How to Train a Shih Tzu to Come when Called

How to Train a Shih Tzu to Come when Called
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-8 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

You are out on a walk with your Shih Tzu when something gets their attention. They take off running and their leash slips through your fingers. Now your little pup is off like a shot, way out of reach, and they are not responding to their name. You feel panicked and frantically run after your dog, but being chased only spurs them to run faster. At any point, something terrible could happen. 

Training your Shih Tzu to come when called is an effective way to avoid a situation such as this and keep your furry friend safe, even when they are off-leash.

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Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog to reliably come on command can be difficult. However, with a little patience, any pup can learn to respond to the 'come' command. It is important to be very patient with your Shih Tzu. This breed of dog tends to be stubborn. Luckily, they often have a "what's in it for me" attitude, which responds well to positive reinforcement. 

While you are training the 'come' command, there are a few things to keep in mind. Never ask your pup to come for something they dislike, such as a bath or having their nails clipped. You want the word "come" to be associated with positive things so your dog is more likely to respond. Also, if your Shih Tzu doesn't come right away, don't chase after them. Most dogs love to play chase and you running after them will only encourage them to keep running.

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Getting Started

In general, dogs are less likely to come if they are being called away from something fun. Choose a distraction-free area where your Shih Tzu can focus on you without a lot of interesting things to pull their attention. To practice this command, you will also need some small treats. It is also a good idea to put your pup on a leash in the beginning as well. If you practice on a leash, it is best to put your Shih Tzu in a harness to avoid pulling on their neck.

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The Look What I Got Method

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1

Create a lure

Fill a small bag up with treats you know your pup likes. Show them the bag and let them smell it so your Shih Tzu knows there is good stuff in there.

2

Let your dog get distracted

Give your Shih Tzu some time to wander around before calling them. They may hover around you for a bit, hoping to get a treat out of your lure bag. You may need to hide the bag for a while.

3

Call your dog

Once your Shih Tzu stops paying attention to you, say their name and then give the command "come." If they obey right away, they get a treat. If they don't, get out your lure bag and shake it. Only say the command word or their name once more when you shake the bag.

4

Reward them for coming to you

Since your dog knows what is in the bag, they should come to you right away. Give them lots of praise and a treat as a reward for coming. Then repeat the process of letting them get distracted and calling them to you.

5

Phase out the lure

As soon as possible, you want to stop using the lure bag to make your Shih Tzu come to you. You should still reward the dog for coming, but you want them to respond to the command word alone. Once your dog is coming to you consistently, try adding in other distractions and changing locations until you are sure their grasp of the 'come' command is reliable.

The Reel Them In Method

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1

Start with your Shih Tzu on a leash

With your pup on a long leash, say their name and then give the command "come" in a happy, enthusiastic voice. You can clap or pat your knees at the same time if you want.

2

Tug on the leash

If your Shih Tzu comes right away, give a reward and praise. If not, pull gently on the leash without repeating the command.

3

Reel in the leash

As your dog starts to move toward you, reel in the leash to keep them moving in the right direction. You can give praise as they do so if your Shih Tzu seems reluctant about coming. However, the pressure on the leash should be enough to keep the dog moving in the right direction.

4

Celebrate their success

When your Shih Tzu makes it all the way to you, give them treats and make a big fuss about how great they were for coming. You want your dog to always associate coming to you with great stuff so they want to keep doing it.

5

Try going off-leash

Once your dog is consistently coming to you while on the leash, you can take them to an enclosed area to practice. Leave the leash attached but let go of it and then say "come". If they do, they get a treat. If not, go up to your pup, step on the leash, and reel them in. Practice a few more times while holding onto the leash before attempting "off-leash" again.

The Run Away Method

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1

Put a lightweight leash on your pup

Attach a leash to your Shih Tzu's harness and let it drag as they explore the area around them. Don't leave your dog unsupervised while the leash is attached as it could become tangled in something.

2

Call your pup

Say your Shih Tzu's name and the command word, "come." If your dog responds right away and comes to you, give a treat and some praise. If not, avoid repeating the word over and over again, as this simply teaches your pup that they can ignore commands.

3

Run for it

If your Shih Tzu doesn't respond right away, grab their leash and run in the opposite direction while saying the word "come" once more. Dogs like to chase and your pup will have trouble resisting the instinct to come after you.

4

Wait until they get close to you

When you are sure your pup is chasing you, stop and use the leash to bring them all the way to within arm's reach. A reliable 'come' means your Shih Tzu is near enough you can grab their collar or pick them up. Once your dog is near enough, praise them and give them a treat. Then let them go back to wandering.

5

Keep practicing

Repetition is the best way to ensure your Shih Tzu has the hang of the 'come' command. Practice until your dog is coming reliably without you needing to run away. Add in more distraction. You may eventually want to practice with your pup off-leash. Just make sure you are in a safe, enclosed area when you do so.

By Christina Gunning

Published: 04/02/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Molly

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Shitzu

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4 Months

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Question

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Molly comes consistently when she is on the leash but off the leash does not come. HELP

Feb. 1, 2021

Molly's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 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.

Feb. 2, 2021

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Kacie

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Shih Tzu

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8 Months

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My pup does not come when called and completely ignores our calls unless he wants to come. We call it “selective hearing”. What do we do to get his attention without giving him too many treats, which is the only thing that reels him in occasionally

April 12, 2020

Kacie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nariya, Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Also, check out the Reel In method and the PreMack Principle from this article linked below. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Around the house, in addition to intentionally practicing the Reel In and Premack methods outside and inside, I suggest keeping a drag leash on pup while you are there to supervise. If you call pup and he doesn't come inside, calmly walk over to the end of the 6 foot leash, pick up the end and lead him back to where you called him from, have him Sit, then release him. After you release him, repeat calling him, bringing him over there with the leash if he ignores you, having him sit, then releasing him with "Okay!". Practice this over and over until you get three voluntary comes in a row, then let pup go back to what they were doing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 13, 2020


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