I've had two beloved family members in my life: a half German Shepherd, half Great Dane, and a pure-white German Shepherd.
There is one single best way to get your dog to immediately come when called. This ingenious trick has worked for me every single time! It’s so simple to teach your dog—you’ll wonder why you never thought of it before.
I’ve had two big dogs in my life: a half German Shepherd, half Great Dane cross, and a pure-white German Shepherd. These are high-energy breeds that may ignore their owner's calls. However, any breed of dog can be guilty of repeatedly failing to come when called.
Get Your Dog to Come When Called: The “Meat Call”
This is not what you’re probably thinking (“Here Duke, got some chicken scraps for you!”). We're talking real meat.
Skip the "Flavored" Treats
You’ll be training your dog with real meat—what you yourself eat. No “meat-flavored” or “bacon-flavored” doggy treats. No processed meat like bologna, salami, or hotdog pieces. Dogs instinctively know what the real thing is.
All dogs descended from wolves. Wolves are carnivores that thrive on the meat of fresh kills. Real meat is a powerful training tool and also better for your dog than artificial nuggets from a factory.
Train With Real Meat
A few morsels a day will suffice. It’s not to be done while you’re eating, but rather during a more spontaneous moment in the day, such as when you take a break from the computer.
- Get that morsel, but do NOT say anything while you’re getting it such as “Time for a treat!” Just quietly do it, even if your dog follows you everywhere.
- Hold the morsel over your dog.
- Say your dog’s name if he’s already not at your feet. If he is already at your feet, then you’re to still say his name.
Here is where the trick comes in.
The "Meat Call"
The way in which you say your dog's name will be very different and new. For example, when I did the meat call for Sheeba, I spoke her name in a new way—one that was to be used only for the meat call, never for any other summoning.
Use a Distinctly Different Tone
I’d say the first syllable of the name with an upward, extended inflection. The second syllable would be a partial downward inflection: a rise and slight dip.
This is just an example. You can create any kind of vocal dynamic, as long as it’s distinctly different from any other call of your dog’s name such as when it’s time to play or take a walk.
- Say his or her name in a very unique way.
- Do NOT say anything else; just the name, once.
- Do not expect them to perform any tricks.
- Just give them the meat.
Repeat this several times (unique recitation of dog’s name followed by administering the morsel) over the course of a week or so, to ensure that your dog has learned to associate the name-summoning with a real meat morsel.
If there are other household members, instruct them never to mimic your new, unique call of his name. It’s crucial that your dog associates it with one thing: real meat!
Pavlovian Conditioning at Its Best
One day, without first getting the meat, say your dog’s name in the new, unique way: the meat call. Wherever your dog is, they'll come running to you, because they’ll think you’re holding a morsel of chicken, lamb, pork, or beef. Then get the meat and reward your dog. Never feed your dog anything other than meat when you yield the meat call.
If you stop giving meat after the meat call, the association will become extinct. But maintenance does not require a meat morsel after every single meat call. To keep the association strong, do a meat call with meat once a day, most days of the week.
Save the "no meat" calls—the ones when you won't have meat—for when you really need them, such as if you’re in public and Kassidy won’t come to you, and you don’t have meat on you. Remember, the association will stick as long as you follow through on the meat call several times a week.
Never use the meat call for the fun of it! Never. It’s to be used for only the following:
- Maintaining the association
- Calling your dog to come when it’s crucial that they come to you
Getting Your Dog to Come to You
Set your dog up in a situation for which she usually doesn’t come when first called or never comes at all. Call your dog as you normally would (no meat call voice). If she doesn’t come, wait a few moments, then give the meat call. Your dog should be racing to you like it’s the last day on earth.
Sheeba was normally let outside off-leash on my parents’ property to do her business. Backing up to the backyard were woods. One day she didn’t come when my mother—who didn’t know about my meat call—beckoned for her. Then I called (normal voice). No sign of the dog. We waited, and waited . . . nothing. Then I said to my mother, “Watch this.” I did the meat call.
Bam! We heard the rustling of brush, and out from the woods popped Sheeba! Because dogs hear so well, the meat call need not be yelled or shouted. It worked wonders with the white shepherd as well.
One day I was on the upper deck, looking down at the yard where my brother was playing tug-of-war with the dog. In my usual voice, I kept calling for him and he wouldn’t budge. Then I did the meat call. Like magic, the dog released the tug and raced up the steps to the deck.
If your dog just won’t come to you when you’re at the park, just give the meat call. A trained dog will forget that squirrel and come running to you. But remember, the maintenance training must be ongoing.