Coming When Called

A solid recall is one of the most basic and yet also one of the most vital aspects of obedience.

If your dog doesn’t come when you call, then chances are he won’t do much else you tell him to do, either. A dog who doesn’t come when called is saying “there are more interesting things out here than you” and “I don’t think you mean that”. If your dog isn’t thrilled to approach you and doesn’t assume you mean what you say, you’re doomed.

I think it goes double for children.

A strong recall is not only a good sign of how much control you really have over your beloved dependent, but it is also incredibly vital to safety.

You might be calling your dog because he has decided to chase a bear. You might be calling your toddler for the same reason.

And while you’re trying to convince your puppy/toddler that the bear is NOT, in fact, Winnie The Pooh, you’re going to be desperately wishing you had worked on a solid recall.

So, now’s the time.

Three things drive a good recall – a strong history of reward, a lot of encouragement, and giving the impression that there is no choice in the matter.

How To Train Your Puppy Toddler To Come When Called

Building A Strong Reward History


So, to start, you never call your dog before you do something unpleasant. Do not call your dog to you for punishment.

Do not call your dog for a nail trimming. Do not call your dog and then take him inside the house when he wants to be outside sniffing lamp posts.

Similarly, we should never call our children to us for a scolding, or for bed time (unless you are one of those strangely blessed people who have children who actually LIKE bed time).

Instead, go and get your dog/child.

Never make them regret approaching you.

So, when do you call them?

You call your dog for dinner, you call your dog for a walk, you call your dog for a treat and a cuddle, or before throwing a ball/initiating a game.

You call your child to play outside, you call your child for a tickle, or you call your child before tossing him up in the air.

When you call, you want him to think, “Oh, is something good happening?”

Lots of Encouragement

The second rule is to encourage them the whole way. Don’t just stand there with your arms folded like some kind of stern school principal.

Cheer and clap for every step. “Here he comes! Good boy, good boy! He’s going so fast! Yaaaaaay!”

…And yes, that rule and those words apply exactly for either species.

You can also make it fun for them by running away.

I know that sounds stupid, but it works:

Dogs automatically chase things that run, so really running away is the best way to get a dog’s attention. And children love to feel powerful, mostly because they are so completely powerless most of the time.

So if your dog is taking his sweet time, run away. He’ll come chasing after you.

If your child is dawdling… run away, preferably screaming “Oh no! She’s going to get me! Ahh, she’s going to catch me!” while your toddler gleefully picks up the pace and probably starts to call “I’m getting you!”

Coming When Called Is Not A Choice

Finally, as fun as coming to you should be, full of praise and cheering and good things, it should not be a choice. If your dog ignores you, you should go step on the leash (if your dog doesn’t have a solid recall, he should always be trailing a leash, preferably a really long one) and reel him in. Bring him back to where you were when you called, get him to do some obedience, then praise him and give him another chance.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a child to trail a long line. Other parents would look at you askance. You’re going to have to go get your toddler, and do so without turning it into a fun game of “Ah! Mommy’s coming to get me!” which kids love.

Get your child with a frown, without saying a word, and when you get her pick her right up and carry her (kicking and screaming if necessary) back to where you were when you called and put her in a brief time out.

Tell her that she needs to come when you call, or the next time she ignores you, you are going to go home. (KEEP YOUR WORD ON THIS!)

Then give her a hug, give her a little tickle or a toss in the air to remind her that being with you is fun, and give her another chance.

Never Forget To Reward

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Once they get in the habit of coming when called, you might forget to encourage and praise them. But remember how vital it is that they come when you tell them to, and always give that the praise it deserves.

Try to call them often just for something positive – a surprise treat, some good news, a hug and a kiss (but not the last thing for dogs, because most dogs don’t really like hugs – they just pretend they do, for our sake). And if you do have to call them for something they won’t like, soften the blow with as much positive interaction as you can.

Because coming when called is so, so, so, so, SO VERY important.


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