In this post we are continuing our new puppy series with an entry about how to teach your dog the come command. Read more below to learn how to teach this important behavior!
Training your dog to have a reliable come when called can literally save your dog’s life if they are running towards danger such as another dog, or a busy road. The key to make your dog’s come command as reliable as possible is to always make the act of coming towards you rewarding.
You can begin building a reliable come when called the first day your puppy comes home by keeping treats in your pockets often, and randomly giving your puppy a treat when he or she comes over to you. Puppy learns that coming to their owner is very rewarding because sometimes treats magically appear.
To ensure that your puppy always associates coming near you with good things never, ever call your puppy over to you to punish them. If your puppy is being naughty, go to them and correct the situation. Also, if your dog gets loose and is running around never, ever punish them after you capture them again. It is self-defeating, and will only make your dog less likely to come to you should they get loose again in the future.
If you have begun building up the knowledge in your puppy that good things happen when they come to you, teaching the come command will be easy as pie.
Step 1. Grab a handful of high value treats.
Step 2. Take your leashed puppy to a quiet training area.
Step 3. Pet your puppy for a few moments then take a few steps back from them and hold out a treat as a lure.
Step 4. As the puppy is coming towards you and the treat say the word “come”, or “here” and then immediately give them a praise marker such as “Yes!” or “Good come!” and release the treat as they get to you. Repeat 20-30 times.
Step 5. Increase the distance in small increments that you move away from your puppy.
Step 6. Retire the food lure. Move away from your puppy and before they start moving toward you give them the command “come” one time. If they come over to you give them a “Jackpot!” of several treats and enthusiastic praise. If they begin to come towards you, but stop or falter, encourage them by patting your leg, snapping your fingers, or clapping softly. Do not repeat the command so your puppy understands that “come” means come, not “come.. come… come here!” If your pup is still unsure, bring out the food lure again and back up a few steps. Work back up to removing the food lure once they get the hang of it again.
*Avoid the temptation to tug on the leash if your puppy doesn’t come to you right away. Your dog will have a much more reliable and rock steady come when called if they think it was their idea to come to you!
Step 7. Practice in increasingly distracting environments such as your yard, parks and on walks. Ensure that your dog remains on their leash at all times when training in public places. This is for their safety, not to pull them to you. Once your puppy is moving into longer distance recalls you might benefit from a longer twenty-foot training leash so you can get some distance from your puppy. They sell training leashes at most chain retail pet stores such as PetSmart.
Teaching Come as a Family
The more your family is involved with your puppy’s training the better. Your puppy should learn to follow commands from everyone in the household, even young children. If everyone is on the same page with training and things are kept consistent for the puppy their training will be much easier and less frustrating for both parties.
A fun way to begin introducing your puppy to the recall command is a monkey-in-the-middle game. This game can be played within days of your pup arriving home. It sets up your puppy to learn very quickly that coming to any member of your family results in good things such as food or attention. You need at least two people to play. The best time to play this game is right before your puppy’s scheduled meal so that you can use his dinner kibbles as rewards.
Step 1. Pass out small treats such as dog food kibbles to each family member. Make sure each family member has their treats in a pocket or placed behind them where the puppy cannot get to them.
Step 2. Position your family in a roughly circular shape and place your puppy at the middle of the circle. Instruct your family to remain calm and quiet while you take turns calling the puppy over.
Step 3. One person at a time will excitedly call the puppy over to them either by using the pup’s name and by patting the floor or luring them with the food held out. When the puppy runs over they will praise the puppy, pet them, and give them a kibble.
*It is recommended to include your puppy’s name in the game so that he or she will learn it and associate good things when it is called. Avoid using any commands such as “come” at this time and rather entice the puppy over with food.
Step 4. As soon as your puppy finishes eating their kibble (and it won’t take long for just one or two kibbles) someone on the opposite side of the circle can then call your puppy over to them and give them a treat.
*Instruct your family members that as soon as they praise puppy and give them a treat to remove their hands and stop talking to them when the next person calls the puppy over as not to distract them.
Step 5. Continue going around the circle, taking turns calling the puppy from one side to the other until all the food is gone.
This is like a concentrated learning session for your puppy and will be very beneficial in teaching them that good things happen when they come to you, which is the foundation of training a good recall. We hope this blog post has been informative and helpful, stay tuned for our next post about teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash.