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.
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.
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.