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

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
1 Vote
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.
Recommend training method?

The Hide and Seek Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
1 Vote
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.
Recommend training method?

The Guide and Play Method

ribbon-method-3
Least Recommended
1 Vote
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?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 12/26/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Freya
Border Collie
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Freya
Border Collie
2 Years

She knows all her hand signals. She will heal sit stay and come perfect SHe will run off and if i blow the whistle come, mostly.
There are certain dogs,mostly aggressive or dominant energy dogs,that she will loose her mind over. She will not even hear me. She works those dogs and is constantly trying to move them by barking and often nipping towards heels. Freya was born on a farm and is from a working family. She worked cattle at 9 weeks old and I got her at ten weeks.When this happens I have to just follow the other dog untill they leave as she wil not hear me. She can be excited over her ball or frisbee but see a certain dog and be gone. Most dogs she is fine with and this is a rare,but troubeling occurrence.
Freya goes for a 2 hour AM and PM walk where we play frisbee and or chuck it. I aslo hide stuff on her.
I hate to leash her as she is such high energy and needs to run.

Juanita

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Juanita, Check out the article I have linked below. I recommend specifically practicing the sections with the long leash and PreMack Principle. Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Most most dogs, consistent practice using a long leash around the things pup is ignoring come around, is sufficient. In your case, this may involve seeking out places where there are lots of dogs that pup can't physically get to, like the outside (not inside) of a dog park, practicing come on the sidewalk with dogs in view. Some dogs will need further training when their instincts are very strong. The preliminary long leash and premack principle training comes first either way, so start there. If pup require a more advanced come, check out the trainer I have linked below, and I recommend pursing that type of training. Come info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtJxSXu4rfs&t=91s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Woody
Border Collie
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Woody
Border Collie
3 Years

We have a lovely border collie who is generally very good at coming back to us but if he sometimes finds something more interesting than us, ie a rabbit/cat/squirrel and we then call him to come to us, he will totally ignore us until he has finished. If we go to get him, he then backs away and it is then impossible to get him back on the lead. We have to rely on strangers to go up to him to crab his collar and then pass him to us. Another thing he loves to do is chase a ball, which we do regularly for him but if he happens to see someone else throwing a ball for their dog, he straight away goes off to play with them and again, will not let us get him to put him back on the lead. We think that he realises that he has done wrong in not coming to us and doesn't want to be told off. We have consciously avoided telling him off but have sometimes just ignored him when back at home. We would be very grateful for any help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello David, Check out the articles I have linked below on coming. In this article, I recommend practicing the Reel In method with a long leash. Since pup is already good at a distraction-free come, specifically go looking for distractions to practice around with pup on the long leash, so that you can practice being able to enforce your Come even when pup is distracted. I would start with a 20-30 foot training leash and padded back clip harness. When pup is very consistent with that, you may want to transition to a 40-50 foot lightweight leash before going fully off leash again, so that pup feels like they are fully off leash in between. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall In this article below, check out the sections on using a long training leash (like the Reel In method) AND the Premack Principle. I would practice those two things with pup, practicing the Premack Principle with food, a ball, or distractions that would be okay to allow pup to get to occasionally - like a friend's friendly dog your dog wants to play with - coming to you before being allowed to say hi, or a squirrel in a tree. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lottie
Border Collie
10 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Lottie
Border Collie
10 Months

Lottie ie a Breeder’s Rescue pup ... 6mos at the breeder to herd cows ... Lottie afraid of cows and VERY timid of other BIG things (like bedsheets or towels ... even a cereal box !!!! 🙄. Then 3 months at the rescue (because they put a high adoption fee on her head) ... Then, she came home with me. She is 10 months going on 11 month (in 2 weeks) old.

She really is a sweet pup, but has another side that is TOTALLY defiant.! When she is on a leash, she is in “Puppy mode and totally understands every one-word command given. BUT, she has a mind of her own when she is off leash! Still won’t come easily when off leash unless I can get her in “puppy mode” .. then she turns over on back ... belly up! She allows me to “catch her”. If she is still in her mindful mode, she does what SHE wants ... not what anyone else (especially me) wants her to do. It’s like a purposeful TOTAL IGNORE !!!

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
241 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to give you information on how to teach recall. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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Question
Archie
Border Collie Britt
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Archie
Border Collie Britt
6 Months

He won't come back when distracted

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
241 Dog owners recommended

Hello! So I am going to give you some tips on teaching recall. It is something you will have to practice to ingrain it into him so he is responsive in those settings. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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Question
Scooter aka "Bubs"
Border Collie and Lord knows what!
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Scooter aka "Bubs"
Border Collie and Lord knows what!
4 Years

THIS guy! I've known him since he was 8wks old & he became mine 8 months ago when his daddy passed away. SO freaking smart! TOO smart! Ha! My biggest challenges with him are trying to get him to settle when someone is at the door, jumping on people! (ugh), and recall when outside of my fenced in yard. Any help??

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
241 Dog owners recommended

Hi! He looks awesome!! What a cool dude. I am going to send you some pretty detailed information on teaching recall after I go over his behavior towards guests. He is going to have to learn that people aren't as exciting as they once were. Which is hard for us humans to do sometimes. We love happy dogs! You will want to set this exercise up a few times, before trying to practice it in the heat of the moment. If you have a willing friend or neighbor, grab them for a few minutes. Put Scooter on leash so you have control. As soon as someone knocks or rings the doorbell, ask him to sit. He will start associating sitting with that sound and eventually it will become a habit. And by eventually, I am talking a few months if you practice this every time someone comes in. Ask your guests to ignore him, try to keep him in a stay for as long as possible. Ideally 5 minutes or until he appears calm. Have treats handy! You may need these to distract him and keep him interested in you. Reward calm behavior. Repeat and repeat this until someones arrival is much less exciting for him. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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