In the previous post on February 28 discussing how to train your dog to come, I talked about what not to do when your dog comes to you. I always tell people that teaching a dog to come is easy, but getting your dog to do it reliably is the challenging part. Today, let’s go over how to teach your dog to “come” and then in Part III, I’ll review some games that we can play with our dogs to reinforce “come” and make it a happy event.  As we know, training needs to be fun for everyone – your dog and you! 

First, think of an object that your dog really loves, something that will motivate him to come to you: a particular kind of treat or even a toy. Since most dogs are motivated by food, it’s best to use small bite-sized treats like cheese or canned chicken. I like using something that your dog is not accustomed to eating and it smells really enticing. But if your dog is not food-motivated, a toy is a great option if your dog has a favorite like a ball or a retriever roll. With this treat/toy in your hand, hold it in front of your dog so he can see it/smell it. Once you get your dog’s attention, take a few steps backwards and say the word “come” to your dog in a happy, upbeat tone.  When your dog follows you, give the treat/toy to your dog and praise him happily.  Remember, when your dog comes to you, it must always be an enormously happy event!  Hugs and kisses are good things too but only if your dog really likes that. 

Continue practicing luring your dog to you in this manner with a treat or a toy by walking backwards and rewarding your dog, and gradually increase the distance that you walk backwards. You will be able to see if your dog is responding to you obviously if he comes to you. If so, then you can move on to more advanced work.  Put your dog into a “stay” and walk away – not too far, maybe just a few feet. Call your dog by saying “come” happily. (Your tone of voice is sooooo vital.  No dog is going to want to come to someone who is screeching or clearly unhappy.)  When your dog comes to you, give him the treat or the toy. Some trainers also like to give dogs a “jackpot” of treats when the dog comes to you.  By doing this, you are really showing the dog that coming to you is wonderful!

Important: If your dog does not come to you, do not scold him. I don’t even like to do an “Aw, try again.” We only want to reward your dog for doing good things, not call attention to when he doesn’t do it properly.  

It’s best to begin training your dog to “come” when there are no distractions.  Inside your home with no other dogs, people or kids around is ideal. As your dog becomes more reliable with coming to you inside the house, you can then take the training outside where there are usually more distractions (smells, sounds, etc.). Always use a leash when outside doing training work for “come.” I like to use a long, 30-foot cotton leash for this training so that you can gradually increase the distance between you and your dog.   Allow your dog to walk around and sniff to his heart’s desire while on this leash. Then call your dog to come. Make it happy and enticing. You might even want to run away from your dog and slap your thighs to make it more of a game. If your dog comes to you, great! Give him treats, toys, praise and hugs. If your dog ignores you, take the leash and as you say “come” again, guide the dog back to you. Don’t yank, just gently bring your dog back. 

Practice, practice, practice!!!  And be the person that your dog can’t resist coming to. Those are the keys to a dog who will come every time he’s called.  Next time, some games to play to reinforce your dog’s reliable recall.