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Teaching Come Command

The command "come" is arguably the only command that can save your dog’s life, so it is very important to teach a reliable recall (come) in every situation, and the operative word is teach. Many dog owners think "come" is an innate behavior and expect their dog to come by request without teaching him. Recall behavior is anything but natural so it is extremely important to begin training your dog to come to you at a young age. However, don’t worry because older dogs can learn new tricks too. Here are some easy tips to teach your dog to come when you call him.

Tips to Teach Your Dog to Come
  1. First and foremost, always have a high-value treat in your hand to reward your dog when he comes to you. This treat must be something of value to him, not you, and only used when practicing "come". Examples are hot dogs, Braunschweiger liver sausage, cheese, lunch meat, grilled chicken breast pieces, etc. Also, be sure to praise and pet him. If your dog is not food motivated, use a squeaky toy or tennis ball.
  2. When you call your dog, kneel down and use a happy voice. If you stand up and say "come" in a monotone voice, I would bet your dog will go on doing what he is doing. Make yourself fun and inviting! Never, EVER scold your dog for coming to you, even if you have been searching for him for 20 minutes and you found him at the neighbor’s house knee deep in their garbage cans. If you scold your dog, you will actually teach him NOT to come to you when called.
  3. Start in the house by saying your dogs name, such as "Murphy, Come!" from a short distance away without any distractions. When he runs up to you, walk backwards a few steps so he follows you, and then give him the treat while you touch his collar. This is important so he learns to come all the way up to you, and not just stop and get the treat and run away again. If your dog stops 2 feet in front of you, take a step or two backwards and lure your dog closer. Don’t force him or he will resist. By touching his collar it reinforces the need for him to come close to you.
  4. Start increasing the distance away from your dog when you call him. When he is coming from 20 feet away every time, add the distractions of the backyard. But, every time you add a new distraction, go back to 2 feet and start over. Remember, to always reward your dog with a treat, praise, and affection.
  5. When you are in the house going about your daily routine, call your dog for no reason. Make this a game. If you are upstairs and he is downstairs, yell "Jackson Come!!", and then follow up with the rewards.
  6. When you begin practicing "come" outside in the yard or at the park, use a thin 20- to 30-foot rope or string (depending on the size of your dog). Tie one end to him and keep the other end with you. Let him go about his business and then when he gets 2-3 feet away, call him. If he comes, Great! Reward him as before. If not, reel him in while walking backwards, and saying "Bailey Come!". Gradually increase the distance as he gets better, and reel him in every time he gets distracted and doesn't come. If you do this over and over and over again, your dog will learn to come on command even with squirrels and rollerbladers and bicycles.
  7. It’s important that your dog learn "come" doesn't just mean he is going to get his nail’s clipped, or go to the vet, or get a bath, or go in his crate. Come should also mean playtime, walk time, massage time, etc.
  8. You can also teach the game "Find Me" in the house. Dog’s love this because it gives them a job and allows them to problem solve. Start by putting your dog in a sit stay and go into another room, or behind a door, or in the downstairs bathtub. Wait a few seconds and say "Find Me!". Your dog will LOVE running from room to room to find you and get a big hug at the end. This teaches your dog that coming to you can be really fun, even if it’s not technically practicing the command ‘come’.

The key is practice, practice, practice and always use a million dollar treat. You can’t stop practicing "come" during your dog’s lifetime, or he may forget how wonderful you are compared to the neighbor’s cat. And, you MUST always back it up when you say "Come!". If your dog has something better to do, make sure you are able to lure him, while walking backwards, back to the place where you said the command in the first place.