by Jenny Turner
Teaching your dog to come is an extremely important command, especially if his safety is at risk if he doesn’t comply.
There are some huge mistakes people make when calling their dogs to come.
1. They ask their dogs to come when there is no way it’s going to happen. If your dog is chasing the neighbor’s cat, he will never respond to your calling and it’s unreasonable for you to expect him to. In fact, calling him to come at such a time will let the dog know that you can’t control what he does and that he doesn’t have to obey you straight away. It’s better to go and get him rather than call him and have him not come.
2. When the dog does finally come back, or when we go and get him, we punish him. Big, big mistake. Why would the dog ever come to you if he thought he was going to get into trouble? He will not associate your anger with his non-compliance, all he knows is that he’s with you and you’re yelling at him.
3. The only time you call your dog to come is to put the lead back on and go home. The dog will learn that coming to you equals the end of the fun he’s having. Combat this by calling your dog to you a number of times during his off-leash time, just to give him a reward then let him go again.
So how do we teach “come”? There are plenty of things you can do to get your dog to come to you – crouch down, hold out a treat, run in the other direction, make an interesting noise. When the pup is coming towards you say “come”, and when he gets all the way in to you, reward and release. Then all you need to do is increase the distance, then add distractions. Remember to keep the dog on lead so that you have success at each attempt. If he doesn’t want to come to you or gets distracted on the way in, use the lead to reel the puppy in.
Add distractions by getting a friend to walk close to the puppy or make a distracting noise while you’re practicing the command. Then practice in an unfamiliar or exciting place.
Once you are getting consistent results using a long lead or rope, take away the distractions and start teaching off lead. Teaching off-lead recalls the fastest and most fun way is by running away from your dog. This appeals to his prey instinct and he will be more than happy to chase you. Tell him stay, take his lead off and walk to a reasonable distance, then call him to come and immediately turn and run away from him. When he catches you give him a reward and heaps of praise. He will soon associate coming to you with fun and play and rewards.
If you find that your dog is coming in but you’d like it to be faster, then try this: 2 dogs, 1 treat. Get the 2 dogs to sit next to each other, tell both to stay, and walk to a distance. Show them the treat and call them both to come. The one that gets to you first gets the treat and the other will learn to be faster next time.
But remember this – no dog will ever be completely trustworthy off lead; there are just too many things that you can’t control.