One of the most important commands you can teach your dog or puppy is to “come” when called. Having a dog that “comes” on command can in fact save his or her life! It can be one of the easiest or the most difficult commands to teach, depending on how you handle it. If you work to make “come” as positive as possible you will have an easier time and will have a puppy who comes when called.
Every puppy begins his/her new life looking to you and your family for guidance. You call your puppy and she happily bounds to you. Alas, one day you call your puppy, she stops what she is doing, looks at you and either ignores you or bounds away. Do not despair. All puppies do this. You may think “No, not my dog!”, but it will happen. You will wonder what is going on, as this has never happened before. Welcome to the “Flight Instinct Period” of your dog’s social development. All dogs, as a sign of maturity, hit this period between the ages of 4 and 8 months. It is an act of independence, of discovering the wide wonderful world. How you handle your puppy at this time will determine the reliability of your dog, as an adult, coming to this command.
Even dogs that have not been properly trained during this time period can be trained to “come” when called. It is the same as teaching a puppy this command.
Here are some very important points to remember when teaching the “come” command:
- It is very important that your dog does not get a negative association with the command “come” so never call your dog to discipline, or call him to do something he finds unpleasant.
- Be aware of the words that you use. DO NOT use “come on” or “come here” when walking. Many people use these phrases for their walking command. This will confuse your dog.
- Make sure you call your dog in a commanding, yet upbeat manner. You have to be more inviting than whatever has got the dog’s interest.
- Intermittent food treating is acceptable for the “come”. Have the dog “come”, “sit”, you touch the dog’s collar, then treat or pet. This prevents the token visit from the dog.
- Make sure you touch the dog’s collar before you pet or treat!!
Use the following game to help teach come:
Walk briskly with your dog on a loose lead. Pick a moment when your dog is not paying attention or is slightly distracted. This is the moment when you want to use this game. Command your dog in the following manner: “(dog’s name), come!” while you quickly take five or six steps backwards. You do not want the dog to realize what you are doing before you do it – make sure the dog is not really paying attention to you! If the dog does not respond instantly and come to you, use a quick leash tug. The dog must respond immediately to the word “come”, so if the dog turns around upon hearing “come”, a snap is not necessary. Once the dog is returning to you, keep the leash loose and encourage with verbal praise and body language. DO NOT reach out to the dog, have the dog touch you first – THEN lots of petting and praise. If the dog goes past you, just turn around and tug the leash. Do not say “come” again. Just coax the dog with words. Then pet and praise when she/he touches you.
Practice the following exercise to help teach come:
This exercise is done from a sit/stay, or sit/wait, with you at the end of the leash (or farther away if you have a partner helping you or if the dog is trustworthy and safe). As your dog does well with the sit/wait, start down/wait and then call him to you.
The hand signal is to bring your right hand up to your left shoulder in a large sweeping motion. As you give the hand signal, you say “dog’s name” & “come” using a firm, but happy tone of voice. Guide the dog straight in to you. Try not to pull on the leash. If need be, move backwards to encourage the dog to you. When the dog gets to you, command him to SIT in a gentle tone of voice, and guide him into a sit directly in front of you. Give verbal praise only.
This is wonderful for a dog who just tunes his/her master out. A loud whistle is very exciting to a dog. If you can’t whistle, a toy whistle (or any for that matter) will do. Begin in the house. When your dog is not looking at you or is in another room – whistle. The first time you do it the dog will probably look at you out of curiosity. When he/she does, use lots of praise to encourage the dog to you. Use the intermittent treating system.
Use the game of Fetch to help your dog respond quickly to the command “come” and have fun while doing it. When your dog is bringing the object back to you tell your dog to “come” in a very happy tone of voice. If you do this when your dog has almost reached you it will help to associate the act of “coming” with the command “come” in his mind. It is a win-win situation!
- Anytime your dog responds to the command…PRAISE LAVISHLY!!!
- Teaching a dog to “come” takes time and work. This is the first command a dog must respond to whenever he/she is off leash. You will have setbacks, but be consistent and make it fun!!
- Play games with your dog that encourage the dog to respond. These will make learning fun for the dog, and also for you.
- Some good games to try are fetch, round robin, hide and seek
- Make sure to touch the dog’s collar before giving treats or petting.
- When practicing, make sure the dog remains in the sit/stay for at least 30 seconds before you recall. You do not want your dog to anticipate and start popping up from the stay.
- Remember – do not recall your dog every time from your sit/stay.
- Do not drag the dog to you if he is reluctant to come. Encourage with words.
- Do not encourage with “Come On”, “Come Here”, Come, Come, Come” because this only confuses the dog.
- Do not correct your dog into the sit in front. Guide him into it.
- If your dog jumps on you when in front, no harsh corrections. Prevent it by crouching down as your dog comes, catch the collar, then stand up holding onto the collar, and guide him into the sit. (To guide your dog into a sit in front…pull up on the collar toward you – into your stomach. Do not push the dog backward away from you.)
If you remember to keep “come” positive and fun you will have success using the command in real-life situations. There are many games that you can incorporate the command “come” into, so get creative and have fun! You will be on your way to having a dog who comes to you every time you call him!
Mandy Makein is an author and dog trainer. For free dog training report visit [http://www.stopdogjump.com/]
(c) Copyright Mandy Makein 2010. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.