How to Train Your Stubborn Dog to Come

How to Train Your Stubborn Dog to Come
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon2-12 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

The light is fading fast and it's nearly time to pick up the kids from school. A hectic schedule of after-school clubs means there'll be no time to walk the dog later (which you don't like doing in the dark) so it's now or never. A quick blitz around the park should do the trick, especially as the dog loves playing ball, which will tire him out rather nicely. 

But things don't go according to plan. You let the dog off the lead, but immediately your recognize that devilish look in his eye. It's as if he knows he holds all the cards and if he stays just out of reach there's not a thing you can do about it.

You shout "Come", but instead of running towards you, he takes the command as a warning that playtime's at an end and skips further off. The short work quickly turns into a nightmare as, in the dwindling light, the dog ignores your frantic calls and stays out of reach. 

Eventually, you're forced to phone a friend to collect the kids, while you pursue the dog. By the time you do eventually catch him it's fully dark and you're almost weeping with frustration.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

Dogs that appear to be stubborn when it comes to recall, have often learned that it pays to stay away. A combination of remembering past punishments, along with knowing the fun stops when the lead goes back on, means they have little to gain by responding to "Come".

Teaching a stubborn dog the art of recall is not as difficult as you might at first suppose. It's simply a matter of tipping the scales in your favor, by teaching the dog that there's a fantastic treat waiting and that he still gets to play afterward. 

Start training in the safety of your home or yard, and as the dog becomes more accomplished move the training into public places. If you can't trust the dog to obey, then use a longline while training so he can't run off.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

Teaching a good recall depends on you understanding what's going through the dog's mind and playing on the positives. This means making sure you have plenty of time,  along with a pocketful of tasty treats. 

To teach a stubborn dog a good recall you'll need:

  •  A longline
  • Super tasty treats, such as sausage or cheese
  • A small bag in which to keep the treats
  • Time and patience. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Back-up and Recall Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Understand the idea

A puppy has a strong instinct to stay by their mother's side. Take advantage of this latent instinct with the counter-intuitive action of backing away from the dog. With the right encouragement, the dog will move toward you, allowing you to label the action of closing the distance as 'come'. Eventually, you stay still while the dog approaches on command, and even a stubborn dog has learned to 'come'.

2

Exercise your dog

If the dog has expended most of his energy (but without being utterly exhausted) then he's going to be less likely to get distracted and more likely to pay attention to you. Ahead of teaching a stubborn dog recall, take him for a good walk.

3

Put the dog on the leash

Now put your dog on the leash. Get his attention and back away from him. Slap your thighs and in an excited voice, say "Come"

4

Move away from the dog

Keep moving away while encouraging the dog to follow. As he steps toward you, say "Yes" in an excited voice, and repeat "Come."

5

Reward the dog when he reaches you

Keep backing away, which encourages the dog to keep moving toward you. If necessary, slow up slightly to allow the dog to reach you. Then say "Yes" in a super-excited voice and give the dog a reward.

6

Practice makes perfect

Keep repeating this until the dog is moving freely towards you. Then try with the dog off-leash. Also, start practicing in different places, so that the dog learns to obey in a variety of environments.

The Make Life a Party Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Understand the idea

When a dog finds something really interesting - like horse dung - this is a strong distraction. Why would he want to leave this super-scrumptious bounty in order to return to heel and go home? The short answer is, he'll refuse and continue rolling in the unmentionable. The trick is to make every successful recall a party for the dog, so that he knows he's guaranteed a good time that is more rewarding than nature's bounty.

2

Use a longline

If your dog is really stubborn about recall, take the frustration out of training by keeping him on a longline. This gives you the control to bring him back if he chooses to disobey. A longline is better than a flexilead, as the latter teaches the dog that pulling allows him to get further away (not a message you want to send out.)

3

Call "Come" as he moves towards you

Don't only ask the dog to 'come' when you want him back. Take advantage of happy coincidences, such as when the dog is moving towards you, to shout "Come". Then reward him with a super-tasty treat. This starts him linking 'come' to a reward and therefore a command that's worth listening out for.

4

Throw a party

When the dog does 'come', throw a party. make a huge fuss, tell him how clever he is, and give him a fantastically tasty reward such as a piece or sausage or cheese. Your aim is to have the dog realize that coming to you is a good thing, and something to look forward to.

5

Practice

On a walk, stop and call the dog to you. The aim is to have him turn on a dime to come back when there aren't any distractions so that he doesn't think twice about obeying when there are.

The What NOT to Do Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Don't end the party

The dog comes to you. He gets a reward, you clip the lead on and go straight home. In the dog's mind he learns to link coming to you with the end of the fun. This may make him reluctant to respond despite the treat. A better idea is to end the game slightly early, so that you can take one last turn round the park before heading for home. That way, this prevents him seeing recall as a party pooper activity

2

Don't keep yelling "come"

If you shout "come" over and over and over, the dog will tune out and the word loses its power. Most dogs respond straight away or not at all. If he doesn't answer the first time, clap your hands, whistle, squeak a toy, anything to get his attention and then try again. As a last resort, turn you back and walk away (keeping a sly watch on his whereabouts), which should have him running to you.

3

Never punish a slow recall

You're late for a meeting and that quick dog walk turns into a half an hour saga when he fails to recall. At long last he comes back, so you vent your frustration by smacking him. Unfortunately, you've just punished the dog for doing the very thing you so desired...which makes him all the less likely to respond next time. Sadly, you have no option but to grin and bear it, and throw a party when at last he puts in an appearance

4

Don't tempt fate

If you know your dog is stubborn and likely to ignore recall, then don't let him off in a large park. Instead, keep control of the situation with a longline.

5

Don't expect quick results

Running free and all the delightful distractions available to a dog, mean that it takes time to learn a rock solid recall. Dont be discouraged if it takes a while, stick with it and you will both get there.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 11/23/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Alfie

Dog breed icon

Golden Retriever

Dog age icon

11 Months

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

User generated photoUser generated photo

Dog won't walk with anyone else only me.. will only walk the direction he wants to go.. won't go in a new route. No recall

Oct. 16, 2021

Alfie's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, start working on a reliable Come. Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall More Come - pay attention to the PreMack Principle and long leash training sections especially once pup has learned what Come initially means. These need to be practiced around all types of distractions like dogs and kids at the park to ensure pup is reliable before attempting true off leash. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Another activity you can practice is walking around places like your yard or a field with pup on the long training leash and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Whenever he takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at him for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling him; this encourages him to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on his own, so he will want to be with you. I would also try to determine why pup isn't following you in certain directions. Is pup nervous about something in the environment, uncomfortable while walking for some reason, or is their a lack of respect in this area. How you proceed from here depends a lot on why pup won't walk. If pup is nervous about a barking dog, particular route, or something else on the walk, then you will need to counter condition pup to that the thing or area pup is fearful of, to address the underlying fear. If pup is uncomfortable I would look at the harness or collar you are using to see if it's rubbing, squeezing, or causing discomfort even when pup isn't pulling, or speak with your vet if something medical like arthritis could be to blame. If pup is refusing because of a lack of respect for you, I would work on earning pup's respect in general. The refusal on the walk itself will also need to be addressed, but I recommend having a professional trainer work in person for at least one session to determine how that should be done. For some dogs that would involve a tug and release wait pup out approach. For others, changing training tools to something like a prong collar or padded front clip harness, for others a reward based approach. How you train and ensure your safety if there may be aggression present too, is something I would want to evaluate with pup in person. Respect: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Turns method - Start with doing this just in your own yard with treats. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 18, 2021

Dog nametag icon

Tonga

Dog breed icon

Labrador Retriever

Dog age icon

9 Weeks

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

We brought Tonga home five days ago and are having some serious trouble introducing basic commands like “come” and “no biting”. We reward her with treats when she does and are never aggressive or harsh with her, but she just doesn’t want to come to us. She will the first few times- and then just ignore us and wander off to do her own thing. We’ve had two Labradors from puppies before, but never had to use treats or repeated training to train them. We’re all frustrated and sad, even hurt- we know that she’s just getting used to us, but surely there should be some willing now? There are five of us in the house- my mother and father, then me (22), my brother (19) and my sister (17). Perhaps she doesn’t have a particular focus for an authority figure as there are so many of us? Maybe I’m just anxious, but I’m desperate for her to be happy, stimulated, and well behaved. She’s very young but very stubborn and strong willed- no bad thing, but she needs to have some training/discipline to be safe with us when she’s walking or out in public when she’s older. I’m devoted to this little dog but it’s as frustrating and tiring as trying to calm a screaming toddler. Do you have any suggestions?

Aug. 1, 2021

Tonga's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sophie, First, know that what you are experiencing is completely normal. Retrievers are often highly willing to please and very dependent on their people, so like to come and stick close usually, but it's extremely common with certain personality type puppies and other breeds for pup not to want to come and to be biting a lot at this age. Your new pup probably just has a more independent personality than your previous dogs so your training will need to be done a bit differently than before. Check out the Run Away and Reel In method for teaching Come: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall I would also keep a drag leash on pup, such as a six foot check cord without a handle, when you are home to supervise pup around the home, to ensure it doesn't get caught on anything. When pup doesn't come, calmly walk over to the end of the leash, step on it so pup won't run off, then pick it up, and lead pup back to the spot you called them from. Have pup sit, then release pup back to what they were doing. When they come willingly, give a treat. Expect to need treats for a while with this puppy. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. At the same time however, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the bite inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Also, know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep at it. I suspect this puppy has a stronger personality and you will want more structured obedience over the next year than you may have needed to pursue with your previous dogs. If so, here are a few resources you can refer to between now and a year. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ A puppy class with other puppies is a fantastic way to not only work on obedience but also gain socialization, so I do recommend that, but if you want to practice more on your own too, you can follow along with these videos with your puppy at home to help with general basic obedience: Puppy Class videos: Week 1, pt 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnhJGU2NO5k Week 1, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-1-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 2, pt 1 https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-2-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 2, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-2-part-2-home-jasper-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 3, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-3-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 3, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-3-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 4, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-4-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 4, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-4-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 5, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-5-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 5, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-5-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 6, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-6-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 6, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-6-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1-0 Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 2, 2021


Training assistant
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.