How to Train Your Dog to Come Using a Long Lead

Medium
2-4 Months
General

Introduction

Training a dog to come back to you from a distance is considered to be one of the more challenging tasks, as you are asking your dog to return to you when he is interested in doing something else or being elsewhere. But, if you don't train him to come back on your command, he could simply run off and get lost or be injured, or worse. It is only natural for a dog to want to roam and explore his world, it is your job to teach him to come back to you when you call him.

There is nothing worse than having to worry about your dog running loose just because the front door is open, or the gate didn't get closed properly. At the same time, you don't want to treat your dog like he is a prisoner in his own home or yard.  Long lead or as it is also known, long leash, long line, or check cord training is one of the fastest and best ways to train your furry friend to come each time you call him. 

Defining Tasks

The basic command is "Come!", meaning that no matter what your dog happens to be doing when you call his name and use the command, you want him to immediately stop what he is doing and return to you. This is one of the most important things you can teach your pup to do, as it could easily save his life at some point. Imagine if your dog was just about to step out onto a busy street and he ignored your command to 'come'.

While the command and the anticipated response are relatively simple, it can take a while for the concept to set in and for your dog to learn to come to your command whether or not he is on a long lead. You can use this method of training on both puppies and adults. In fact, the earlier you start this type of training, the faster your pup is likely to learn what is expected of him. 

Getting Started

When it comes to getting started, you don't need much in the way of equipment. You need a long leash, most trainers recommend one between 30 and 50 feet long. Never use one of those retractable leashes as this is not what they are designed to be used for. The ultimate goal is for your dog to come anytime you call without the need for any kind of leash. Supplies needed include:

  • A long lead: Look for one that is 30 to 50 feet long for training purposes. 
  • Treats: To give your pup as a reward for getting it right.
  • Patience: You'll need plenty of this at first.
  • A Good Attitude: Your dog will pick up your attitudes, so be happy and stay relaxed.
  • A place to work: Look for a nice quiet place to work with plenty of space.

Keep in mind that the idea of a long lead is to allow it to trail out behind your dog without your interference. He needs to feel as though he is free to wander until he gets to the end of the line, at which point you should be commanding him to come. Remember to use a firm commanding voice that lets your dog know you mean business while at the same time make sure you have a treat for him when he does what he is being asked to do. 

The Stay in Range Method

ribbon-method-3
Most Recommended
3 Votes
Step
1
Leash your pup
Attach your dog's long-leash to his collar for the training session.
Step
2
Unwind the leash
As your dog walks away from you, let the long-leash unwind.
Step
3
Let it lie
Allow the leash to lay loose on the ground. This way he knows it's there but that it is not stopping him from wandering within his boundaries.
Step
4
End of the line
When he gets close to the end of the line, pick it up and use a command such as "Stop!" This is designed to help him recognize his boundaries.
Step
5
Bring him in
Call your dog by name and give the 'come' command. As he walks back towards you pull the leash in along with him. Praise him and give him treats. Repeat this until he gets it right every time on the leash.
Step
6
Off-leash
By now he should have no problem when called while he is on the leash. Now it's time to take him off the leash and practice the same game until he will come to you from anywhere when you call him.
Recommend training method?

The Come When Called Method

ribbon-method-1
Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Hook him up
Attach the long lead to your pup's collar, but keep it coiled up in your hand for the moment.
Step
2
Stay put
Give your dog the 'stay' command and start to back away from him as you uncoil the leash.
Step
3
Short moves first
For the first few attempts, keep the distances down to just a few feet until he gets the hang of it.
Step
4
Call him to you
Call your pup to come to you. If he does so, reward him with a treat and lots of praise.
Step
5
Continue working
Continue working with him until you reach the end of his leash and he will still come to you. Work with him at the end of the leash for a few days. By now you should be ready to try working with him off his leash. He should still stay within the range of his leash. If he does so, be sure to reinforce this behavior with lots of praise and treats.
Recommend training method?

The Going for Walks Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Get ready to go
Coil the leash up and attach the clip to your pup's collar.
Step
2
Pay it out
Go for a walk along your usual route, paying the leash out, letting it drag on the ground as you walk.
Step
3
Call-back time
When your dog has walked out to what you feel is a good distance, call him back to you.
Step
4
Coil it up
If he is a good boy and comes right back to you, coil up the leash and give him a treat.
Step
5
When he doesn't come back
If he doesn't come when called, use the leash to gently stop him in his tracks and either gently pull him back or wind the leash up as you walk towards him.
Step
6
Keep working at it
Go for as many walks each day as you have time for. Keep them short, and keep repeating the training until your pup will come when called. Get rid of the leash and let your pup roam ahead, then call him back to you. When he comes back, heap on tons or praise and a healthy dose of treats.
Recommend training method?
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Written by PB Getz

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Blue
Mutt
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Blue
Mutt
9 Months

How to make my dog come

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brooklyn, I recommend the Reel In method from the article I have linked below - it's similar to the methods in the article I commented on but a bit more straight forward. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall For advanced recall, this youtube channel has additional video instructions as well: https://www.youtube.com/c/JamiePenrithDogTraining/search?query=come Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Poppi
Standard Poodle
1 Year
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Poppi
Standard Poodle
1 Year

Hi! Poppi had been growing up in a big city (Budapest) where it is suuper dog friendly. It´s not uncommon that people walk with their dogs without a leash in the streets and you can bring them everywhere (cafe, resturants, shops, you name it). The city park (huge) is the place in the city where people in general let their dogs off their leash to play around and have fun, and I have been doing the same with Poppi after lots of training. She´s doing really good in listening to commands (for example, don´t go to them, or walk past them, etc.) and she´s also really good with recalling (most of the time). Now that she is 1 year she´s getting a bit more difficult in some areas and she´s really getting her own will. She has also started to play more rough with dogs, even if they are not really that interested. It´s not aggressive or anything, but it´s gotten to the point where I´m avoiding to meet smaller dogs because I´m afraid that she would hurt them by accident. When I see her energy-level getting too high I try to recall her, but then it seems that she´s in this zone where she´s just not listening at all, and this is a struggle. I know that having your dog off the leash is something you should only do when you´re very sure in your recall, and this is where I think it is difficult. Her recall is good, and if I recall her early enough she listens and she comes without a doubt. The ONLY times she doesn´t come is when she´s already in a play with another dog or if she´s running after a dog chasing a ball (you get the idea)... I feel like she´ll outgrow this somehow, but I hate to feel like the owner that doesn´t have control when she´s off the leash, and I was wondering if you have any tips how to practice this specifically. Any help would be appreciated, thank you in advance!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend teaching an Out command (which means leave the area for those dogs who don't want to engage), and using a long training leash and the Premack Principle from the Come article I have linked below. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Once pup has learned those commands and methods, practice them often using a long training leash, 15'-30' long and a padded back clip harness. Gradually work up to more and more distracting locations. You can even practice pup's recall at places where the are other dogs that can't get to your dog, like regular parks or outside a dog park (don't go inside the dog park area though since having pup on leash in there isn't safe and could lead to fights). For dogs who are mostly reliable off leash, I tend to start this on a regular 20' training leash, but as pup becomes 99% reliable, I put on a thick glove and switch to a home made 40-50' really light weight training leash, so pup can practice being further and not feeling the leash much, but you can still reel pup in and enforce commands that 1% when they ignore you. I would find places where you can practice with other dogs around but without those other dogs engaging pup - since the leash being on pup can make that tricky and potentially unsafe if it wraps around - recruiting friends to go to an empty field with you might be the easiest way to set up that scenario and have control of the variables and distance. Once pup is really good at Come and Out on the long leash, recruit a friend and their friendly dog. Have the dogs play in a controlled, fenced area without other dogs around, while they are wearing a back clip harness and 10- 20 foot drag leash (the easier to grab, less tangling one that you have). Periodically call the dogs away from each other when they are not entangled wrestling. Have each other call their dog from different areas of the yard so the dogs go in different directions when they disengage. Use the drag leash to carefully and quickly reel pups in to each of you if they don't obey when you call. Watch their leashes to make sure they aren't getting tangled up while playing and do this in an open enough area that the leashes aren't as likely to snag on things. A rolled leash without a handle tends to snag less. Once your dog gets to you (because they obeyed or because you reeled them in with the leash), have pup obey a couple commands like Sit or Down, and give high value treats - this is why the dogs are being called to separate locations, you don't want competing for the same food while aroused from playing). After both dogs are focused on their people and calm from the obedience practice, allow the more timid of the two dogs to go first, telling them "Go Play" and releasing them. If they still want to play, let the second dog go also, telling them to "Go Play" as well. Practice this for 10-30 minutes a training session often, until your dog will obey Out and Come consistently while in the middle of playing without having to be reeled in. While doing all of this, I would avoid going to the dog park with pup off leash where pup could ignore your command and that would undermined your training efforts. Once pup is very good at obeying while aroused in the controlled settings, working up to real life settings as gradually as they improve, then you can use the new commands in real life to help pup manage their behavior at the park. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Sissy
Chihuahua
7 Months
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Sissy
Chihuahua
7 Months

sissy is the smaller dog in the picture, i got her at 12 weeks old,she had little to no socialization at that time,i have been trying to get her comfortable on a leash and also in the car, however, she gets very anxious as soon as i try to walk her out the front door,even when i am just placing the harness and leash on her in the house, i have tried to just have her get used to the harness/leash inside the house but she absolutely hates them. once in the car, she gets so upset that she slobbers and vomits,i have given her nausea meds and calming treats ,along with putting her in a soft crate but these don't help much. is there anything else i can try?, she is perfectly fine in the house and our fenced in backyard

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cindy, I would break the training down into smaller steps and go slower - especially now that pup is so suspicious of the collar. Spend one day simply laying the collar on the ground and sprinkling treats around it several times a day. Do this until pup is comfortable touching it without you holding the collar - go at pup's pace. Watch their body language and stay at this step until pup is relaxed again around the collar. That may take one training session or a week - depending on how suspicious pup is of the collar at this point. Practicing for short periods multiple times a day can help things go more quickly. Once pup is comfortable just touching the collar, hold it in your hand and have pup eat treats out of the hand that is holding the collar. Do this until pup isn't worried about you holding the collar up anymore - don't try to suddenly put it on pup yet or that will set you back. Practice at this step until pup looks happy and confident again with the collar just being held up. End the training session while pup is doing well still. Next, loosen the collar as much as you can so that it makes a large loop, hold the collar up with one hand and hold the treats through the collar's hole with your other hand, so that pup has to move their head toward the collar hole to eat the treats - don't require pup to put their head through the hole yet, just in front of the hole. Do this step until pup is happy and confident about the collar being held up and approaching it - do NOT suddenly try to throw the collar over pup's head or move it toward them - pup is the one moving, you are keeping the collar still at this point. Practice that step until pup is relaxed - even if that takes several sessions. Next, hold the collar the same way, but offer the treats a bit closer to the collar, so that pup has to poke the end of their muzzle through the collar loop to take them. Practice this until pup is comfortable doing that. As pup relaxes, move your treat hand a bit further back so that pup is poking their head through the collar more and more as they improve - again, don't move the collar toward pup at this point. Let pup move their head in and out of the loose collar freely to get treats. Practice until pup has no issues with placing their head through the collar. Go back a step and practice at that step for longer before continuing if pup becomes nervous again. Next, once pup is comfortable poking their entire head through the collar, move the collar very slightly back and forth while holding it up, and holding treats in the collar for pup to move their head through it - you are just getting pup used to the collar moving, not putting it on yet. The collar should still be a large loop at this point - not fitted. Practice until pup can handle the collar moving. As pup improves, gradually increase how much the collar is moving back and forth while pup reaches their head through it. Next, have pup poke their head through the collar, and reward pup with several treats at a time for keeping their head in the hole for longer. Gradually increase how long pup holds their head in the collar for by spacing out rewards as they keep their head in the hole. Next, when pup can hold their head in the collar for longer, have pup poke their head through the collar, sprinkle several treats on something that's at pup's chin height so that your hands are free, and slide the buckle that adjusts the collar size back and forth while pup eats the treats. Start with small movements then stop touching the collar - you are just getting pup used to you messing with the collar a bit. Practice this until you can gradually work up to being able to adjust the size of the collar completely without pup feeling worried, while they eat the treats off the object at chin height. Once pup is can hold their head in the collar for several minutes while you adjust it, without being worried, adjust it to the proper size and leave it on pup for at least two weeks, to help pup get used to the feeling of wearing it around. Most dogs will scratch at it and feel like it's itchy for at least a week when you first have them wear a collar. Choose a collar that's safe for pup to keep on - such as a durable plain buckle collar - not a prong or choke or other training collar that could tighten or accidentally correct. When you catch pup itching at the collar, distract pup with a fun toy. Check out the video linked below for an example of getting pup to poke their head through an opening. The dog in that video wasn't afraid of the harness during training - so the training was done in one sitting for the sake of showing the steps, but expect your pup to need several sessions between each training step - moving too quickly will likely set pup back. Pup needs to get to the point where they are completely relaxed at the current step before you proceed to the next step - how long that takes will simply depend on pup's specific temperament. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn5b8u1YS_g&feature=emb_title I recommend desensitizing pup to the car and slowing the overall process down. Start by simply feeding beside the car while its off, then feeding treats along the runner with the door open, then inside the car with it still. For at least a couple of weeks practice the Down Stay command on the middle seats' floorboard or seats (if a row seat). Gradually move to practicing with the car in the driveway but still while on - don't turn on in the garage for gas breathing reasons. When pup is completely relaxed in the car and can do a solid down-stay, recruit a second person to drive or train, so the driver can only focus on driving. Have the person training enforce Down, while the driver simply pulls out of the driveway and back in When pup can stay relaxed during that (which will require a lot of repetition before pup relaxes then too - once pup sees that the driving is boring through repetition), then drive down the block and back. Gradually increase the distance and level of excitement as pup improves, only moving onto further distances or more exciting locations once pup can stay relaxed at the current level of training. Check out this article on shy dogs also: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ Activities like agility and certain tricks can also be a good way to build confidence in timid dogs. It's a fun way to help pup work through overcoming new obstacles in relationship with you, to build confidence and trust. You can purchase equipment of your own, build out of PVC, or create obstacles out of things you already have - like a kids tunnel, wooden ramp you build, objects to weave around, ect... Just make sure whatever you create is safe. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Keoki George
Australian Cattle Dog
12 Weeks
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Keoki George
Australian Cattle Dog
12 Weeks

Nipping, starting to jump now when food is near

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lola, I recommend teaching pup the following commands. Step Toward method for jumping: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method (useful for food and biting) https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place - I would start teaching pup this command also so pup can learn to be sent to Place during meals and food prep, then give a treat at the end of the meal or food prep if pup was patient. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Penny
Dachshund and Jack Russell cross
15 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Penny
Dachshund and Jack Russell cross
15 Months

Hello - whilst Penny is delightful in the house and will wait and recall there are increasing times where she has such a strong desire to seek out a rabbit hole or fox trail and just goes only returning when she wishes. The phot above was this week when we were no where near a shrubby hedge area as we have been avoiding these when she just looked across to the other side of the field and was off... only to return having looked like she’s been down a hole! I was within reach a couple of times but she is oblivious of my presence and heads back into the thicket. We have tried avoiding the risks however now at a point of fearing letting her off the lead which is not what we want. Any advice helpful many thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Fiona, Check out the article I have linked below and the Premack Principle section and section on using a long leash for training around distractions. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Also, check out this trainer's youtube channel. He often deals with off leash training dogs who have a high prey drive, like dogs who livestock chase and live in rural areas. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoxuNKpmUs390K7x_rvgjcg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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