Training your Dog to Come
Using the "Recall" Command
Training your dog to come when called is one of the most important, if not the most important, commands because it is ultimately a life saver. Don't believe me?
Imagine opening your door one day and your puppy bolts out towards the upcoming traffic, ignoring your calls to come back. Or imagine taking him to a park where he meets other dogs and pretends to be deaf when it's time to leave. Or how about a potential lawsuit if your four-legged friend jumps someone and ignores your calls to come back?
These cases demonstrate why a serious Recall is a must if you want to protect your pet from serious injuries or worse (the Come command is also known as Recall). A solid Recall, therefore, is the most important command your dog will ever learn.
The Come command definitely requires a rewards based approach. If you don't believe me, try scolding your puppy for coming too slowly towards you or try calling him with a threatening tone of voice. Most likely, he will be hesitant to come when called.
Positive reinforcement, a rewards based training method employing scientifically based principles, is ultimately the best way for training your dog to come.
Let's review some of the methods you can use to train your puppy to come when called...
Training Your Dog to Come Using a Clicker
A clicker is a simple noise-making tool that allows you to communicate to your pet that he has performed a behavior that you were looking for. Dog clicker training is a very effective training method that involves teaching your puppy to associate the sound of the clicker with receiving treats.
The noise of a dog clicker may be somewhat comparable to a "good boy" or "good girl" pronounced in a timely matter. However, it has been scientifically proven that a dog's neurons respond better and faster to a neutral tone rather than voice, which carries a person's emotions and differs from person to person.
A solid Recall can be easily taught with the aid of a clicker.
Training your dog to come when called requires you to arm yourself with tasty treats and, obviously, a clicker.
Following are steps for training your dog to come when called:
- Start in an area with few distractions, such as a living room or other quiet indoor room
- Step a few feet away from your puppy and say his name in a happy voice, followed by the cue "come"
- Walk backwards, enticing him to follow you
- Click the moment he starts following you
- Deliver a treat the moment your puppy catches up with you
How to Proof Your Dog's Recall
In order to train a solid Recall, your puppy will need to show an ability to respond despite distractions. Failing to do so may lead to the common cliché of "my dog obeys well at home but when he sees other dogs, nothing will stop him".
This is one of the main reasons why obedience classes are helpful: your puppy will learn to pay attention to you despite having other dogs around.
If you are not taking your puppy to an obedience training school, you are very likely missing the distraction element. This means that you would have to find a way to practice Recalls around other dogs and distractions. In order to accomplish this, you would have to gradually expose your pet to increasingly higher levels of distractions.
Distance is another element that you will have to add so to proof your dog's Recall. This means that you will have to start training your dog to come at increasingly farther distances. Therefore, if, let's say, you started with your dog 8 to 10 feet away, now you will try at 10 to 15 feet, then 15 to 20 feet and so on.
You may also add a special twist to the challenge and try to hide, calling your dog to come looking for you. Of course, when he finds you, throw a party and give him a jackpot of treats!
Following are some important tips to keep in mind:
- Always call your puppy in a fun, happy voice
- Always make coming to you a rewarding experience
- Always go get your puppy if he does not come to you the first time
- Always appreciate your puppy coming to you
"What should I do if I must call my pet for something unpleasant such as putting his leash on at the park and leaving?"
This is a very good question. We certainly do not want the dog to associate the Come command with something negative such as snapping the leash on and leaving the park. Why? Because, at some point, he will stop listening to you and will NOT come when you call him.
To remedy this, make it a habit to call your dog and reward him with some treats, followed by a game of tug or a walk around the park before leaving. Just make sure the Recall does not become a predictor of bad things.
Benefits of the Come Command
A wide array of benefits derive from training your dog to come. Recall training may prevent your pet from:
- Chasing an animal into the woods
- Gaining access to some tempting delicacy
- Bolting out of a door and escaping
As already mentioned, training your dog to come can potentially be a life saver and should be an essential part of your dog's repertoire of learned behaviors.
Here is a brief video that provides additional information on teaching your puppy the Come command...
You may also wish to explore the following articles:
Want to learn more?
If you need help with teaching your puppy various obedience commands, including Come, or just trying to understand canine behavior, I highly recommend this puppy behavior and obedience guide.
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