My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Coming When Called: Common Problems – Quick Solutions


When asked if their dog comes when called, many people pause and say, “Well, some of the time.” Many people have problems with certain situations. Four of them are outlined here:

Help! My Dog Won’t Come…

In from the Backyard
If you’ve ever stood at the back door calling your dog only to see him look your way then ignore you or dance near the door, just out of reach, then this is for you.


Dogs are smart. Many learn that you that you will crate them and/or leave very soon after they come in from the backyard. Pretty soon they hover at the door, refusing to set a toe over the threshold.


Put the dog on leash. Go to that door and let the dog outside (hold on to the leash!). Close the door, count to ten, open it. Smile and call him in. Help him with the leash if you need to. When he is in – praise him warmly, give him a few small but delicious treats and let him out again. Repeat this until he happily comes in when asked.

Put away all his squeaky toys (or other favorite toys). Save one really noisy one and put it near that door (but entirely out of reach of your dog – on top of the fridge often works nicely). Now, with your dog on leash again – let him out. Take the toy, open the door and tell him to “come” nice and happily. Immediately after you say come, squeak the toy vigorously. Invite him to play. Once you have his attention toss the toy inside the house and help him in with the leash if you must. Then play with him. Make this one of the BEST parts of his day. Then, after a minute or two, shut down – go quiet – put the toy behind your back. Let him back out. Count to ten and repeat.

Once you do this, make play and treats a part of him coming inside each time – just a minute or so. Do this and soon your dog will look forward to you opening the door and calling him.

Adorable Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen Puppy (think fuzzy Basset Hound) runs toward the camera – ears flapping.To Me at the Dog Park
You love taking your dog to the dog park but you don’t love trying to catch him when it is time to go? You’re not alone. Here’s the reason this happens and what you can do about it:


Maybe he never really had a great “come when called” to begin with or maybe he’s learned that coming to you means play time is over. This can happen if the only time you call him is when you clip on his leash and leave the park.


When things are relatively calm, walk up to your dog and put a treat to his nose. Tell him to “come!” happily and back away a few steps. Praise then deliver treat. Tell him to “go play” and ignore him, let him go romp. Repeat this a few times every visit.

Within Reach
Your dog comes – well, sort of. He stops just out of reach and dances away when you try to touch his collar. This is very frustrating, but not to worry – this is totally fixable.


Several things can create this behavior; the two most common? Grabbing at the collar and reaching out to give the dog a treat at arm’s length when he comes.


First, when you are around your house: take a treat, put it to your dog’s nose (don’t let him have it yet), reach out and handle his collar – now give him the treat. Touching collar – getting treat. Once your dog accepts this, then start handling the collar before you show him you have a treat. Always deliver it once your hand is on the collar. Do this for a few seconds for a few days and the problem should be gone.

Next, keep the hand with the treat pressed against your leg. This ensures that you will not deliver the treat to your dog at a distance but, instead, insist that your dog come to you to get the treat.

Caution: Only grab nontightening flat or clip collars. Never slips, chokes, martingales, or prongs.

Back when he slips out the front door
When your dog sneaks out of the front door, he is off to the races.


Excitement then, as you chase after him, more excitement, some confusion with some stress thrown in. Often we have not practiced “come when called” in the front yard which doesn’t help matters.


Take him into your front yard on leash and let him sniff. Suddenly back away and call him to you. Smile, praise and, when he arrives, deliver a few treats. Repeat.

Once he is responsive on a short leash, use a retractable one or a long line to practice some more. Try to create a lot of contrast between ignoring him as he sniffs around and calling him: Good dog!

A bit of time spent working on these common problems can help create the reliable come when called in some of the most common problem situations. That’s something to be proud of!

by Sarah Wilson,

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.