How Do I Teach My Dog to Come When Called?

I have a Husky Malamute/German Shepherd mix. He is two years old and we got him from the pound about two months ago. He is a sweetie. He will sit and is potty trained and he lays down, too. But when we take him outside and he gets off the leash he runs away. He won't come back so we have to chase him and some how corner him. It has happened 6 times so far and now my family wants to take him back to the pound. I have two months to train him any suggestion? Thanks!


By Carrie from Idaho Falls, ID

December 30, 20100 found this helpful

With all due respect, your family is being a bit impatient. However, the dog should not be let off lead in an open space until he learns the"attention", "stay" and "come" commands. Do you not have a fenced yard where he could run without running away?

My method of training is of course not the only method of training but it has worked well for my dogs. What ever method you try, be consistent and patient.

You will need a long lead (20 feet or so, you could tie a rope onto the end of his regular lead for training sessions) lots of his favorite treats and a commitment of at least three 10 minute practice sessions a day. The point of a long lead is first, to keep him from getting distracted and you in control, and second, to start out very close to him and back up a few feet at a time as he masters each of the commands with longer and longer distances between the two of you.

"Attention" (hand signal, your finger touching and/or tapping the bridge of your own nose) means you expect the dog to give you direct eye contact until you issue another command - such as "sit", "come", etc. "Stay" (hand signal, palm open and out, facing the dog) of course means stay. "Come" (hand signal, palm open and facing you, as you move your hand toward your own body) of course means, come to me!

While training, reward every accomplishment with a treat. If he fails, don't get angry, don't discipline, simply withhold the treat and start the particular exercise over. Keep training sessions interesting and fun and switch around the order of things so the dog doesn't get bored. After a few weeks of consistent improvement, don't give a treat maybe two out of ten times but reward with happy hugs and scratches. He will eventually be happy to obey you, treat or not. Also, if you can, vary the locations where you train. This will help him learn that no matter where you are, you are still the pack alpha and must be obeyed. Above all make the practices fun for both you and the dog.

Before each training session use a specific phrase (Training Time! or Let's go Train) and say it in real happy talk language. (Use the same phrase every time.)


Sit (palm open facing upward, hand in front of your torso, rising to your neck level) - Treat for success - (Even though your dog already knows how to sit, repeating this during training will remind him that it is a command, too.)

Attention - Stand in front of the dog only about 2 - 3 feet to begin with, (hold the bulk of the lead, allowing the dog a loose, 2 - 3 feet of lead between the two of you) show him the treat, say attention, keeping the treat in the hand you are touching your nose with. Do a silent count, start with ten seconds, and say "Good Boy" if he keeps eye contact. (If not, start over.) Over time (practice sessions) increase the silent count five seconds at a time and offer more slack on the lead putting greater distances between you and him. After each success, treat and happy talk!

Stay - almost exactly like the attention command, except you are not expecting him to keep making direct eye contact. He may do so - and that's okay - it's just not required. Over time, let more and more of the lead loose to put greater distances between you. Treat and happy talk after every success.

Come - again, use the same training method of starting out with short wait times and short lead, and keep increasing over time.

Down - (hand signal, palm open, facing down and moving toward the ground) You said he knows this command already, but again, include it in the practice sessions.

Sit-Down-Sit-Stay-Come-Attention. After your dog has mastered the basics of the above commands, teach him to do a series of such in quick time and don't give the treat until he does the sequence. This will also help him learn that he has to KEEP minding to get the ultimate reward. Treat and happy hugs!

I am used to doing this in person, not in writing, so if anything is unclear, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll check back on this post every few days or so or you can PM me. I'm just guessing, but I suspect you have the talent and the conviction to prove to your family that this dog - like every dog - is worth saving! Good Luck and Best Wishes.

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December 30, 20100 found this helpful

If you read about malamutes, you will find that they are a dog that is bred to run. It is in their genes to run, and I am not sure that you can "train" that out of them.

We had a full-blooded malamute a number of years ago, and she was, as you describe yours, a wonderful dog --- gentle, well-mannered, loyal, protective. In fact, her only vice was that if she got off-leash, she ran until she was tired, and then she returned home. We even had an electric fence, which she ran through to leave the yard, and then ran back through to re-enter the yard.

We finally decided that she was not going to stop running and that we didn't want to take the chance of something happening to her if she got loose, so we installed an actual physical fence, and that solved the problem.

We have had numerous dogs, and the malamute is the only one that we could not train to an underground fence.

Good luck with your baby. Sorry my info isn't more encouraging.

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December 30, 20100 found this helpful

I agree with KansasCindy about training, as I have also done obedience training with my dogs. But again, I emphasize that malamutes and huskies are running dogs, and as KansasCindy also said, until your dog is trained (if you are very dedicated and put lots of time into the training) it is imperative that your dog be contained by a fence.

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December 30, 20100 found this helpful

My indoor/outdoor cat comes EVERY time I call him! (a cat!). We trained him by giving him a treat each time we call him, maybe that will work for your dog. Our cat will come every time, unless he is stalking a small animal,or fighting with another cat.

Also, if you take your dog out on 45 minute or longer walks every day, then he won't be as bored & inclined to run. Huskies & Malamutes are high-energy dogs. Don't get one unless you plan to exercise them daily! It might be a good idea to teach it to run next to you as you ride on a bicycle. Go on a different route every few days so he isn't bored with the route. We'd go stir-crazy being cooped up all day & so do most dogs! Sometimes this is why they run.

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December 30, 20100 found this helpful

OMGosh "dse77", you are correct! This is the basics of obedience training! I learned it many years ago and have used it repeatedly with or without actual classes, didn't mean to claim it as my own, just didn't think about where I originally gathered these ideas! :-) Thanks for the reminder and all credit due goes to the obedience class that first introduced me to this method of training. It works, it works, it works!

Honestly, most people on this site that ask "how do I train/socialize/etc., my dog?" I usually suggest obedience classes. This particular post, however, put me in a different mindset as the gal stated she only had two months to prove to her family that the dog need not be returned to the pound. That kind of intolerance puts me in a react quickly and defensively mode!

I agree that some breeds are more prone to running than others, but I have faith that every dog who understands his/her alpha human will do his/her best to please them, and that includes obeying them. Maybe some dogs are "un-trainable" but I have yet to meet one. I have every confidence that this training will benefit this dog.

Who knows? But I would never forgive myself for not trying! Again, I did not mean to imply that "my method" was "my invention" merely that it was "my solution." Kudos to the masterminds behind basic obedience instruction.

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December 31, 20100 found this helpful

Our Malamute was one of the best dogs we ever had. My husband trained her to stay within the perimeters of our yard this way: He would put a chain training collar on her, and put her on a leash. Make sure you put the chain collar on the dog correctly. It should fit around the neck like a necklace. If the end of the chain hangs down, then you have it on wrong. After he got her on the leash, he would walk her around the edge of the yard. Every time she stepped over the boundary line, he would quickly pull on the chain, and say "no". He wouldn't pull the chain hard enough to hurt or choke her, just enough so that she could hear the sound of the chain. He would do this several times a day, no more than ten minutes at a time. Eventually she got to the point where we could leave her outside without a leash and she would never leave the yard.

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December 31, 20100 found this helpful

KansasCindy, I didn't think that you were taking credit for the concept of obedience training, so I hope I didn't upset you. You explained it very well, and it does work, but it takes time, and I agree with you that putting a 2 month time restraint is upsetting, because I personally believe that pets are not returnable if they "don't work out" (translation: don't meet our expectations). I have always taught my kids (as they obtained pets) that pets are a lifetime commitment (the pet's lifetime). It is our (the pet owner's) responsibility to do what it takes to teach the pet what the pet needs to learn to fit in. Animals are like children and they have to be taught. They definitely don't automatically know how to behave. You did a great job explaining how to train, and I hope that Carrie from Idaho Falls, ID tries your methods and asks you for help if she needs it. I am also impressed that Carrie asked for help when she was unsure what to do. I wish her the best and hope she is successful in her training.

Also, Patty Lynn's instructions were good ones, and when she says that her malamute was one of the best dogs she ever had, I can totally relate. Our malamute was the best, but also one of the most headstrong dogs we have ever had. Malamutes are a special breed (and I would guess that Shephards are also, but have never had one of them), and it is especially important for them to understand that you are the Alpha. I am just so glad that Carrie asked and that you guys gave such good help to her because malamutes have a special place in my heart.

Best wishes.

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January 1, 20110 found this helpful

Carrie, please let us know how things are going. I am so on your side for seeking training advice (and equally as sure others feel the same) and can't even explain how much I hope for you and your dog to succeed. Again, keep us all posted, please. Best wishes.

"dse77" I was not upset at your post, I actually laughed out loud, realizing that I was "channeling" such training memories without remembering where most of them came from. :-) Please check your personal messages on this site for a note from me.

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January 3, 20110 found this helpful

Put him on a long leash. Then call "come" as you gradually shorten the leash so he comes to you. When he gets to you, give him a treat.

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January 3, 20110 found this helpful

You have the best of two highly intelligent canine breeds. I have owned/shown/obedience trial German Shepherds all my life. Your Malamute is a nomadic free spirit born to run effortlessly for miles and will need constant daily exercise twice a day. Hope you are an enthusiastic person prepared to exercise with him always. Do research on the breed of your choice. I sincerely wish you great results with constant training at obedience class and exercise, exercise, exercise.

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January 3, 20110 found this helpful

Carrie I sure do know how you feel since I was in the same boat not long ago. The biggest mistake I made was chasing her. It was her favorite game in her previous home, the whole family chased her when she escaped. It was the only fun and exercise she had. They're very good at this game and you can rarely catch them. A stinky treat tossed his way, then when he eats it, another tossed closer, until you can get him close enough to take one in your hand at which time you can get hold of the collar. Remain very very calm and don't shout his name. Get his attention and toss a treat. Continually coaxing doesn't work either, few words and big treats, because dogs think with their nose thankfully, so give it a try. The biggest thing is try to prevent him from escaping without a leash. Folks coming to my door knew not to open it before I got hold of the dog. She was quickly out between their legs if not. Freedom meant more to her than being with me at that time, it's different now, she understands if she comes to me she will get a good treat and lots of hugs/attention.

So, indoors say his name then "come" and soon as he does give that good ol' stinky treat. Fry up some cheap liver, cut in small pieces. Canned cheap salmon works good too, anything stinky that their nose can pick up on. Keep your treats close by and do this as often as you can around the house, even if you're sitting watching tv. Outdoors on long leash let him get a bit ahead of you then call him enthusiastically with a treat in your hand. Good luck my dear, I know what you're going through. Just remember to reward with one small treat and lots of praise each time and he will figure it out. Short sessions work best, and too many treats creates its own set of problems like upset tummies or weight gain so keep them cut small and while you're training this so hard you should cut back on his amount of dog food. I have worked with a lot of dogs and this one thing was the worst problem I've ever had to overcome. The hardest part about it is that it takes time to change the dogs mindset and we humans get frustrated. Just know that if you are consistent it will happen for you.

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January 3, 20110 found this helpful

If he's getting off the leash, use a different type of collar or harness that won't let him escape.

Not every dog can be trained to be off leash. Where I live, it's illegal to have a dog off leash unless the pooch is in an enclosed yard or house. Anyway, you've only had this fellow 2 months and your think he's acclimated enough? Not quite. It takes more time. The family needs to be more patient. How about letting them help to train him since being off leash is so important? If everyone works at it, the training will be completed that much sooner.

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January 14, 20110 found this helpful

Hey thank you for all of that advice it has worked miracles! I got him a really long leash (its actually a lead for horses but it works) we don't have a fenced in yard. We live out in the country. We want to fence our yard in but the ground frozen so that won't happen till like march or April by then I will be gone to boot camp so I'm gonna do my best with I got. Koda (my dog) is doing very well with the training he such a smart dog my family is starting to get in the spirit of things and want to help. Again thank you! I'll keep this posted up till I leave thanks!

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