How to Train Your Border Collie Dog to Come When Called

Medium
5-10 Days
General

Introduction

Border Collies are the rocket scientists of the dog world! They are considered to be among the smartest and most trainable of dogs, which should make training them to “come” easy, right? Maybe... unless they outsmart you!  

The reason they are so trainable is that Border Collies have been developed to learn complex commands and behaviors required for herding livestock. They tend to be excited about their work and they are very high-energy, another trait required for their work. However, the chasing and herding motivation, along with their high energy, can result in them being reticent about coming when called. The 'come' command is one of the most important for your dog's safety, especially your active Border Collie, to keep him out of danger that could result from running away, out on a road, or chasing livestock when he is not supposed to. 

The good news is, your Border Collie is very oriented to be part of a team with you, so training him to come can be a matter of developing that team mentality and making coming to you a great experience that your dog wants to do. Border Collies want to work and they want to please their team members. Training them to be obedient to commands like 'come' is a matter of tapping into that natural inclination. So don't let your Border Collie outsmart you, be the team leader!

Defining Tasks

Because of their natural intelligence and energy, training a Border Collie to come when called is more successful if established from a young age. If an older dog has developed bad habits, they can be a challenge to reshape. Successful Border Collie trainers find they need to address the dog's working instinct and high energy level and tap into them for success. 

Making coming when called part of a fun game by playing hide and seek, stimulating your Border Collie's mind and making coming to you a treat, will ensure success. Never punish your Border Collie after he comes to you for a transgression, or follow it immediately with a negative consequence such as leaving the park. Instead, play with your dog before leaving, or give him a treat and attention when he comes. Border Collies also thrive on consistency; they are so smart that if you are inconsistent they will pick up on this and use it to their advantage. A lively, interested Border Collie exploring its world can be a challenge to get to come when called. Getting your dog's attention by cheerfully calling his name or by initiating a game like hide and seek or fetch works better than yelling or reprimanding him and then calling him. Punishing your Border Collie, will teach him that coming when called means he gets in trouble!

Getting Started

Start training your Border Collie to 'come' at home and in an enclosed area, in the house or a fenced yard, so that there is no danger of your dog running away and into trouble. Use favorite toys, balls and treats to reinforce desired behavior. A long lead line can also be useful for training your Border Collie to come when called. Remember, the operative word here is “fun”.  Teach your Border Collie that it is fun to come when called, more fun than whatever is out there in the world calling his name!

The Variable Rewards Method

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Step
1
Call
Call your Border Collie's name and say “come” in an excited voice, while holding a high value smelly treat in your hand, like chicken or a hot dog.
Step
2
Reward 'come'
When your dog comes, give him the high value treat, praise, and affection--say, “yes”.
Step
3
Practice often
Continue, practicing calling your dog in various situations. Start in the house or yard, practice in the park or on walks.
Step
4
Vary treats
Vary treats used as a reward for coming when called. Use high-value treats like meat or cheese, dry kibble, toys, praise, and affection. Your dog may not always come for dry kibble, but he will come for the chance that this time's treat might be a hot dog!
Step
5
Avoid negatives
Avoid negative consequences for coming. Do not leave play areas immediately, reprimand your dog, or clip nails or any other thing your dog doesn't like immediately after calling your dog to come.
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The Hide and Seek Method

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Step
1
Hide and reward seek
Start playing hide and seek with your dog in the house. Hide behind a piece of furniture and call your dog to find you. When he investigates and discovers you, present a favorite toy and play.
Step
2
Move outside
Move the game outside where there are trees and other obstacles. If you do not have a safe enclosed area, you can start playing this game with your Border Collie on a long lead line, 25 to 50 feet long.
Step
3
Simple hiding
Ask your dog to sit and stay, then go hide. At first, let your dog see where you hide, call him to 'come'.
Step
4
Reward
When your dog comes to find you, reward with play or a treat.
Step
5
Make complex
Increase the complexity of the game, making harder hiding spots. Don't let your dog see where you hide; you can use an assistant to face him in the other direction. Then call your Border Collie to come find you. Remove the lead line and go off-leash. By making a game of coming when called, you make it a fun and positive experience.
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The Guide and Play Method

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Step
1
Teach 'come' in closed area
Teach your Border Collie to 'come' when called, in the house and in your yard, by calling him and providing a reward.
Step
2
Move outside on leash
Go outside with your dog on a long lead line. Call your dog to 'come'.
Step
3
Guide with line
If your Border Collie is distracted or does not come immediately, call his name to get his attention. Then guide him with a gentle tug on the lead line.
Step
4
Reinforce
Reward with treats, attention, and play for coming when called.
Step
5
Play
When recall is good, let your Border Collie off-leash. Call your dog's name and run in the opposite direction. Your Border Collie will run after you, it’s a game! Play often, and reward coming when called to continue to establish that coming when called is fun.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Koda
AnimalBreed object
1 Year
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Question
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Koda
AnimalBreed object
1 Year

My pup has issues coming to me when I call him. The first time he ran away and didn’t come back he got punished when coming to me finally and now won’t come to me again when there is a wide open space. How do I get his trust back so he will come to me?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Alyvia Marie, First, you probably know now that you cannot punish a dog when they come - even when they are being rotten. If you need to punish the disobedience go get them, rather than call him to you. Also, when they disobey, when you finally do get them back, ignore the fact that they disobeyed, but soon after clip a long leash on them and practice several similar recalls around the same type of distraction with the long leash on. Reward them when they come willingly, and reel them in and make them sit when they do not come, then release them again by saying "okay" to practice the come again. Practice this drill until you get five willing comes in a row from the dog...That exercise serves as a reminder that the dog should come, without discouraging them from wanting to come to you in the future due to punishment. You essentially re-establish respect through training and consistency, without adding in fear-which causes avoidance with come. Next, to deal with the current avoidance that has developed check out the article that I have linked below. Follow the "Recall" method which will force your dog to come to you using a long leash that you can reel him in with when he disobeys. I suggest you use a forty, possibly fifty-foot leash for it (regular long 40'-50' foot training leash and not a retractable leash!). When he comes, even if you have to force him by reeling him in, praise him and reward him with treats. Practice this until he starts coming willingly again. When he will come willingly, then give him treats and lots of praise for coming willingly, but only treats for coming willingly - do not discipline him when you have to reel him in though. Simply reel him in, praise him softly, make him sit, then release him by saying "Okay!" and practice it all again. When he gets really good at this, then only give treats when his come is better, such as faster, coming around a distraction, coming from further away, or coming and sitting right in front of you automatically. When he will come well again on the long leash, you can let the leash drag (if you are somewhere safe to do so) and practice this without holding the leash so he feels off-leash. If he disobeys your come command, go grab the leash and reel him in to where you originally called him from. When you get ready to practice this completely off-leash again, then practice this without it, but bring the long leash out occasionally to brush up his training whenever his come starts to get sloppy with time. Come article. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Mac
AnimalBreed object
2 Years
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Mac
AnimalBreed object
2 Years

Max is a rescue dog that is 2 or so. He has not been worked with much and tends to do what he wants when he wants. Is he too old to change these habits?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kelly, It depends on the behaviors you are talking about, but in most cases it is not too late. Socialization needs to happen while a dog is young because it is related to mental maturity, so if done later it will be much harder and less progress than if a puppy. Obedience, tricks, and general manners can usually be taught at a later age with no problem if you are dedicated to working with him, teaching him, and being consistent about rules. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Tucker
AnimalBreed object
11 Weeks
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Tucker
AnimalBreed object
11 Weeks

Hello, Tucker is only young and is my first dog. I understand that as a pup he’s going to teeth and nip. He’s getting great at simple commands so I’m in high spirits that he’ll be easy to train. My issue is when I’m out in our garden, he tends to bite my shoes and the bottom of my trousers and I have tried telling him off, firm but fair kind of thing. Is there any other solutions that will help?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ryan, Glad to hear he is doing well. The pant biting is extremely common at this age and most pups think its just a wonderful game -like a moving tug toy. When pup does it you have a couple of options. First, begin teaching pup a structured heel where he earns treats for watching you and heeling - most puppies forget about the pants biting altogether when you give them a better job to do on a walk. Follow the Turns or Treat Lure method - both methods involve treats - which can just be puppies own food for most training at this age (just ration pups meal kibble into treats and hollow chew toy stuffing and give what's left in a bowl or by hand) https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel1 Second, make the game less fun for pup. You can experiment to see which of method pup responds to best. Try either freezing when pup bites until he stops, then continue, OR taking a step in pup's direction, surprising him and nudging him a bit we with your foot so that he has to back up. Just be careful not to step on pup's paws when you step. Pup will probably tug harder when you first do this, give it a few days to really see if its effective. The final option is to use the leash to direct pup. That works well for some but if you can get pup to respond to your movement and focus on your heeling, pup is also less likely to tug on your pants when inside off leash. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ellie
AnimalBreed object
9 Months
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Ellie
AnimalBreed object
9 Months

Ellie was very good at coming back to us not on a lead until she was about 6 months old but one day decided not to and ran away into a field and we had to rescue her from a neighbours garden in the village.
We have since taken her out on a long line and are trying to re-enforce what she as taught as a puppy. She is very smart and will do this on a long line but today tried without the line in an enclosed area and she refused to come back until I managed to catch her. Any suggestions what to do as we love walking her off a lead.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Ellie is a very smart breed and she is showing her smarts by deciding not to come when she knows that the lead is not on. Because of her keen mind, she will be easy to train but - she is also independent and likes to chase and herd so you may have a challenge with that. If you have herding trials in your area, that would be something fun to do with her. Look at the Reel in Method, seen here. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall. This sounds similar to what you are working on and may enable you to fine tune it a bit. Any regression though, should mean back to the long leash training again. Also, make sure that Ellie is doing all of her obedience training levels; I think that the benefit of establishing a solid and respectful bond with you will enable her to put her wandering trait on the back burner and concentrate on listening and pleasing you. As well, you may have to consider that she will be a leash only dog. Try the consistent daily training first to see how you make out. Good luck!

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Question
Angus
AnimalBreed object
10 Months
3 found helpful
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Angus
AnimalBreed object
10 Months

Won't come when neighbors dogs are out. Totally ingnores my call. Continue s running and barking at other dogs on other side of fence

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Hello John, Other dogs can be extremely distracting and it is not unusual for a dog to ignore a known command in the presence of other dogs. Practice Angus' "Come" command around other dogs while a thirty or forty foot leash is attached to him. The safest way to do this is to have him wear a padded back clip harness and to attach the leash to that. Work at a distance from the other dogs first, such as on the other side of your own back yard, at a park with other dogs, or in the parking lot of a dog park. As he improves decrease the distance between Angus and the other dogs while you practice "Come". Tell him to "Come" and if he does not come on the first call then immediately reel him in with the long leash, have him "Sit" and focus on you, and when he is focused on you tell him "OK" and let him look at or go toward the other dogs again. Practice this multiple times in a row until he comes willingly when you tell him to. Any time that he ignores your command bring out the long leash and practice this as well, to remind him that "Come" is not optional. If you do not have the long leash already attached to him and he ignores your command, then go get him rather than repeating "Come". The idea is to teach him that the only way he is allowed to get to other dogs and do what he wants to is if he does what you ask him to do first, and that he is going to have to come either way so he might as well do it willingly. If he comes willingly when you call him then give him a treat when he arrives and is focused on you, before telling him OK again and letting him go. If you regularly use "Come" to get him to come back inside when he does not want to, then teach him a second command, such as "Inside", so that the word you use for "Come" is not associated with something negative, and less effective during an emergency. You can also leave "Come" alone and teach your dog "Here" for emergencies in addition to "Come" for the backyard and every day life things that are less fun. You can enforce that second word the same way that you enforce "Come", with the long leash, going to get him when he does not come, and rewarding him for obeying willingly, but if your dog is ever in an emergency situation you do want the "Come" or "Here" command associated with something bad, or your dog might not comply when it matters most. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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