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Want to teach your golden retriever to come when you call them?
This might be the most important command you teach them (it could literally save their life), but thankfully, it’s one of the easiest (and most fun) commands to teach them.
Let’s dive in!
Why Teaching Your Golden Retriever To Come Is Important
Imagine you’re coming home from the grocery store…
You hate making two trips, so you grab all the bags in the trunk.
You waddle to the front door, somehow open it up, then rush to drop off all the bags in the kitchen because your arms are about to fall off.
While you were so concerned about your arms falling off, you forgot to close the door, and as you look back, you just barely get a glimpse of your golden’s fluffy tail as they go out to freely explore the world.
If you live on a busy street and your golden is now off leash in the front yard, having them come to you when you call them could save them from getting hit by a car.
See how important this command is?
Now, let’s talk about how to teach it.
How To Train Your Golden Retriever To Come When Called
Recall, or teaching your dog to come when called, is one of the easiest things to teach your dog.
The hard part is getting to come with distractions around, but we’ll cover that, too.
Step 0: Set Your Golden Up For Success
When training your dog to do anything, make sure they’re not bursting at the seams with energy.
And make sure they can focus on you and are willing to learn.
Here are two ways to do that:
- Exercise them before you train (tug, fetch, chase, etc.)
- Start in a room where they’re comfortable and there are few distractions, like the living room, a bedroom, or a hallway.
You also want to make sure that they don’t have the ability to disobey you.
In this case, make sure to put them on a leash so you can get their attention and get them to come to you just in case.
Step 1: Get Them To Come To You
If you have a young puppy, this will usually be pretty easy.
Here are a few ways you can get your puppy to come to you:
- Squeak a squeaky toy
- Lure them to you with a delicious treat
- Back up and get them to chase you
- Act fun by jumping around, patting your legs, or using a high-pitched voice
One of these tactics will most likely get your puppy to come to you, but if they don’t come to you, then get closer to them.
Even if they come to you and you’re only one foot away, that’s still something to build on.
Now, once your puppy does come to you, make sure to reward them.
They need to know that great things happen when they come to you, so they will always want to come when you ask.
You can do that by doing one or a combination of these things:
- Praise them
- Give them a treat
- Give them a toy
- Play with them
- Give them a pat on the head
Some dogs are food motivated, some a toy motivated, and some are praise motivated, so figure out what your dog likes and do that.
Step 2: Teach Them The Word “Come”
Once you can get your dog to reliably come to you, start saying, “come!” as they’re coming towards you.
This will help them associate “come” with coming to you.
Step 3: Practice
Once your dog knows that “come” means come to you, it’s time to practice.
One thing to consider is that dogs don’t generalize well.
That means that even though they might know “come” means run up to you in the house, they might not know that they should also come to you when you ask them to outisde in the driveway.
Here are two other major factors to consider when practicing:
The farther you are from them and/or the more distractions there are, the more difficult it will be for them to obey.
And finally, consider this: every time your dog disobeys you, they start to learn that when you ask them to come, they don’t really have to.
So all that being said, here are four tips to practicing recall:
- Start close to your dog
- Practice in a room with few distractions
- Practice in a room that they’ve learned to come to you in
- Keep them on a leash so that you can get their attention and make them come to you if necessary
Slowly increase the distance as much as you can in that first room until they’ve mastered it.
Then move to another room.
You may need to start close again, but slowly increase the distance in that room, too.
Eventually, they’ll be able to come when called all over the house, so you can move outside, but in a place they’re comfortable in, such as the backyard, the driveway, or right in front of the front door.
Again, you’ll want to start close, but as they get comfortable outside with these increased distractions, you can increase the distance outside.
To do that, use a long leash.
A 15-20′ leash is a great tool to help you teach and practice recall outside somewhere like a park.
Practice Recall At Random Times Throughout The Day
The above tips are for using structured training time to practice come, but you can also use random times throughout the day to practice it.
For instance, if your golden is in another room, ask them to come and then shower them with praise and love when they obey.
You can also ask them to come before you’re about to feed them, or before you’re about to take them on a walk.
If they come up to you randomly, also use that as a time to positively reinforce that good behavior.
And whatever you do, when they come to you, make sure it’s a great time for them and let them know they’re doing a good job.
Games To Play To Practice Come
Here are a few games that you can play to practice and reinforce “come”.
This is the most basic game and is perfect for young puppies.
All you have to do is run away from your puppy.
Puppies naturally love to chase things, so they’ll chase you if you run away.
This will get them used to running toward you.
This game requires a partner, but is another fun way to teach your puppy to come to you.
You and another person stand a few feet away from each other and alternate asking the dog to come to you.
I call it tennis because when my wife and I play this with Oliver, we feel like we’re just volleying him back and forth between us.
This is a great way to wear your puppy out, too, and if you have more than one person you can get in a circle and take turns calling the puppy.
Just make sure that your puppy is actually coming when you call, and not just running around to everyone however and wherever they want to.
Running around saying hi to everyone at random isn’t bad, but if you’re trying to practice a command, and they’re not listening, it can backfire on you.
This is a little more advanced because to teach recall because it requires that your puppy knows how to drop it and stay.
When Oliver and I are playing tug, every few minutes I’ll ask him to drop it, sit, stay, then I’ll walk across the room and ask him to come.
When he comes to me I reward him by resuming tug.
This is a great way to use interacting with you as a reward, and not just treats.
Hide And Seek
This is advanced, too, because it requires that your dog has a pretty strong stay, but is really fun.
All you do is ask your golden to sit and stay, walk into another room, and then ask them to come.
It’s so fun watching their face light up when they find you!
Mistakes When Teaching Your Puppy To Come
Here are some of the common mistakes people make when teaching the recall command to their puppy.
Challenging them too much, too early
You want your puppy to always come to you when you ask, and every time they disobey you, they start to learn that they don’t always have to come when you call.
To stop that from happening, make sure they’re on a leash until they come to you 100% of the time you ask, and don’t ask them to come in situations that are too distracting for them, like at a park, or if a distracting dog or human is around.
Another thing to consider here is that young puppies will love coming to you because they’re like little kids that just want to be close to their mom and dad.
However, when they become “teenage” puppies (around six months to two years) many show signs of becoming independent rebels (like human teenagers) and may find it more fun to run away from you than to run to you.
During these times, don’t expect too much and continue to practice the basics and set them up for success.
Punishing them for not coming
If your puppy doesn’t come, you don’t yell at them, or yank on the leash to get them to come.
Instead, you need to figure out a way to make them want to come to you.
Maybe that’s going to a less-distracting environment and practicing more there, or getting a more delicious treat to lure them to you, or squeaking a toy they really love.
Punishing them after they come to you
The name of the game here is getting your dog to love coming to you.
If you see them chewing up something they’re not supposed to, then you ask them to come to you just so you can reprimand them, the chances of them coming to you next time get slimmer and slimmer.
Instead, if you see them chewing up the house, then ask them to come to you, praise them for doing the right thing by coming to you, and then remove the item or remove the puppy to stop the chewing.
Teaching your golden retriever to come to you when called is one of the most important commands you can teach them.
To teach them this, get them to come to you by getting them to chase you, showing them a fun toy, luring them with a tasty treat, or just by being a fun person.
As you get them to come to you when you want them to, start to teach them the word, “come,” and then start to practice it.
Start close to your puppy in the house with them on a leash, and then eventually move up to asking them to come outside in areas with distractions.
And remember to set them up for success and always make it a party when they come up to you.
Have any questions about teaching the recall command to your golden?
Let me know in the comments below!
And if you liked this article, you’ll love our guide to crate training your golden retriever.
P.S. Know someone who just got a golden retriever puppy? Please share this with them!