for your sanity and the safety of your Aussie.
Rather than diving into the deep end by trying to train among all those distractions, in order for the dog recall training to truly take hold you need to start slowly, with fewer distractions around and be sure you can fully get the dog's attention. Use your command, such as "come" or "here" and when the dog responds properly be sure to reward him with a treat, toy, or game so that he makes that initial positive association.
Once he has gotten comfortable responding to the command in this initial setting you can move to other settings, like your yard or the park, where there may be more distractions. Remember that training a dog to come will only work with regular repetition. If he can't handle distractions, then go back to a setting without them until he's ready to progress.
One of the biggest challenges in any type of training is fighting boredom. Dogs have a relatively short attention span and can easily become distracted or bored, so you need to find ways to keep your dog's interest in order for the dog recall training to be successful. You can do this in a number of ways, from varying the reward for recall to playing games such as "hide and seek" or "catch me", where your dog has to actively find you or chase after you as you move.
If rewards aren't enough to get your dog to come, you can keep them on a very long lead at the beginning to help you gently reel them in. Be sure to still reward them when they get to you even though you've had to use the lead to coax them. They'll figure it out pretty quickly.
You will also want to eventually reduce your reliance on treats to get the job done. You may not always have treats with you and you need to have your dog come when called regardless. You can slowly randomize the rewards and reduce the number of times treats are used. Of course, you should always have an ample supply of positivity and praise!
Equally important when training a dog to come is that he learns to respond consistently to every member of your family. Training him to come to you is great but it won't help if you're not there and another family member calls him.
You can help him learn to come to everyone by playing a "hot potato" type of game. Stand with the dog between you and another family member and take turns calling him, being sure to reward him when he comes to whoever called.
While dog recall training is something that can be done at any age, it helps to solidify the learning if you start early. Even young puppies can be taught to come when called. In some ways it can even be easier to do when they're younger since puppies have a natural inclination to follow their littermates as they explore. You can use that to your advantage by having your puppy come to you as you move around. It will help to get their attention and to establish the bond between the two of you.
What many owners don't realize is that training a dog to come is as much about you as it is your dog. As with all training, you need to practice patience and consistency in order to ensure success. It's easy to lose your patience when you call your dog and he doesn't come, but if you keep shouting the designated command in frustration, your dog will begin to form a negative association with it. Why should he bother to come when it only means he'll get yelled at?
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Does your Aussie ignore you or give in to distractions when you call them to come to you? Doing dog recall training is time well spent to reduce your frustration and embarrassment in addition to keeping your Aussie, as well as other pets and people, safe.
You should never put your dog back on leash or bring him back inside immediately after he responds to you. Again, this causes your dog to form a negative association with the command. Instead, when he does come, give him praise and his treat and then let him go and continue exploring for a little bit. Dog recall training will be much easier if he realizes that coming to you won't end his fun.
Not every dog learns at the same speed, so some may require more reinforcement than others. Most Australian Shepherd owners know how quick their pups are to pick up on commands. It's one of the major benefits of the breed but it can also be a challenge at times. Training a dog to come can be crucial and you need to ensure that your Aussie is listening and learning the command and the proper response.
There are times when relying on your dog to come when called is absolutely essential. You need to know that if you encounter a safety hazard or other dangerous situation, you can get your dog out of trouble quickly. That's where training a dog to come can make all the difference. The key is to start early, move slowly and steadily, and always use positive reinforcement to get the message across the right way.
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