People who take their puppies to a training class usually have a pair of different complaints that they want to work on with their dog. Getting him to stop jumping on everyone is a common one, as is getting the dog to come when he is called.
The goal of this article is to show you how dog owners are often their own worst enemy here, and how they may even be inadvertently training their dog NOT to come when they call. I will also show the techniques that should be used to get your dog to come on command.
The CORRECT way to teach your dog to come when called!
Dog can learn a pretty decent vocabulary of commands when properly trained, but the issue can also be confused when the tone of voice you use does not match the command. If you are consistently using COME in an angry tone after he has done something wrong, he will believe that he is in trouble whenever he hears the word. You want him to learn that COME means that he should get to you as quickly as possible, not that he is in trouble and should seek shelter somewhere safe. Be consistent and only use COME when you are calling him over for something GOOD.
Rules for “COME”
When you start trying to train your dog to obey the COME command, you should always use a leash and collar, with you holding on to the leash. You need to be in control of the command, which is why you should also be in control of the leash.
NEVER use COME for the express purpose of getting your dog to come to you to be disciplined, corrected, or any other negative reason. Correction should only be delivered when the dog is caught in the act of doing something wrong. If you need to correct, make him SIT, and then you go to him.
There will be times when you get angry and will be tempted to use COME, but resist, and keep it as a positive command. A good example of this is if you have a dog who loves to play outdoors, and will not immediately come in when called to do so. Yes, this can be extremely frustrating, but it also means that you need to work on that issue immediately. This means going outside with the leash and practicing the COME command a number of times. Keep in mind, though, that the tone of voice being used is an important element in successful training. If you are using the COME command in an angry tone, or are littering the command with derogatory phrases, the dog will not respond well. You can get your frustration out by calling the dog names (he won’t understand), but make sure it is done in a happy tone when giving the COME command.
When you are practicing the COME command with your dog, don’t overdo it. 5-10 practice attempts with each session is the perfect amount. Any less than 5 will not help him learn, while going over 10 will just lead to him becoming bored and ignoring you. Do the sessions daily, about 2-3 times per day.
Don’t always make food a reward for appropriate behavior. If you use food every time, and then one day just stop, you can bet he will not COME when you give the command.
If your dog gets away from you and starts running, DO NOT start chasing him. He ill believe this to be a fun little game that you want to take part in. Call out his name to get his attention, and then take off in the other direction. He will take this as a sign that you want to be chased, and he will come running. Grab him when you get the chance. COME will not work in this particular circumstance, but it is still something that should be practiced in the safety of your back yard.
The two most important pieces that are used when teaching the COME command are a collar on your dog, and something that you can connect to the collar and hold on to. Any kind of collar will do the trick, making sure that an ID tag is on there. The connector that you choose can be a standard leash, or a line that stretches greater distance. The one type of leash that you may have a problem with is the Flexi-type, as this can become an issue when you start dropping the leash to test if your dog is grasping the concept of COME. The Flexi leash will recoil in the direction of the dog when you drop it, which will more than likely startle him.
Before attaching the long line to the collar, get some practice in handling it. Your goal is to be able to pull in the slack without tugging the dog towards you as he approaches. With your palm up, place your arm straight out in front of you, and have the line running over your palm. Use the other hand to grab on to the end of the line. Give short tugs to the puppy, throwing the line behind you or gathering it up as he runs in your direction. This will help keep the puppy on line and headed in the right direction when he reacts to your call.
Once the long line is attached, allow him to walk freely and explore the backyard space. It’s good to practice at home first, just so you don’t feel foolish when mistakes are made. Keep the end of the line in your hand, and as soon as you see him get interested in something, follow these steps:
- Call his name
- Use the COME (or whichever word you are using) command.
- Give the line a gentle tug.
- Give praise when the puppy reaches you in an appropriate manner.
- If your dog continues to be distracted by the thing that got his attention, make the tug on the line a little firmer and call to him again: “Name, COME!”
Dogs are much more likely to be interested in a moving target than one that sits still. Your puppy will not be stimulated if you simply stand in one place while training. After you call him, start moving backwards so that he has a target to chase.
This is an exercise that will also work with two people. The handler will hold the line as outlined above, while the other person holds onto the puppy until the handler calls his name and says COME. Once the puppy does as requested, the handler can then toss the line to the other person and reverse the process. A few attempts at this will help speed up the process.
Getting to grips with Problems:
Even with line attached, Puppy runs all over the place.
Turn your body in line with the direction the puppy has taken. Give the line another tug as you back up and deliver verbal encouragement.
Puppy shows that he is not willing to come to you.
Crouch down and use a very gentle, high-pitched tone of voice, with an encouraging tone and plenty of praise words mixed in.
Pup is in yard, off-leash, and refusing to come inside.
Dangle a large doggie treat outside the door and yell TREAT!!. When he comes to you, reward him with a small biscuit and put the large one on a high shelf where he can see it, but not reach it.
The tug that you give on the leash lets the puppy know where you want him to go, and that he should be coming towards you. If you get the tug right, he will quickly associate the tug and the COME with moving towards you. At that point, he will be well on his way to understanding the COME command.