Written by Christine Durrant, Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Care Consultant
Teaching a dog to come when called requires a good connection between the dog and the human. If your dog is not trained to sit, lay down or stay, I highly recommend you start on those first. Come is more advanced and works best if you have formed a bond through positive reinforcement training ahead of time.
NEVER say the word “come” unless you are 100% sure your dog will succeed. You must train them in a controlled environment, building up to distractions and relishing in all success. If you find yourself saying the command regularly and your dog ignores you, you have basically “ruined” the word and should start with a new one (we recommend “Here”). During training, do not use the word until you have your dog’s attention and are working on it.
For the purpose of this blog, I will assume you have not ruined the command and use “Come”.
GAME: Here’s a fun game to play with your dog to reinforce Come. Gather a handful of your dog’s regular kibble. Also gather a small handful of cooked chicken, hot dog or cheese (tiny pieces). Have them together in a bowl. Toss a piece of kibble for your dog. As soon as they return to you give them a piece of the higher value (chicken, hot dog, cheese). This will teach your dog that coming to you is WAY better than leaving. This is a fun game you can play anytime. As your dog is more reliable you can add in the words “good Come!” while they are running back to you. This will help them understand what “Come” means.
Being positive and having exceptional rewards will help your dog to learn and understand that coming to you is wonderful! You want your dog to always feel great about coming when called.
NEVER punish your dog after calling them to come to you, even if you are mad. This will damage the command and the last thing you want is a dog that refuses to come when called because they are afraid of the consequence.
Christine Durrant, CPDT-KA Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant