You hear the “Come” command all the time. But have you ever wondered how to actually get your dog to come when you call them? Teaching your dog to return to you on command is not just a cool trick; it’s handy in preventing potentially dangerous situations.
There are many training methodologies around teaching your dog to “Come” on command, and they can all be effective if administered correctly. ECAD believes positive reinforcement is the best training method. This theory is often referred to as “What is in it for me?” In this case, the reward for your dog returning to you is something of high value to them.
In preparation for teaching the “Come” command, ECAD suggests the following tools:
1. Cotton Web Leash 1”x10’
2. Nylon Metal Buckle Collar
Note: For puppies less than 6 months use a single Layer Collar, and for dogs over 6 months use a Double Layer Collar.
3. High value rewards – favorite toy or treats (something special to your dog).
4. Noisemaker – Metal dog bowl with kibble (you can also use a bell or squeaky toy).
The "Come" Command
“Come” means returning to you, regardless of what your dog is doing, and then not running off again.
When to use: Anytime you would like your dog to return to you.
Note: The best time to teach this command is right before your dog is fed. This will make the reward of a treat very enticing to their empty belly.
1. Prepare your tools:
- Gather your high value reward depending on the personality of your dog, we recommend treats. If your dog is not a chowhound, revert to their favorite toy.
- Prepare your noisemaker, kibble in a metal dog bowl or metal container is recommended, since this noise has already been associated with dinner.
- Connect the 10-foot training leash to Fido’s collar.
2. Take your dog outside and give them the length of the leash. Allow them to sniff and explore while you hold the end of the leash firmly in your hand.
3. After 3 or 4 minutes begin to call, “Fido, Come!”, while shaking the metal bowl and repeating “Come, Come, Come”, until your dog returns to you.
4. Once your dog returns to you, PRAISE, reward with a treat, and show excitement while making a big deal out of their return.
5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 successfully 3 times in a row.
Note: If your dog is resistant to returning to you or ignoring your attempts to lure them in, you can gently use the leash to guide them back in. However, remember: Do not correct your dog for not returning right away. Coming to you needs to be positive. If your dog thinks they are being punished when they come to you, they will not want to come.
As your dog begins to respond quicker and quicker to the “Come” command, you can increase the distance between you and your dog and decrease the amount of verbal coaching. If you do not own a fenced yard, extending the distance between you and your dog can be achieved by connecting leashes together.
Remember, training happens! And through repetition, consistency, and reward your dog will be happy to learn.
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All training tips in this series are from ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Learn more about ECAD.