I’m sure we’ve all experienced at one time or another a dog that doesn’t listen. When your dog doesn’t come when called, it can be frustrating, embarrassing and in some cases, downright dangerous. Even the best trained dog can occasionally get distracted by an unusually interesting scent or an intense game of chase with a cat or squirrel, but we want our dogs to reliably come when called.
Since January is National Train Your Dog Month, it’s a good reminder to spend some time training or reinforcing those important commands like Come. The Come command not only helps build a strong bond between you and your dog, but it can be a lifesaver if you ever need to call your dog away from a dangerous situation.
If you have a puppy to train, great! Come is one of the first commands you’ll want to teach after teaching your puppy their name. Young puppies automatically like to follow you around, so it’s easier to train now before they become more independent. If you’ve adopted an older dog that doesn’t know or obey the Come command, the steps below will work well for your dog too. If you suspect your adopted dog may have had negative experiences with people in the past, you might have to work slower while you rebuild trust and help your pup learn that coming to you is a good thing. That leads me to the most important thing to remember when teaching your dog the Come command:
“The secret to teaching the Come command is to make your dog associate good things with coming to you. Every time your dog comes to you, it should be a positive experience.”
Let’s get started!
Teaching the Come CommandStand a short distance away from your dog, then get your dog’s attention by calling their name (kneel down if you have a small dog or young puppy). Say “Come!” in a happy and excited tone of voice. When your dog comes to you, give her a high-value treat and lots of praise. Wait until your dog starts to wander away and repeat the process. Work with your dog several times a day in short sessions.
Yes, I’m already prepared for your next question…
What if my dog doesn’t come to me when I give the command?
Try these tips to make yourself fun and interesting so your dog will be more likely to come towards you.
- Make sure your dog is not too far away from you at first. You’ll work on increasing the distance later.
- Try working with your dog on a leash if she wants to wander away instead of coming to you. Gently nudge her towards you when you give her the command.
- Most dogs love a game of chase and you can use that instinct to your advantage by excitedly running away from your dog as you give the command.
- Act interested in something on the ground to peak your dog’s curiosity and they’ll probably come to investigate.
- Use what motivates your dog. Most dogs are food motivated, but some may prefer affection or a favorite toy.
- Using a partner or multiple people, take turns holding the dog while the next person excitedly runs away from the dog then gives the Come command. The dog is then released and springs towards the running person for a treat and some praise.
- Most dogs love to play Hide and Seek and it’s a fun way to reinforce the Come command.
Mistakes to avoid
- Never punish or scold your dog when she comes to you. Avoid this common scenario: An owner calls his dog repeatedly and the dog happily ignores the command, which is frustrating, right? Then, when the dog finally decides to come, the owner reprimands or punishes the dog for not listening and failing to come when called. The mistake here is, the dog associates the scolding with coming to the owner, not with failing to listen and the result is a breakdown of trust with the owner. It’s easy to get frustrated or angry when your dog doesn’t listen, but always celebrate and reward your dog when she comes to you, even if she doesn’t listen right away or takes her good ole time getting to you.
- Don’t chase after your dog if she doesn’t come when called. It will quickly turn into one of her favorite games. Instead, run or walk away from your dog and have her chase you.
- Avoid saying the Come command repeatedly if your dog isn’t listening. Wait until she’s less distracted to call her again.
- Refrain from calling your dog to you for things she doesn’t like, such as trimming her nails or bath time. Simply go get her instead of calling her to something she views as negative.
Build on your dog’s success!
- Once your dog starts to understand the command, gradually increase the distance when calling her, then slowly begin working around distractions.
- Give your dog lots of praise and treats when she comes to you when around a high level of distractions.
- Avoid calling your dog away from situations when it may be difficult for her to obey, particularly early in the training process.
- When you have to call your dog away from something fun, such as interrupting playtime at the dog park, always give lots of praise and wait a short time before leaving so your dog doesn’t associate coming to you with ending the fun. Occasionally call your dog away from something fun, give her a treat, then send her right back to what she was doing.
- After your dog has learned to reliably come when called, still give praise and occasional surprise treats to reinforce how great it is to come to you.
- When Haley was learning the Come command, I combined it with clapping my hands twice after giving the command. Now, if I have to get her attention from a distance, I just clap my hands loudly instead of yelling the command.
- Since your dog’s vision is not as good as our human vision, try using a swinging arm movement along with the command if your dog is reluctant to come when called from a distance.
If you have a dog that doesn’t come when called, January’s National Train Your Dog Month is the perfect time to get started on your training routine! Do you have any tips or techniques for teaching your dog to come when called? Share them with us.