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Teach a dog to come when called

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teach a dog to come when called
Photo: Did someone say Come

This is perhaps the single most important command you should teach your dog, often taught at the same time as teaching their name. Once perfected, it is a command that you will continue to use daily throughout your dogs life.

Initially you have no or very little control over your dog who may be running freely at a distance. Therefore, when you call your dog,  you need to be able to ensure that it will return to you immediately, before you are able to give it the freedom to explore.

To perfect the come command does take perseverance. The ultimate goal is for your dog to immediately stop whatever it is doing and come back to where you are, regardless of what is happening in the area. Therefore you need to make yourself more appealing than anything else around. Breeds that like to chase or sniff tend to be a little more difficult to train the come command to.

A puppy will usually come bounding up to you, every time they do this make sure they know you are very happy for them to do so,  they will quickly be reassured that it is a good experience to come to you. When teaching a puppy to come, begin by getting down to its level so your dog will not be encouraged to jump up on you.

It is worth pointing out that once you have actually commanded your puppy to come, you must follow it through every single time making sure your dog comes right up to you and not just a short distance away before running off again. This is something I was not very good at, several times I let my pup get away with coming half way and he soon learnt that come meant he could just turn round, come towards me and then run off again.

Start off by using the come command in your home, where it is quiet and there are few distractions. Get a handful of small treats then crouch down and say your dogs name and the command in a nice light friendly happy voice. When your dog comes to you immediately praise and reward it (and click if using clicker training). Be sure to do this several times a day; there will be many opportunities, but always ensure you reward your dog when it comes to you when called.

If you have someone to help you out, you can play a little game whereby each of you stand each end of a room and take it in turns to call the dog. Only say "come" once and give plenty of encouragement such as showing them you have treats or by squeaking a toy. You can progress to being in different rooms.

Once your puppy is responding to the come command indoors you can move onto training it outside in your garden and on your walks.  Put your dog on the lead, an extending lead is good as you can control how far the puppy gets from you and they also have freedom to explore and forget that they are on a lead. Then command your dog to come in the same way as you did indoors and when they reach you, remember to reward and give loads of praise.  When your dog is on a lead, do not be tempted to pull it back to you, this defeats the object of them coming to you on their own accord.

Once you are happy that your dog is coming back to you when on an extendable lead (or rope) then you can start practising off lead. To begin choose somewhere where there are not too many distractions as you want your dog to succeed. Just let  your dog get a little distance from you and when its is distracted call its name and say  “come”. When your dog reaches you, give loads of praise and reward.

At this stage you can also include a body signal. My dog responds to body signals just as well, if not better than vocal commands. It is especially good to start using body (and hand signals) early on. If your dog is at a distance and can’t hear your command they can usually recognise a hand signal.

When calling my dog to come, I stretch my arms out wide to either side of my body, crouch down slightly, call his name and say “come” in a friendly, happy but firm tone.

Tips to remember and help you and your dog succeed

  • Always reward your dog when it comes to you on command, no matter how long it takes them. If you give them a telling off and put them on the lead after they have just come to you they will definitely associate coming to you as a bad thing.
  • Make sure you only reward your  dog if you actually gave the come command. If he comes on his on accord do not give him rewards or treats, as this may encourage him to go up to strangers for treats.
  • Do not use the come command just to put your dog on a lead or to end a walk, the dog will very quickly associate “come” with something negative.
  • Don’t use the come command to scold or punish your dog for doing something naughty or because its done something wrong such as digging up your flower bed. So, for example, don’t shout  “your dogs' name, come here, you bad boy”
  • If your dog tries to run away from you, call its name and command come and then run the opposite direction  to the way its running. Your dog is then more than likely to run after you thinking it’s a game. If it does, say “good come” and reward him.

Finally it does take a lot practise, time and plenty of patience to master the come command. I think it is the one command that a lot of dog owners have difficulty with. Don’t be disheartened if you are out and about and your dog runs off, doing his own thing and ignores you, just keep practising and make yourself very exciting, he will get it in the end.  My dog fully understands what come means but even at 4 years old, he very occasionally chooses to “be deaf”.

Video Link : how to teach your dog to come to you