Dog Trainers Say it is the Most Important Training Command
Teaching one’s dog to come when called may be a live-saving endeavor. A dog that is running toward a busy highway or encountering some other hazard must be taught to respond immediately to the come command in order to avoid the danger.
What is the Best Way to Teach My Dog to Come When Called?
Most dog trainers these days agree that the old style drill-sergeant method of dog training just does not work. The authors of The Well-Mannered Dog note that dog trainers have come to recognize the obvious:
Dogs are intelligent, sensitive animals who don’t deserve physical punishment. In fact, they respond a lot better to praise and kindness.
In fact, pack leaders in traditional packs do not rule predominantly by physical aggression. Rather, dog pack leaders more often rule with mental control and discipline. With those ideas in mind, here are a few things to avoid when trying to train a dog to respond to the come command:
- Even if you get frustrated, avoid yelling at the dog. It is counter-productive and likely to just make the dog want to stay away from you as opposed to come to you.
- Do not chase the dog. Depending upon the relationship you’ve already established with your dog, chasing her will be understood as either intimidation or as an invitation to play. Intimidating the dog into coming when called fails to develop the trust necessary to get her to follow your lead. And if the dog takes the chasing as an invitation to play, she will just keep running because, in her mind, it is so much fun.
- Don’t fail to be consistent in your word choice. If you want your dog to come, and you are teaching him to come using that word as the command, do not expect him to come when you say “stop” or “get over here,” or “come on,” or merely shout his name.
Make Your Dog Want to Come When Called
In her excellent book The Loved Dog: The Playful, Nonaggressive Way to Teach Your Dog Good Behavior, author Tamar Geller insists that games and positive reinforcement are the best dog training techniques. She suggests the following approach to teaching one’s dog to come:
- Bend down in a posture that resembles the dog’s “play-bow” position. “This kind of bow is wolf sign language that implies an invitation to play,” Geller states.
- Use the dog’s name in addition to the chosen command. The dog needs to hear her name so she will know you are calling her instead of one of the other dogs in the dog park, for example. Thus, “Come, Lucy” is better than just calling, “Come.”
- If you are having a lot of trouble getting your dog to come when called, Geller suggests feeding him out of your hands instead of a bowl for several days, and only when practicing the come command. According to Geller, this will make it not a luxury but a necessity for the dog to come when called.
- Make a game out of practicing the come command. According to Geller, a game of hide-and-seek can be a fun way to teach your dog to come when called. Use special treats – what she calls “gold treats” – to reward your dog after he has spotted you and obeyed the come command. “Dogs love a challenge, especially if they know the end result will be a pleasurable one,” says Geller.
- Reinforce good behavior with random rewards. If your dog learns to associate the come command with something that does not give him pleasure, he may prove stubborn just when he most needs to obey. For instance, if “Come, Frankie” always means that the fun is over and it is time to go inside, Frankie will not want to come when called. Geller suggests calling the dog off several times during play time, then rewarding him with a treat and, most importantly, an invitation to continue playing. “You’ll be teaching him the pattern that coming and checking in with you is a good thing.”