Training Your Dog to Come: Make It a Good Thing

Liz Palika

Teaching Your Dog to Come

Far too often dog owners say to me, “Most of the time my dog comes to me when I call him but if something exciting is going on, he ignores me.” The excitement might be caused by the kids playing or a neighbor’s dog barking. However, many of these complaints begin at the dog park. When it’s time to leave and the dog owner calls her dog, the dog totally ignores her.

This can cause frustration on the owner’s part; after all, even dog owners need to go to work, run errands, and maintain a schedule. However, ignoring the come command can also be dangerous. It’s important to teach your dog to come each and every time you call him, no matter what the distractions.

Use a High Value Treat!

Find a treat your dog really likes that he normally doesn’t get. Freeze dried liver dog treats or diced pieces of Swiss cheese often work well because they have a strong smell and your dog’s sense of smell is his strongest sense.

With your dog on leash, let him sniff the treat as you back away from him and say, “Sweetie, come!” in a happy tone of voice. Give him one of the treats when he catches up with you. Do this four or five times and take a break. Do it again later and then a couple more times over the next few days.

Then, with your dog in the house with you and off leash, have some treats in hand and when your dog is in another room, call him to come. Pop a treat in his mouth as soon as he finds you. Again, do this four or five times and take a break. If your dog won’t leave your side, ask a family member to help you by holding the dog in another room until you call him.

When he is coming quickly and enthusiastically, then take this training game outside in a fenced, quiet place. With your dog on leash, repeat the first exercise, backing away from your dog. With the leash on your dog, you can stop him from dashing away. Repeat several times then take a break. After several days of practice in this fenced area, then repeat the training exercise with your dog dragging his leash.

Come, Reward, Release!

To overcome the dog park issue, make a game out of coming to you. In the fenced in back yard, with your dog off leash and some high value treats in one hand, call your dog to come. Praise him and give him a treat or two. Then let him go play again. Throw his ball, toss a flying disc, or let him hunt critters in the firewood pile. Then call him again. Repeat four or five times and take a break.

In other words, you call him, reward him, and then reward him again by letting him go play. Instead of stopping all the fun, you are rewarding him for coming to you, and then you’re turning him loose to have fun once more because the fun is also a reward.

To teach this in the dog park, go several times when there dog park is empty. Play this same game in the dog park, rewarding your dog heavily when he comes to you and then turning him loose to play again. Do this four or five times and let him play. Then a little later do it four or five more times. On the last call, reward him and then leave. Eight or nine comes ended in treats and more play time while only one resulted in leaving the dog park. That’s a good ratio.

Keep it Fun!

The come command is an important training exercise and it’s important your dog responds to it every time. However, you don’t want to order your dog to come or try to intimidate him. That will cause him to avoid you.

Instead, keep the training fun by using those high value treats and wonderful verbal praise. Never punish your dog for getting distracted or ignoring you. Instead of telling him he’s made a mistake, teach him that coming to you is the very best thing he can do.

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