How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy to Come

Medium
1-6 Months
General

Introduction

If you have a German Shepherd puppy, you probably do not need to be told she is incredibly bright, curious to learn, and eager to please. Training her to come when called, also known as “recall,” is something that even a novice trainer can do with some basic training tips.

German Shepherds are a very reliable breed once properly trained to come when called. They are frequently used in police, rescue, and military work where a leash is impractical. With some patience and practice, you can expect to come to trust that your GSD will always come when called.

You can start training your puppy to come as early as 8 weeks old. Progress through the different training methods we have offered in this guide as she grows and gains skills. By the time she has reached adulthood, you will be able to rely on her recall in almost any situation. 

Defining Tasks

There are some basic guidelines to follow for training your German Shepherd puppy to come when called. Here are some tips to keep in mind at all times when working on recall:

Never chase your dog when working on recall. Puppies think chase is a fun game. If you reward him for not coming when you call him with a game of chase, you are literally breaking your recall command.

Make coming to you rewarding.  Do not ever call your dog and then punish him, immediately crate him, or take away something he enjoys unless you can give him something better. For example, if you call him in from outside, make sure you have a toy to play a quick game of tug before crating him.

Practice often and everywhere. You will practice recall 10,000 times to make sure it is there that one time when it can save your dog’s life.

Add distractions gradually. As we will discuss in more detail in each method, you always start training a new behavior in a low distraction environment. You will gradually add distraction once he is ready to “proof” a strong recall. 

Getting Started

Identify Rewards:  What is it that makes your German Shepherd puppy happy? Food, tug, praise or all of the above? You want to use a variety of rewards for recall training. Make sure they are easy to repeat and very exciting for your pup to keep her attention while you train.

Keep Sessions Short: Puppies have a short attention span that will increase over time with regular training. Make sure to keep your training sessions short enough that they are over before he is tired or bored.

Keep Sessions Fun: Your German Shepherd puppy will look forward to a lifetime of training if you keep training fun and rewarding. If you make it a chore, expect a dog that will grow up to be hard-headed about learning new things.

Long Line: The only equipment you will need for training a sturdy recall is a long line. This is a 25’-50’ leash or rope that you can use to give your puppy some distance safely, while not losing the ability to enforce a recall. 

The Basic Recall Method

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Step
1
Set up
This is the first method you should use to give your German Shepherd puppy the basic skill to come when called. Start inside in a familiar environment where distractions such as toys, food, or other people are minimal. Have your rewards ready.
Step
2
Run away
With your puppy nearby, run away from him in an excited way. Almost every puppy on the planet will chase you. As he starts to run towards you, say his name followed by the command “Come!” in an excited voice. When he catches up to you, put your hand on his collar, followed by praise and a reward. Repeat 10-20 times.
Step
3
Add distance
Start to repeat the last step, but from a little farther away. Remember to only say the command when she is already running towards you. Always touch her collar and let go before giving her a reward. You can stop running away every time, but keep your tone exciting, and heavily reward, every time. Only call her when you feel sure she will come, that is, don’t try to call her away from the dinner bowl!
Step
4
Outside
Once your German Shepherd puppy is about 4 months old, take him outside with his long line attached. When he has paused from sniffing around, call him, run away if necessary, and reward when he comes running to you, remembering to touch his collar before rewarding. If he does not come, reel him in to you using the long line, do not punish or reward him, just start over. Never repeat your recall command. Repeat this procedure raising the distance gradually over time. Practice at least 5-10 times, a few times each day.
Step
5
Add consequences
Once your German Shepherd puppy has plenty of experience with the above steps, it is time to add some real consequence to not coming when called. Continue using the above training techniques, but start making it “cost” when she does not come when called. For most pups, a short 3 minute “time out” every time she does not come when called will be sufficient. See the 'Advanced Proofing' method for tips on taking your dog’s recall to the next level.
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The Recall Game Method

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Step
1
Fun game
This is a great game to play with a few people to help reinforce your German Shepherd’s recall. Use it in combination with the other methods given here. Start with a few friends sitting or standing in a circle. Make sure each person has a small bag of high value treats.
Step
2
Take turns
Alternate calling the dog by saying her name, followed by the recall command “Come!” said in a playful tone. If necessary, have the person calling her lure her in with the treat the first few times.
Step
3
Hold back
When she gets to the person that called her, have them reward then hold her so that she is facing the next caller. Hold her back for just a few seconds until she is pulling a bit to go to the next person. This builds some excitement around the recall command.
Step
4
Distance
Continue to play this game, increasing the length of the run between the people. Keep it fun and exciting.
Step
5
Outside
Using a long line for safety, take this fun game outdoors for even more fun, distance and exercise!
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The Advanced Proofing Method

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Step
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Why proofing is key
Each of the steps in this method are designed to be used after your German Shepherd puppy has practiced his recall over the course of many sessions. He knows what the command means, and he is excited to come when called. The following four steps can be added to your training program to get his recall totally bullet-proof so he will come when called every single time, no matter what the circumstance.
Step
2
New places
Take your German Shepherd puppy to as many new places as you can to practice their recall. Use a long line for safety in unsecured areas. Try empty parking lots, open fields, in the woods, or in your friend’s backyard. The more places you practice training your German Shepherd to come, the stronger his recall will be.
Step
3
New distractions
Slowly but surely, deliberately add some common distractions to the environment where you choose to train. This may include other dogs, kids, toys or food. Use your long line to reel your dog in if she tries to break the recall to go towards the distraction. Make sure your rewards are always a higher value than the distraction for best results.
Step
4
New people
If you want your German Shepherd puppy to come to specific people, make sure you practice doing recall drills with other members of your family and friends.
Step
5
Select the best
You can start to become selective about which recalls you will reward. Once the behavior is learned and proofed with some distractions, start heavily rewarding only the fastest recalls to get this behavior sharp and instant.
Step
6
When NOT to recall
Finally, when teaching your dog to have a reliable recall, it is important that you assess the situation before you use your recall word. If you know darn well your dog won’t come when called because she is into something too good to walk away from, don’t use your recall word. Only use your recall command when you are prepared to back it up by physically retrieving your pup from a distraction.
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Written by Sharon Elber

Published: 01/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Duchess
German Shepherd
9 Weeks
3 found helpful
Question
3 found helpful
Duchess
German Shepherd
9 Weeks

Duchess is extremely hyper I can't train her training her has become impossible. She constantly wants to bite and she doesn't listen. Ps. Duchess is in the middle of the two.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
842 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kayla, At nine weeks of age Dutches is acting completely normal for a puppy. Puppies this age mouth due to teething and to learn about the world around them. She has not had enough time and practice to learn what communication is, and is very mentally immature. Check out the link below and download the free pdj e-book, AFTER You Get Your Puppy. That book will cover a number of training areas to help you both. Some puppies have stronger personalities. She might have a more excitable, stronger personality also. https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Rax
German Shepherd
8 Weeks
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Rax
German Shepherd
8 Weeks

I’m having difficulty to make my dog come to me . And also I’m haveing difficulty trying to make him poop outside when I wake up in the morning he poops is already there but when I take him outside he only lays down and dosent poop or do anything what do I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
842 Dog owners recommended

Hello Britney, He is only eight weeks and teaching a dog to come takes a lot of practice so it's probably normal for him not to come this soon. He needs a lot of practice. Check out the article linked below to teach Come. Be sure to act fun and inviting and not angry or intimidating to motivate him to want to come to you. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall For the pooping, check out the article that I have linked below. He needs to be crated at night to prevent the accident in the morning. Follow the crate training method to introduce the crate to him. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Once he has already pooped in the morning inside, he will not need to go again until later in the day, so the opportunity is missed. The key is to prevent the morning poop using the crate and take him outside in the morning as soon as he whines in the crate or you get up for the day (whichever comes first). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sadie
German Shepherd
14 Weeks
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Question
0 found helpful
Sadie
German Shepherd
14 Weeks

When we are in the house her recall is great, when we are outside it is absolutely awful, she does not listen and she runs away, she does not come back to me from in the garden

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

Hello! I am going to give you information on how to teach recall for running away. 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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