One of the most important aspects of obedience training is teaching your dog to come to you when you call their name. When you have successfully trained your dog to do this, they will be able to enjoy much more freedom as you’ll have the peace of mind to let them run off-leash at the park or on country walks.
In an ideal world, all dogs would be born with the instinct to respond appropriately and immediately when their owners tell them to come. Unfortunately though, dog’s don’t understand english and associating the desired behaviour with the command word does take a bit of work, effort and above all- patience! As with all aspects of dog training, it is important that you remain consistent and persistent in your approach.
Use the following methods to ensure that your dog successfully learns to come whenever you call their name.
Mixing Training Time With Playtime
One of the most effective ways to teach your dog any command is to incorporate playtime with your training sessions. Dogs love to play and are much more likely to succeed if they find their training sessions with you fun! Begin by running around your yard or house while consistently calling your dog’s name in an enthusiastic manner. This will encourage him to keep up with you. When he catches up, drop a few treats on the ground. As he finishes the treats, respond with “Come!” and run away again. Repeat this routine 5 to 10 times during each training session. As he begins to learn, you can run longer distances before dropping the treats.
The Restraint Method
Another great way to teach your dog how to come when called is with the restraint method. This involves working with someone else as a training partner and having them hold your dog facing you whilst you are at least six feet away. Before they let him go, call your dog’s name in a high-pitched, excited and happy tone with your arms outstretched. As soon as your dog notices you calling them, your training partner can release the dog. Continue cheering him on until he reaches you and then reward him by giving him lots of praise and a treat or two. The goal is to make coming to you as exciting as possible!
Take some time to allow your dog to remain off-leash in an outdoor safe zone, such as your backyard. Move away from him and encourage him to follow behind you by whistling, calling his name and using the “come” command. Every once in a while, reward him by handing him his favourite toy or a treat when he catches up to you. Again, the purpose of this exercise is to associate coming to you with positive feelings in your dog’s mind.
What Not to Do
There are several bad habits that you should look to avoid when training your dog to come on command. For one, you should steer clear of training your dog to come when they are about to do something that they don’t enjoy, such as getting their nails clipped or getting a bath. All this will do is discourage your dog from responding to the command as he will begin to associate it with something that is negative, reducing the chances he will obey you the next time that you tell him to come. Whilst you are teaching him to come when called, it is important to associate compliance with positive experiences.
On a related note, you should also try not to teach your dog to come when he is doing something that he enjoys doing, such as playing with his favourite toy or enjoying a treat. This is when a dog (especially one that is still learning!) is least likely to comply because they are having a good time. Attempting to teach them to respond to your calls during one of these times is setting the training up for failure. The more that you yell at them to come whilst they are content and playing, the more they are learning to ignore your call. It’s worth keeping in mind though that once they have fully learned how to come on command, they should respond regardless of their current activity.
Another pitfall that you should avoid falling into is repeating the command over and over again if your dog is not responding. For example, shouting “Come, come, come” repeatedly when your dog is not responding is not the way to get him to listen to you. All this does is dilute the meaning of the word and teach him to ignore it.
“Come” is one of the most important commands that you can teach your dog. Teaching them to respond to the allows you to have the confidence to let your pet run off-leash, and may even save their life one day if you need to keep them away from potential dangers, such as a snake lingering in the backyard or a speeding car. Mastery of this command will strengthen the relationship you have with your dog and open the world up for a lot more exploring!