If you read my previous posts, Teaching “Come” Parts I and II, I hope you got the idea that you must make training time fun for your dog. And that’s what we’ll review in this post, playing games to ensure that your dog comes to you every time when called. Plus, if your dog is smart, playing games helps to alleviate boredom and anxiety.  And it’s fun for you too!

Before we get into the games, it’s important to realize that all dogs are individuals.  I can’t say that enough. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating it because I’ve come across so many people who don’t understand this truth.  A dog is not a dog… Consequently, obtaining a 100% reliable recall from your dog is next to impossible for a variety of reasons.  Some dogs have naturally clingier personalities, making them easier to train and more apt to come when called.  While others dogs, such as hounds and terriers, could be more prone to distractions and may tune you out. The secret is lots of entertaining and positive training sessions.

What games can be played to help your dog learn to come? I like to recommend a variety of indoor and outdoor games. Of course, your ability to play these games will be dependent on your home and yard, or access to open areas.

One of my favorite indoor games that I like to play on rainy or icy days is “hide and seek.” I place my dog in a stay in a room where he cannot see where I’m going. Then I hide somewhere – a closet, behind a sofa, in a bathroom. And then I call my dog with a happy “Come!” that is loud enough for him to hear me. It is so much fun to hear your dog scampering around to find you! If you feel that it’s taking your dog too long to find you or if he gives up, call “Come!” again ntermittently. Now here’s the fun part: When your dog finds you, give a great big “yippeeee!” and jump up and down.  I guarantee that your dog will be soooo excited.  You can give your dog a treat, a toy or something that he loves too. There’s an added bonus with playing this game, especially if you live in a multi-level home: Your dog will get exercise.  A few minutes of this game will help to burn off a lot of energy for your dog because he’s using his body and his brain.

I also love to use mealtimes as training opportunities for your dog. While preparing your dog’s meal, place him in another room in a stay. Be super-quiet so your dog doesn’t know what you’re doing! When you’re ready to give him his food, walk into the room, show him his bowl and call him to “Come!” Most dogs are motivated by mealtime and will fly to you to get that food!  Praise him and give his the food (after asking for a sit and a wait, of course!).

Outside games can be a little more challenging due to distractions and the size of your outdoor area. I like to find a fenced area with several trees or outbuildings like sheds.  Allow your dog time outside to sniff and let the “novelty” of being outside wear off. When your dog is not watching you, go hide behind a large tree or some other large object. Whistle (if you can!) and call your dog to “come!”.  If you have done a good job with training your dog to come, he will immediately look for you. Many dogs will even panic a little if they cannot find their persons.  Just like hide and seek above when your dog finds you, act like an idiot – jump up and down and say “good dog!!” or whatever you like to say. You may also want to give your dog a “jackpot” of treats when he finds you.

Another outside game will require you with another person. Stand a good distance apart, depending on how large the area you’re working in, and have your helper hold your dog. You get your dog’s attention by either jumping up and down and being silly or waving your dog’s favorite toy.  Your helper is egging your dog on by saying, “Go get it!!!” or something else to charge your dog up. When you have your dog’s interest, you ask him to “Come!”. You may even want to run away a little, clapping your hands and slapping your thighs. When your dog comes to you, give him lots of praise and the toy if you used one and treats too.

If you are not getting reliable recalls from your dog with the training suggestions and games in these past three posts, I would recommend that you try clicker training with your dog. Karen Pryor is the guru and you can find lots of resources on her web site: Karen Pryor

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