Teaching ‘Come’

The best way to have your dog come reliably is
to make it a party every time you call her and
she comes to you. Whether the party involves
giving treats, affection, praise or toys, she
should never have a reason to think twice about
coming to you.
To teach your dog to come, prepare yourself for
the lesson with pea-sized treats in a treat pouch
you wear and/or a favorite toy tucked in your
pocket. Take the dog somewhere with few distractions. I tether the dog to me, a doorknob or a
chair leg so she won’t wander off. Say “come”
(or her name) only once, but say it with great
enthusiasm and wave treats right in front of
the dog’s nose. Reward her with a treat when
she comes and repeat the exercise. If she does
not come within a few seconds after you say
“come,” don’t repeat the cue. Just wait until she
comes, reward her, and start again. Do this over
and over; to keep it fun, always use a happy
When she comes consistently with only a short
distance between you, gradually increase the
distance and repeat the exercise. The length
of leash can grow to a 20- to 30-foot-long line
with improved skills at learning the cue. A dog
should never be allowed off-leash, or at least
never be asked to come when off-leash, until she
has perfect recall on leash.
Once you have practiced in locations with few
distractions, start practicing in locations with
more distractions. Then, add other people to the
game of learning. Start with the exercise described above: Have a friend stand near the dog
and instruct him/her to say “come” and give her
a treat when she complies. Next, stand a short
distance from your friend and alternate saying
“come” and giving treats. This can grow
into a long-distance game of recall. It’s a great
way for your dog to interact, exercise and learn
to enjoy more people.
One of the reasons that “come” can be challenging to teach is that much of the time, it is used to
interrupt what a dog thinks is fun. For instance,
say your dog is running in the yard, barking
at the neighbor’s cat. You respond by yelling,
“Stop that and come in the house!” For the dog,
continuing to bark at the cat is a lot more fun
than responding to your stern tone of voice. So,
call your dog in a cheerful voice and reward her
generously when she comes.
To create a positive association with “come,”
don’t use it casually. “Come” can be a lifesaving
cue if your dog is in danger. Practice until it becomes a reflex for the dog.
Use a happy tone, be patient, and keep lessons short and frequent


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