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How to Train a Puppy to Come

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What’s the best part about training a new puppy? It’s so much fun! Puppies are eager students, and they’re ready to start learning the basics of good household manners right away. Puppy training is obviously the first step in helping your new best friend become a well-mannered companion, but it’s also a fantastic way to grow your bond. And there’s no better training exercise to kickstart that bond than coming when called, also known as “recall.” Puppies naturally want to be close to their people, so teaching the recall during this phase is an easy way to take advantage of the tendency before teenage rebellion sets in.

Dog Training 101

The best time to start working with your new puppy is now—even pups as young as 8 weeks can start picking up on the basics. However, puppies have shorter attention spans, so lessons should be quick and upbeat to keep them interested. Like all dog training, working with a puppy should be fun, and that means using only dog-friendly, positive methods. 

To make the most of your lessons, you’ll need to use a variety of small training treats that are tastier than the average goody. Use meaty, high-value treats that get your pup excited about going to “school.”

How to Train a Puppy to Come: Beginner Stages

puppy practicing tricks

Even though coming when called is a potentially life-saving skill, training your new puppy to respond to the cue feels like a game. The importance of a strong recall can’t be overstated. If your dog slips off-leash or dashes out the door, you need to be able to call her back quickly and calmly to keep her safe. The good news is that the beginning stages of this critical cue are simple to teach.

There are a few rules to remember when considering the best way to train a puppy to come when called. To make the most of your training, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Choose a single consistent recall word. Training a puppy to come to her name isn’t the best option since you probably say it all the time—it becomes “verbal wallpaper.” A word like “here” is perfect because you can build a positive association with it.
  • Say your recall word in a happy tone of voice. Whenever you say the recall word, sound upbeat so your puppy is excited to come to you. Never call your puppy to you as a punishment, and always use this positive tone, even if the puppy is doing something bad!
  • Don’t repeat the word. You want to end up with a reflexive response to your recall word, so don’t accidentally turn the cue “here” into “here-here-here-here!” Say the word once, then whistle, clap, or make kissy noises to encourage your puppy to run to you.
  • Keep it simple. It takes time to transition from a basic recall in your family room to doing one outside when surrounded by distractions. With that in mind, don’t “test” your recall (meaning, don’t try it when your puppy is in a new environment or is distracted) until you’ve done tons of practice.

To begin training a puppy to come, grab a handful of special treats and ask a friend or family member to help out. Pick a room that your puppy is already familiar with and have both participants sit on the floor a few feet apart. (Your puppy will be more likely to run to you if you’re down on her level.) Say your recall word in a happy voice, then clap your hands or whistle to encourage your puppy to run to you. When she arrives, give her a treat and lots of praise so that she thinks she just did something truly amazing. 

Take turns calling your puppy until she’s racing back and forth between both teachers. As your puppy gets better at responding to the recall, ask more family members to participate in the game, then work up to hiding throughout your house to turn the training exercise into a game of hide and seek.

Coming When Called Training Tips: If your puppy predicts that someone is going to call and races to them before they have a chance to say “here,” let another player call her back instead. Remember, it will take your puppy longer to find you when you’re hiding from her, so don’t forget to clap or whistle to help your puppy discover your hiding spot. 

How to Train a Puppy to Come: Intermediate Stages

Running Beagle puppy

Once your puppy is flying through the house whenever you call her, you can move the game outside. Moving outside introduces new distractions, so make it easy for your puppy to “win” by going back to the very first training stages you used in the house.

Stay close to your partner and take turns calling your pup back and forth, then gradually work up to putting more distance between you. Once your dog is quickly and happily responding to your recall word outside, move the game to a novel location, like a community tennis court (if allowed) or a friend’s yard. 

Before you head into the great outdoors, make sure your furry best friend is up to date with her vaccinations and parasite protection. Then, she’ll be ready to roam! A monthly chew like Interceptor® Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel) is effective against five types of worms and can be used in puppies 6 weeks or older and 2 pounds or greater. And don’t forget about the hazards of external parasites like ticks and fleas, too. A tasty chewable like Credelio® (lotilaner) can provide tick and flea protection for puppies 8 weeks of age or older that weigh 4.4 pounds or greater.

See important safety information below for Interceptor® Plus and Credelio®.

The secret to a strong recall is putting in the time building the foundation skills, then gradually introducing it in new environments. Another important aspect, and one that’s frequently overlooked, is the need to keep rewarding the behavior with food, for longer than you might think. In fact, it’s a good idea to occasionally surprise your dog with treats when she responds to a recall throughout the rest of her life.

Keep in mind that no dog has 100 percent perfect recall. Even the best-trained dogs will sometimes get distracted or find something more rewarding to do and will ignore the command. Remember to stay positive and never scold your dog, or they will associate coming when called with a bad outcome. It’s very important to remember that even if your dog has a solid recall, she should never be off-leash in areas where she can run off and get lost, hit by a car, or otherwise injured.

Coming When Called: A Lifelong Bond

Beagle puppy running on beach

Teaching your pup to run to you when you call is one of the most rewarding training exercises. Not only is it important for safety reasons, it’s also super impressive! There’s nothing more magical than watching your dog come when you call. That’s why putting in the practice in puppyhood and continuing to reward your dog for doing it will ensure that your dog’s response stays strong throughout your lives together.

Credelio Indications

Credelio kills adult fleas and is indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations, treatment and control of tick infestations (lone star tick, American dog tick, black-legged tick, and brown dog tick) for one month in dogs and puppies 8 weeks and older and 4.4 pounds or greater.

Credelio Important Safety Information

Lotilaner is a member of the isoxazoline class of drugs. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, incoordination, and seizures. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving this class of drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. The safe use of Credelio in breeding, pregnant or lactating dogs has not been evaluated. The most frequently reported adverse reactions are weight loss, elevated blood urea nitrogen, increased urination, and diarrhea. For complete safety information, please see Credelio product label or ask your veterinarian.

Interceptor Plus Indications

Interceptor Plus prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections in dogs and puppies 6 weeks or older and 2 pounds or greater.

Interceptor Plus Important Safety Information

Treatment with fewer than 6 monthly doses after the last exposure to mosquitoes may not provide complete heartworm prevention. Prior to administration of Interceptor Plus, dogs should be tested for existing heartworm infections. The safety of Interceptor Plus has not been evaluated in dogs used for breeding or in lactating females. The following adverse reactions have been reported in dogs after administration of milbemycin oxime or praziquantel: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased activity, incoordination, weight loss, convulsions, weakness, and salivation. For complete safety information, please see Interceptor Plus product label or ask your veterinarian.

Disclaimer: The author received compensation from Elanco US Inc., the maker of Interceptor Plus and Credelio, for her services in writing this article. 

Credelio and Interceptor are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates.

© 2020 Elanco or its affiliates. PM-US-20-1222

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