Tip – 40 – Dog training – Come
One of the most important training exercises to teach your dog is to come when called. The primary goal is that the dog always stops what it’s doing and returns to you. Since a dog can easily get into trouble in many different circumstances (like chasing something) it is a crucial command to learn ASAP for the dog’s safety and for your peace of mind.
The key to this exercise is consistency and reward immediacy. The dog must ALWAYS and for the rest of its life get a reward every time you say come and he/she comes. At first give the dog a food reward along with saying ‘good dog!’ in an enthusiastic tone of voice. Make a big deal over it. Once the dog has mastered the command, exchange the food reward for a good petting or give the dog its favorite toy while enthusiastically saying ‘good dog!’ Once the dog comes, give it the reward immediately. Don’t search for it in your pockets or bag. Have it ready.
This exercise is best carried out with 2 people. It is best to start the exercise for the first time when the dog is alert and hungry. Have 1 person hold the dog by the collar, while you show the dog a food reward and back up. Stop about 7-10 feet from the dog and say the dog’s name and the word ‘come’. The person lets go of the collar. As the dog approaches you, you bend down to its level and once it gets to you, you give the reward immediately along with an enthusiastic “good dog!”. Try the same thing again but this time but go out of site. Keep practicing the exercise while varying the distance between you and the dog until the dog has learned it. Next take the dog outside on a leash to a reasonably quiet place and teach the same command even though there are many more distractions. When you call the dog, have the second person (this time holding a leash for safety) run with the dog toward you. Reward as above. Once you feel confident the dog is learning well, in a safe enclosed area, let the dog roam around leash free and practice again. Vary the distance between you and the dog until for everyone’s sake, the dog always comes when called.
- Never vary the phrasing of the command. It should always be the dog’s name FIRST then ‘come’. If anyone else in the family uses the come command it should always be ‘come’ not ‘come here’. Consistency is of paramount importance.
- Never use the word come for something the dog thinks is bad like disciplining it harshly, a trip to the vet, or taking a pill etc.The dog must always associate the ‘come’ command with something good. If you are ending a fun activity, don’t say come and then put the leash on and take the dog home. Do another short activity and then go home.
- Use whatever reward works best. If the dog stops coming when you switch to a petting or a toy go back to a food reward or try a chew toy. Use whatever works.
- If you cannot find another person to do the activity with when you are outdoors, use a long leash attached to a stake or a tree and practice the activity that way.
-Vary the location and the distraction level of this exercise often.