Teaching your dog to come – reliably!

If you look at this video you can see how easy it is to tap into a puppy’s brain to communicate that you want the dog to chase you – or come to you. This is a fun and natural way to introduce this concept to your puppy. Most dogs will think that whatever you are doing is more fun than what they are doing, provided that your actually doing something. Some dogs have learned that humans are tricky and have learned to come just within reach and then jump away. What do you do then?

When your dog doesn’t come to you reliably and within seconds you may have a big problem. Your dog is trained to do something when you say “come” whether that is come or not. When your dog doesn’t come:

1. Change the cue – maybe say ‘here’ instead and use a different hand signal.

2. Only ask your dog to come when you have control over the situation, like keeping a long line or light weight drop line on the dog so he can’t learn to do the same annoying behavior to the new cue as he did to the old.
a. With the dog’s attention call the dog using the new cue word and hand signal.
b. Turn your shoulders so that they are oriented away from the dog and take a step in that direction (like the happy little boy in the video). At this point your dog may already be coming to you.
c. If your dog doesn’t come then step on the line so that he can’t move further away. Say his name and act happy but do not use the new cue word, you don’t want to teach him to ignore this word too. This gives him one more chance to come to you.
d. If he still doesn’t come pick up the line and move off in another direction; when your dog starts moving with you jump for joy! This is what you want! It’s always more fun to act like a crazy lunatic in training than have your dog make you look like one later on. 😉
e. When your dog gets to you have a party and do something your dog really likes such as a game of tug-of-war, a meaty treat or a special toy.

3. Frequently reward the dog with play, freedom or something else that the dog enjoys until he understands and offers up the right behavior on cue. You can vary the rewards as well; once he gets the game throw in a “good boy” and pat as the only reward. If the dog learns that you always do something he thinks is unpleasant whenever you ask him to come he will not be as likely to come.

4. Make sure to practice having your dog come to you when he isn’t facing you (and in other ‘real life’ situations) in a controlled way before asking your dog to do it when you don’t have him on a line. You always want him to make the decision, it may take a second for everything to process before the dog comes and puppies especially need that time to learn if it isn’t already automatic.

5. Once your dog understands and enjoys the new game you can fade out the rewards but make sure that your dog still experiences something he likes more often than things he doesn’t like when he comes when called. This means that if your at the park practice having your dog come, play a little and then let him go a few times before you call him to you to leave the park.

Did you use a different method to train your dog to come?
If you have any questions post them here!

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