Training A Puppy To Come Back To You

Training a puppy to come back to you is probably one of the most important commands you'll ever teach your cocker and some day it could even save his life! Read on to learn how to teach your puppy the recall command.

Teaching Your Cocker The Recall Command 

Training a puppy as early as you can should be one of your first priorities. Training should be started early before he has a chance to pick up an bad habits. Lots of early obedience training guarantees your Cocker Spaniel will grow into a well-behaved adult dog.

Golden cocker spaniel sitting in clover. Training a puppy to come to you when you ask, could one day, save his life

Teaching a puppy the recall command is probably one of the most important (and perhaps difficult) commands you'll teach your Cocker Spaniel.

At some point, this command may be used to remove your puppy from potential harm and it could even help to save his life!

Your objective is to get your puppy to come to you each time you call him, no matter what he's doing, or where he is, as long as he's able to see or hear you.

Unfortunately, training a puppy to come to you when you call him may not always be as straightforward as it sounds, particularly with Cocker Spaniels or other scent driven dogs.

He's more likely to want to sniff around in the undergrowth, following the scent of rabbits or foxes, but don't let that stop you. Keep at it!

Patience and regular puppy obedience training will help you achieve your goals.

Training A Puppy To 'Come' To You On Command

Begin this exercise indoors, but when you can be sure you won't be disturbed and you're certain there's nothing lurking that could distract your dog.

  • Let your puppy see that you have a treat in your hand. Don't give it to him; just let him sniff it.

  • Have a friend hold your puppy's collar to stop him from following you.
Golden cocker spaniel with a tennis playing ball, in water by the shore.
  • Walk away from your pup, a few paces should be far enough to begin with, and then turn around to face him.

  • Say his name, (to get his attention) and call him using the recall command word that you've chosen, for example, 'Max, come' or 'Max, here boy'.

  • Try to sound exciting to your puppy: clap your hands; slap your thighs, or knees. Be animated, whatever works for you.

    (Any of these movements may be used as your visual command, or you could choose another; but whatever you decide, use it consistently.)

  • If your puppy seems unsure of what you're asking him to do, try taking a few quick steps backwards as you call his name. This should entice him to come bounding towards you.
  • When your puppy reaches you, give him the treat immediately and then praise him with the words, 'Come, good boy come', (or whatever recall word you've chosen) and make a fuss of him.

When you're training a puppy it's important that you reward him the instant he reaches you, which is why you need to hold his reward ready in your hand.

If you have to search for a treat in your pocket or treat bag, it will be too late to reward him because he simply won't associate the reward with his action.

  • Ask your friend to call the puppy back. If your pup obeys the command, your friend can reward him with a treat and the relevant praise. 
  • Repeat calling your puppy back and forth, between you and your friend, and your Cocker will soon respect this command from other people.

Practice these training exercises several times during the day. As he begins to master this command, gradually extend the distance between you and your Cocker before calling him.

Now It's Time To Try This Command Outside!

When your Cocker Spaniel has mastered the recall command indoors, it's time to take him into the garden, so long as it's dog and puppy proof.

This is especially important as most of your recalls will be outside where there are many distractions such as birds, exciting smells, or next door's cat!

Once you're confident you can call him back to you in the garden, you might like to take him to the local park and test his recall there.

One thing to bear in mind while teaching your puppy to come back to you is that your dog may begin to associate the recall command with being put back on his lead and taken home. 

If this happens, and he links the two in his mind, he may be reluctant to come back to you when he sees his lead in your hand.

To make sure he doesn't make this link, the next time you walk your puppy let him off his lead and call him back after a few minutes, praise him and put him back on his lead.

Walk him for a minute or two and then let him off again. 

Practice this (calling him to you, putting him back on his lead and then letting him off again) several times during your walk. Do this and you'll find it won't be too long before he trotting merrily back to you, despite holding his lead in your hand.

Tips To Help You Get The Best Out of Training A Puppy

There are a few tips I can give you to help your puppy to be successful, for example:

  • whenever you get the chance, call your puppy to you just to give him a cuddle or to play a while, but reward him with cuddles and praise when he responds.

  • gradually increase the distance you move away from your puppy before calling him to you.

  • begin replacing the treats with cuddles, praise, play or a chew toy, as soon as you can get away with it, you don't want an obese puppy!

  • if treats don't float your dog's boat, find out what does and use that as a reward. It may be his favourite toy or a game.
  • never repeat the command more than once (twice at a push) as this will only teach your dog that he doesn't need to respond to your first request.

  • If you find yourself in a situation where you know your dog is not going to come to you, don't call him.

    You'll be setting him (and yourself) up to fail and in time your puppy may learn that he doesn't need to respond to your command because you allow him not to.

  • If you're training a puppy and you feel you're getting nowhere, don't get angry and don't shout when calling him. He's unlikely to respond and will associate your anger with the command.

    Keep your voice light and, even though you may not feel like it, try to sound exciting and encouraging to your puppy. You want him to learn that if he comes to you, good things happen to him (like treats and cuddles!).

  • Vary the training exercises to make them more interesting for him. You might like to try a version of hide and seek with your puppy. Go into another room, out of sight, and then call his name.

    Wait until he tracks you down before rewarding him either with a bit of rough and tumble, or his favourite toy and lots of lavish praise.

Puppy obedience training isn't just for puppies; it also works for an adult dog who's never been trained or who's manners have lapsed. However, with adult dog training you may need to be more patient and it may take you a little longer.

Training A Puppy: Troubleshooting

What If My Puppy Won't Come Back?

Puppies are usually happy to come to you when called but, as they get older, they become a little more inquisitive and independent. Trust me, they will try to test you!

If your puppy won't come back to you when called, try waiting a little longer. He may eventually come to you in his own time. When he does, or even if he begins to come back to you and then gets distracted, make a fuss of him.

However, don't reward him with a treat. Only give treats when your puppy responds immediately.

Training a puppy in this way, ie., rewarding good behaviour and ignoring mis-behaviour, will be much more effective and your puppy will learn more quickly.

What If My Puppy Runs Away Instead Of Coming To Me?

Whether you're training a puppy, or simply out in the park with your dog, if your Cocker Spaniel won't come to you when called and decides to run off instead, don't be tempted to chase him.

All dogs love chasing games and if you go running after him he'll think it's fun and will carry on running away from you.

Instead, make a lot of noise (hopefully to distract him) turn around and begin to run in the opposite direction; when he sees you running away from him, he'll soon turn around and begin running after you.

I understand that while watching your puppy running away from you, turning and running in the opposite direction may seem like the wrong thing to do and could be a very difficult decision to take, but trust me, it really works.

Training Your Puppy: Summary

Training a puppy to respond to your commands is a very important part of his development; a well-trained puppy is a well-behaved puppy.

Once your Cocker has learned the recall command, and readily responds to it, you'll feel more relaxed about letting him off the lead.

Remember, dog recall training is a continuing process and will need to be practised regularly and keep it up, even when you know he's mastered the command. This will ensure he never lapses and always comes back to you the minute you call him.

If you've followed the advice given here your puppy will now be coming to you when you ask him to and without too much (if any) hesitation.

As I said earlier, training a puppy to come immediately when you call him isn't always easy and will need constant reinforcement. Devote plenty of time, energy, patience and perseverance to his training and you'll be rewarded with a loving, well-mannered little puppy!

Time For Your Puppy's Next Lesson!

Your Cocker Spaniel should now be ready for the next step in his puppy obedience training - the 'Leave It!' command.  

I think you may be surprised at just how much you use this one!

Golden cocker spaniel wearing cute neck-chief, sitting in field.Hi Mom!

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