How To Teach Your Dog To Come When Called

13 01 2009

come-hand-signalMom was right.  I should have discussed this right after potty training.  This is one of the most important things to teach your dog, as it can save their life should they be in impending danger.  It is also something that can greatly reduce your stress as a parent.  This article has been spurred by a request from a reader whose German Shepherd will not come when called in the backyard, while his siblings seem to understand it well.

It was stated that the dog will come inside with a leash on, but that does not necessarily mean that he has a true understanding of the COME command.  For Christmas, I got a brand new dictionary.  It was truly a bad gift for a dog, since I do not have the digits to turn the pages easily.  Also, it did not make sense for me to get the dictionary, because Mom has always said that we only need to know what things mean to her.  Nevertheless, upon investigation into Webster’s definitions, I will share what they say about the word COME.  Webster states that COME means to move to or toward the speaker; approach. To advance or move into view.

All that sounds pretty impressive, right?  Mom explained that her definition of the word COME really means, “NOW, GET YOUR BIG BUTT OVER HERE, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!”  (Normally, I would be offended by the comment about the size of my posterior, but I saw it in the mirror the other day, and I have to agree that it IS big.)  Her definition was pretty impressive to me, since one word could mean so much.  I was especially impressed when that is exactly where I ended up every time that word COME came out of her mouth!

There is something very important to note about the COME command.  NEVER use the COME command to call a dog to you for any discipline.  To me, this is a no-brainer.  I bet even Tax could figure that out, because if you call a dog over to yell, scream, or scold him, do you really think that he will be anxious to COME to you again?

Remember that I am a PTD, a pretty terrific dog, and that most dogs cannot read, nor do they own a dictionary.  Therefore, it is your job to teach them what the word COME means to you.  First, you will have to show him what it means.  I could discuss something called “classical conditioning” here, but I really do not want to bore you with my brilliance, so I will take things step-by-step.

You need to have your dog on a leash to teach the COME command.  Remember, you can not train what you can not control.

  1. Make sure that you have a few tasty treats in your pockets. I like the freeze-dried liver treats, but my niece, Nathalie, likes peanut butter treats by Bil-Jac.  Keep in mind that we do not work for free, and we work harder for things that we REALLY like.
  2. Call your dog’s name.  We discussed the importance of teaching a dog his name and its real meaning already. To recap, when you say a dog’s name, it means, “Look at me!”
  3. Now that you have his attention, you need to tell him what you want him to do.  COME.  He may look at you like you have a large pile of dog poop on your head the first time you try it.
  4. Be patient, you just said a word that he does not know.
  5. Show him what the word means.  Show him the treat, he will more than likely COME.

    Mom taught me about this with a six foot non-retractable leash.  I would be at the end of the leash, just chillin’ and she would call my name and say, COME.  She would then show me the treat and give me a slight tug on my leash.  When I arrived in front of her, told me to SIT.  When I did what she said, she would just go nuts petting me and hugging me, and then she would give me my treat.  We practiced for a long time on the six foot leash, and we gradually added more and more distance with an outdoor tie-out.  I finally learned that it did not matter how far away I was, COME means “NOW, GET YOUR BIG BUTT OVER HERE, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!”  We practiced this for a long time, always on the leash or the tie-out.  One day, we were out in a field and my mom took my leash off.  I ran around like crazy and, out of nowhere,  she said, COME.  I did not.  Mom ignored me and started walking away from me.  I thought she was crazy, so I followed her.  I was right by her side when she stopped and looked at me.  I sat down and Mom said, “I guess we still have to practice more with the leash on.”  We practiced a lot more, until I learned that COME means “NOW, GET YOUR BIG BUTT OVER HERE, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!”

    Sometimes, the COME command is referred to as the recall.  Mom uses a hand signal to reinforce what she wants.  The signal she uses is an open palm put across her chest.  Sometimes, Mom tells people to play hide and seek with their dog. Everyone hides.  Someone calls the dog’s name and when he finds that person, they praise him like Mom did and give the dog a treat.  This is a good way for the dog to learn that good things come from humans.

    Now that I know what COME really means (according to mom), I do not always get a treat.  But I do come every time, just in case 😉

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    5 responses

    16 01 2009
    caladohelena

    This is very usefull article.

    In my opinion people should start to teach this event before potty training.

    25 02 2009
    Sheila

    We recently got 2 great danes. They are 1-1/2 yrs old. Their old humans did not teach them come. I started teaching it in the house and they seem to get it but when they are outside and I’m trying to get them in, they come up to me and then run away. Any suggestions on how to get them to come all the way in the house? I’ve tried the treats and they sniff, bark and then run away.

    28 02 2009
    Teach Your Dog “STAY” And “WAIT” « Ask Spike Online

    […] you step through the doorway, simply pat your thigh and command your dog to COME.  When your dog joins you on the other side, some people will command their dog to SIT, waiting […]

    16 03 2009
    Sheila

    Thanks! They are getting better at coming when called now. I step in the doorway, pat my leg and call. They come in then (well most of the time! 🙂 )

    21 03 2009
    Teaching (Go To Your) “PLACE” And “PARK IT” Command « Ask Spike Online

    […] 21 03 2009 So far, we have discussed many different basic training commands, SIT, COME when called, TAKE IT, LEAVE IT, DROP IT, Potty Training, HEEL, and STAY and WAIT.  This would be the final […]

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