Training your dog to come is probably the most used dog training command. You ask your dog to come many times a day, even without realizing it. Your dog comes to you to be let outside, to eat, to be petted, and to play.
It’s also one of the hardest commands to teach.
Every time your dog comes to you it’s because he chose to do so. What we need to do as dog trainers is to convince the dog that he wants to come.
How do you do that?
Be interesting to your dog.
Ha! I can hear your laughter through this computer! I’m sure your thinking:
“What! Does my dog want me to sing a song and dance?!” Well, if your dog enjoys that....
What I really mean by that is this:
Find out what motivates your dog and use that to your advantage.
The great thing about dogs is they are usually pretty easy to please. I say usually because there are dogs out there (and you may own this dog) that are picky. Not stubborn, just picky.
Most dogs just want to be petted. Others like food treats. And some dogs just can’t help themselves when someone throws a ball, they have to retrieve it.
Training your dog to come should always be taught in a fun, positive way. If your dog learns that he gets scolded or punished when he comes to you, he just won’t do it anymore.
Start with a Game
A really fun way to teach “come” is with a game. You may already know this one. Yes, it’s Hide and Seek!
This game actually teaches two things: Coming When Called and Tracking
To play this game your dog should know the Stay command or you can have another person hold your dog.
This game always makes me laugh when I’m “found.” And my dogs think it’s just great! Now try hiding out in different parts of your house. If your house is small, you can do this in your yard, but be careful if your yard is not fenced (unless you live in the country). Because this is an off-leash game, please consider your dog’s safety when playing outside.
Training While Walking
Training your dog to come is easy while out on a walk too. Your dog will need a regular buckle collar, a 6 foot leash and some treats in your pocket. I normally don’t like to use the retractable leashes for training, but this exercise would be a great way to utilize one.
When your dog stops to investigate a smell, let out the leash and move away from your dog.
Call your dog’s name and say “Come!” If he ignores you, put a little pressure on the leash, pulling him toward you. Get him to come all the way to you. Have him sit. Give him a treat or give him some good pats and praising.
Continue on your walk, practicing this exercise 6 to 10 times.
If your dog is pulling on the leash the whole time, start out training heel.
If your dog is timid or fearful when out on walks, then the actual walk is the training. You have the fearful issue to undo or minimize before working on this command.
What if your dog totally ignores you when you give your command? This is where we get into the motivation thing again. You’re probably not that interesting and that’s not a bad thing, so don’t feel guilty.
You have to know your dog. Does he like squeaker toys? Bring a squeaker and keep it in your pocket. Does he love tennis balls? Take one with you and do small retrieves on the leash.
Keep practicing everyday and in different places and several times a day. Training your dog to come won’t take long and you will have a reliable dog that willingly comes when called.