Teaching your dog to come when called is one of the most important lessons they will ever learn. It is important to understand as with all training of pups, that teaching tricks will take time and patience. You can start teaching your dog to come when called as early as their first week with your family.
Key training points
When doing this exercise it is important to remember some key points…
- NEVER chase your dog. Only let your dog chase you.
- Until your dog learns this command completely, NEVER tell him/her to come unless they are on a lead and you can back up your command if he/she ignores you.
- NEVER tell you dog to come if you are going to do something unpleasant like give him a tablet.
- NEVER tell your dog to “come” and then ignore him/her if they don’t obey. Go to him/her and tell them to sit. Then move away and repeat the command. Give praise reward for correct actions.
Making a start
Beginning as soon as the opportunity arrives and when your dog is moving 2-3 feet away from you, say your dog’s name and “COME” in a very happy voice. Do this whenever your dog is passing. When he comes to you (about 2 seconds later) you should make a big happy fuss of him/her.
Be sure you wait until he/she is almost right on top of you before you say “come”. Your dog will soon learn that this exercise is very fun. After a while, start to increase the distance from where you call him/her. Do it SLOWLY though as an ignored command can set the training back weeks.
After a few weeks, or months, you can begin to test the command at random intervals. You must be ready to back up your “come” command at this stage because if he/she learns they don’t have to come (or there is no reason to come), they will stop coming.
Back up your command…
The best method to back up your command is to have your dog on a harness (or lead). This way if they ignore the command, you can pick up the lead and repeat the command in a happy voice and gently (NEVER choke) bring the dog toward you.
Praise and reward
Praise him/her when they reach you. Remember this is only increased when the command is ignored.
A good game to play to reinforce the command of “come” is to have two people stand 3 meters or so apart. Both people should have a small amount of treats. Call your dog using the command one at a time. When your dog responds, give a treat or occasionally, just praise. REMEMBER, don’t give a treat for just running to you. You must have given the command.
Don’t ever associate “come” with receiving a negative reward. For example, you should not use the command to call your dog for a bath. It is best to simply walk to them and then bath him/her.
Even using the command to call your dog to put the leash on at the end of a session at the park can encourage them to ignore you.
Try to call your dog when you have the leash in your hand, but as he/she gets to you, praise him and then command him to “go play”. It will take a while but eventually they will realize that the lead in your hand at the park does not necessarily mean he will lose his freedom.
Training is for life
Finally, training is for life, not just for in the beginning so use the command as frequently as possible, with reward, even after your pup is grown up.
Any time the command is not obeyed or not remembered the dog will have regressed and training will have to be re-started, so it is to your benefit to keep it up.