5 Simple Ways to Train a German Shepherd to Come When Called [Every Time]

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One of the most important skills in owning such an energetic breed is knowing how to train your German Shepherd to come when called.

It’s not enough to just get their attention, but your German Shepherd must be trained to a reliable recall so they return to you…

without hesitation.

Don’t frantically chase your GSD around while stressed and worried about the busy road and speeding cars nearby.

Instead…

Learn how to train a German Shepherd to come when called every time using these simple steps.

How to Train Your German Shepherd to Come When Called

All dogs enjoy and need a run off-lead in a safe place at least a few times a week and preferably once a day to help them stay happy.

Letting your dog off-leash to run and sniff on their own keeps them fit and helps get rid of some of their excess energy that might otherwise be used for making mischief.

But remember, it’s your legal responsibility to make sure your dog is under control at all times in public places. So, being able to get your dog to come back to you when called is extremely important. If you want the most reliable recall for your German Shepherd, then you’ll need to follow all of the following steps to make sure your dog understands what “come” means every time.

Each step reinforces the recall command so your chances of having your German Shepherd return to you when called increase greatly if you follow all of the steps in order.

1. Introducing the idea that coming to you when called is a great thing!

german shepherd running during recall
Imagine having a German Shepherd that comes to you when called in a hurry.
  • Feed your German Shepherd as you normally would (preferably at least twice a day). If you’re concerned your dog might be overweight or put on weight too quickly, slightly reduce the size of their main meals during your recall training period. This is only temporary and you can go back to normal feeding amounts when finished with the training.
  • You’ll need to find treats that your dog really likes and loves to devour whenever you offer them, such as pieces of shredded, cooked chicken (without spices or seasonings), freeze-dried liver, any other small portion of treat that your dog likes (need more ideas — pick one of these healthy treats for German Shepherds). Keep a small bag or covered cup of these tasty treats in your fridge so you can grab some quickly during the day.
  • Put a small handful of treats in your pocket and have them ready for your training. Now, at random times when you’re in the same room with your German Shepherd, call them to you in an upbeat, happy voice and give them a treat using “come” as your command word.
  • After your dog has eaten the treat, say something like “good dog — off you go!” so that your dog will not sit around you and wait for more treats. If they do, don’t reward them just wait quietly for them to go away from you.
  • Repeat this frequently during the day — calling them to you at times they don’t expect, like when they’re playing with a toy, rewarding them with a treat, and praising them while giving a release command. Do this for at least a week, or until your German Shepherd is coming to you quickly every time you call their name.
  • If your German Shepherd isn’t coming to the “come” command, then this is a good time to change your recall word to something different.

Try the word “here” or another word you will remember and is easy to say. Some owners prefer to use a whistle, which is easier for a dog to hear when at a park or another busy area. A whistle also always sounds the same which is better for training, even if you’re upset, stressed, or generally just having a bad day.

Your German Shepherd’s recall improves using a whistle. I use this helpful, attention-getting dog training whistle to teach my GSD recall and definitely recommend trying it, especially if you want a reliable recall sooner than later.

Whatever you choose — a new word or a whistle — you must stick to it or you’ll confuse your German Shepherd and it’ll be difficult to retrain them.

Or worse, they might not ever learn what you really want them to do and ignore the command altogether!

Tips for Learning How to Train Your German Shepherd to Come When Called Successfully

  • Never train when your dog is really hungry – this could make them frustrated and it’ll be difficult for your GSD to concentrate on the recall training. Wait a couple of hours after they’ve had their meal to let their food settle to train them to recall.
  • Don’t skip this stage, even if your German Shepherd puppy already seems to come when called while in the home. You still need to do practice this essential recall training and turn it into a fun game for your GSD. Having a game with your recall training also helps them to bond with you more.
  • Never, ever punish your German Shepherd dog or puppy during this early training stage for not coming to you when called during a walk. Giving them a reprimand or punishment may undo all your hard work.
  • Be sure to walk your dog on a long lead until you complete all of the stages of teaching them to come when called so they stay safe and you can help guide them to you if needed.
  • Choose a long leash at least 20 feet long and made for large breeds, like this heavy-duty long training lead with a strong bolt snap.

2. Coming when called, even when your German Shepherd can’t see you.

how to train a german shepherd puppy to come even when they can't see you
Train your puppy to come to you when you’re not in the room or while they’re distracted.

Now you can have even more fun teaching your German Shepherd to come!

  • Follow the exact same steps as in stage 1, but call your puppy from a different room or part of your house.
  • When your puppy comes every time from another room, call him to come to you from the backyard.
  • At this stage, your GSD is looking forward to trying to find you when you call him and seeking you out for the tasty reward they’ll earn.
  • Continue in stage 2 for about 7 days.
  • If your puppy is coming to you every time when you call him, then move into the next stage.

Remember, make sure you don’t skip any stage of the recall training.

You want a reliable recall, and this is how you get there!

3. Keep your German Shepherd guessing to reinforce the recall and have more fun!

german shepherd outside with head tilt guessing
“I wonder what reward they’ll give me? Let me go find out!”

In order to get your German Shepherd to come when called reliably, start changing up the type of reward from time to time.

  • If you’ve been giving small bits of chicken as a treat, try the Ferrari of treats… like these highly-scented freeze-dried liver pieces. This way, your puppy is excited to find you and keeps having fun guessing what reward he’ll get.
  • Offer a ‘jackpot’ reward as a big prize for coming to you quickly. The ‘jackpot’ is a bigger portion of the treat, rather than the smaller tasty piece he’s used to receiving.
  • Find your dog’s favorite toy. Maybe that one with the squeaker that he carries around the house to start. Keep it in your hand or pocket when you call your GSD and when he arrives at you after you call him play with him. Playing with the toy is the reward!
  • If your dog likes praise and pets, then every so often call him to you with your recall command and, when he comes, give lots of soft pets on the shoulder and back while telling him what a smart dog he is.
  • Changing the reward every time that you call your puppy makes him try harder to get to you and earn the surprise! He never knows what you’ll give him and hurries back to you when you recall him just in case he earns the ‘jackpot,’ finds you with his favorite squeaky toy, or gets a few minutes of your undivided pets and praise.

Training tip: You can change up your reward for any command that you teach your German Shepherd. This technique works not only on the recall!

You can also work on your dog’s listening skills by reading this handy post on 5 Easy Ways to Get Your German Shepherd to Listen to You

Keep an eye on how fast your dog returns to you when called.

Notice his speed — when he understands exactly what it means to come when called you should notice his speed becomes quicker once you give the come command.

At this point, move on to the next stage where you’ll try the command outside in a public place, working your way up to an even better recall with a few distractions.

4. Teaching the come command in the big outdoors.

training your german shepherd the come command outside
There’s so much to see and do outside that takes away your German Shepherd’s attention from you.

Many German Shepherds will need extra recall training once you begin to teach them the come command in the big outdoors. The outdoors is full of distractions —squirrel— and it can be difficult for your GSD puppy to pay attention to you.

Begin by finding a quiet area away from other dogs and people. You could place yourself either in an area in an unused portion of a park or even in your front or back yard. Wherever you choose, make sure there aren’t many distractions to start with.

It’s very important that your German Shepherd gets the come command right when in this stage outdoors. So, slowly build-up to the higher level of distractions and increase the distractions — but only if he’s returning to you when you call him.

  • Keep your puppy on the long line so that he isn’t out of your sight and can’t accidentally run away. Now, let him roam and sniff to the end of the lead so that he’s a bit distracted in the environment.
  • When you’re ready, call your dog to you. Now, just wait and don’t pull him with the lead to you. You want him to come of his own choice. Also, don’t keep saying ‘come’ if he doesn’t come. You don’t want to wear out this command so your GSD doesn’t listen to you.
  • You can place yourself lower on the ground, crouching down, while getting their attention. Also, many dogs and puppies enjoy when their owners clap their hands to call them to help your command stand out. Try both of these methods if your GSD doesn’t return on the come command so you seem more interesting to him.
  • When your German Shepherd comes to you after your command, reward him! Give lots of praise and their reward, then say “free” or “off you go” (or another unique command) to let them go sniffing again and explore on their long leash.
  • You must repeat this step several times during your walk. Your German Shepherd needs to learn that coming to you doesn’t mean it’s the end of his fun walk.

Tips for Better Success Training the Come Command Outdoors

  • Train in different locations, such as a different park than you usually train, a hiking trail, your neighbor’s yard, or an unused playing field. Using different locations with a variety of distractions that you work up to (kids playing, other dogs, etc.) helps to train your dog to come wherever you call them.
  • Never scold or punish your dog for not coming on command. Your German Shepherd may associate you with punishment and will begin to avoid returning back to you.
  • Always offer praise or rewards when he comes to you after you give the command, no matter how long he takes or how inpatient you become.

5. Letting your German Shepherd loose while staying in control.

letting your german shepherd off their leash for recall training outdoors
Following the right steps will give you a dog that comes to you even when off leash.

I know it’s a big step to let your German Shepherd off-leash and getting them to return to you when you want.

But, if you’ve followed all these steps in order and took your time to train your GSD, then you’re ready for the leap to letting them loose.

  • First, make sure your dog is returning to you every time when called on the long line in the outdoor training before letting him off the long leash and loose. Start in a quiet area again. Do not go to a park with lots of other dogs, screaming kids, and squirrels to chase!
  • You don’t want your GSD to forget their previous training because you gave them too many distracting challenges too soon. Build up the number of distractions slowly. If you rush your dog by upping the level of distractions too quickly you’ll find yourself chasing your dog around the park… don’t be that owner!
  • Let your dog go for a short sniff or exploring the area nearby you. Now, call him back with excitement in your voice. If you’ve trained him well he’ll be happy to return to you.
  • Give him your praise and rewards and then send him off to play and sniff again. Keep repeating your come command at different distances and keep the training positive.
  • Play short recall games with your dog on his walks. Take his favorite toy with you and offer up a game with it when he comes back to you when called. Keep it fun to return to you and make yourself interesting to your dog. You have a lot of competition with all the smells and sights outdoors.

Tips for Letting Your German Shepherd Loose and Off-Leash Outside

  • Don’t only leash your dog to go home when he’s loose and out having a good time off-leash. At least 10 times on your walks call him to you, place the leash on him for a minute to walk with you, then unleash him to have loose lead time again. This keeps your dog from thinking the come command simply ends his fun time.
  • Once you’re sure your dog knows his recall/come command, start to slowly reduce the number of treats you give when you call him. Remember to keep praising him every time he returns to you, though. And don’t stop the treats altogether — continue to give him treats at random times to keep his interest peaked.
  • Walks are one of your German Shepherd’s best times of the day – keep yourself involved with your dog by being active with them on their walks and they will want to come to you happily!

If you’re having problems with getting your German Shepherd to recall, then check out this easy Solution Solver for a German Shepherd Who Does Not Come When Called.

Easy Recall Recap!

This is a short summary of what you need to do to get your German Shepherd to come to you when called.

Quick Steps‘Come’ Training Summary
1. Teach him that coming to you is great… always.Use plenty of treats to instill positive rewards.
2. Training him to come when called, even though you’re not in sight.Call your dog from different rooms of the house –keep it fun and vary the location indoors.
3. Keep reinforcing the recall and motivating in your German Shepherd.Reward him with a variety of tasty treats, even a large ‘jackpot’ to entice him to come to you quickly.
4. If he’s ready, move to the great outdoors.Always keep your GSD on their long leash/training line when outdoors during this training so you can keep them safe.
5. Get ready for off-leash fun!Only when your dog is 100% reliable on their long lead outside should you even attempt to let them off their leash, especially if you haven’t gotten them trained using this at-home German Shepherd basic obedience guide.
Use this quick recall reference to remind you how to train a German Shepherd to come when called every time.

Need More Help Training Your German Shepherd?

It’s sometimes stressful to train a German Shepherd…

believe me, I know and feel your frustration!

While they’re one of the smartest breeds they’re also highly independent at times and can make up their own games if not given the right direction.

That’s why you must start training them on all of the basics right away. But don’t fall for those “Alpha” dog trainers who think you need to dominate your sensitive German Shepherd.

Use the right positive, force-free training to increase not only your dog’s obedience but also their bond with you.

easy brain training for dogs with german shepherd puppy
Fun name; intelligent training.

Check out the Brain Training for Dogs official program.

It’s an exciting, reward-based system that walks you through, step-by-step, with video instruction to train your dog the right way. 💡

Choose a proven program that can help you enjoy your German Shepherd…

even in public!

You’ll learn how to not only solve problem behavior, but how to develop lasting training skills that can make your life less stressful…

without spending hundreds of dollars on private dog training. 💲