Effective Methods To Train Your Dog To Come
Before you begin, read “Are You Training Your Dog To Come or Not to Come?” , after which you can begin with the reward exercise of your dog coming to you and being rewarded. When you have a dog that knows that coming to you gets him wonderful things, you can begin these formal training sessions and games.
Before you start training a cue to Come (also referred to as a recall), carefully select the word and hand signal that you will train! The example uses “Come” but if your dog’s response to “Come” is to hesitate, ignore you completely, run away or go hide, we highly recommend that you simply find a different sound to call your dog with. Many dogs respond extremely well to a whistle, but can everyone in your family make that sound? You can still whistle, but use that as an added cue, and as a family train with a sound that is unique and will have no bad connotations from the dog’s perspective. We often use a formal cue, one that is trained and not used for our convenience, but saved for that once in a lifetime, I really mean it and the response in training is very consistent, and another, informal cue we use every day for the times we are calling the dog because it is convenient, not necessary. (And by necessary, we mean life and death type situations!)
Three Steps to a Reliable Recall
- Say Your Dog’s Name then Cue. “Rover, Come!”
- Say it clear, loud and once!
- Use a big hand signal that can be seen and looks enticing
- Prompting – This is what keeps the dog coming to you! Clap, cheer!
- Don’t repeat the name or the command. Find other things to say while you cheer your puppy in!
- Get you dog in close! Party!
- Fido should be so close he/she has to touch you to get treats
- Pet, gently grab collar
- Make coming to you more fun than anything!
Suggested Cue and Hand Signals
Come, Aki, Here, Front, To Me, Zuccini, 9whatever works best for you, just keep it consistent),and remember, hand signals need to be seen, so make it something your dog can pick out in a crowd or at a distance!
How to use it:
Cue: “Rover, Come!” In an excited voice.
Signal: Right arm straight up in the air or out to the side.
Release: “ALL DONE!”
“Rover, Come!” Big hand signal, think long term/long distance.
Prompt: hand clapping, (turn and clap, run away), luring, smooching, squealing, etc.
As Rover approaches…”YES!” and offer treat upon arrival – hold treat against your pantleg.
Handler lures SIT with food treat– do not hold treat out and away, you want the dog to SIT very close to you. Gently grasp Roveyour’s collar if necessary. Fade the lure as SIT becomes automatic.
Dog sits (you are silent, not verbal…this will become automatic with time and repetition.)
Release with “ALL DONE!”
Reward with tug toy for a game, praise, or another treat.
Things to be aware of:
- When you are training, observe what your dog is doing and decide if calling your dog to you would be more exciting to him than what he is currently engaged in and what the likelyhood is he’ll respond. If yes, call him, if not – DON’T!
- Randomly call your dog to you and reward with a play session!
- Precede all enjoyable activities with a recall! Teach your dog that Come is a predictor of great things!
- Do not say “come” when you are walking with your dog. He’s already beside you and has arrived. Save “come” for when you want him to stop what he’s doing and come to you.
- Your dog doesn’t need to be very distracted to start this.
- Keep the leash loose the entire time, don’t pull him to you with the leash, encourage him with your voice and the treat.
Practical training sessions…
Have 2 family members sit at opposite ends of a long hallway, calling the dog back and forth, (Rover, Come!”) each time rewarding with a food treat or brief tug of war game when puppy arrives. Have family or friends sit in kitchen doorway or around the room calling your pup, always rewarding with a treat or brief game of tug of war.
Hide & Seek
One person holds the dog while another person hides in the house. The dog is released after the hiding person calls “Rover, Come!” The puppy is now on a search and rescue mission! Reward enthusiastically when you are found!
Meanwhile, the other person can hide!
After several brief sessions and the puppy is enjoying these games, begin phasing out the prompts and the “you’re getting warmer” feedback, so the dog begins responding to the commands only. Fade the lure for the SIT as your dog naturally does it (do not cue the SIT). After response is reliable, begin a variable reinforcement schedule (slot machine payoff) with the food treats, always rewarding with praise and tug toys, balls, favorite toys or play with other dogs!
Always end the games while your puppy still wants to play and is interested. If you tire out your puppy, you will have a hard time getting him to want to play the next time.
Come With Distractions
The following exercises are designed to motivate your dog to come to you rather than others. Working with a long- line is advised as opposed to off leash. Remember when working with long-line that what the the dog is doing is important, not the leash.
Distractions with People/Things:
- You will need a partner to help you.
- Have the distracting person holding favored toys or special treats.
- You, the Handler have no treats or rewards on you.
- The dog is on leash.
- The Distractor shows the dog he has the goods, but does not relenquish anything to the dog. Hype it up, get the dog interested!
- Once the dog is fully intent upon the Distractor…Handler calls the dog in the usual manner. “Rover, Come!” Hand signal.
- The dog will likely ignore the Handler, pawing and jumping at the Distractor, who ignores all attempts from the dog to attain rewards.
- The Handler remains quiet for a minute.
- Give the dog time to think this through! He needs to learn that the only way to get what he wants is to respond to the CUE from the Handler.
- The moment the dog turns his head or makes eye contact with Handler, the Handler erupts with praise, encouraging dog (pat legs, back up, etc).
- Offer Treat upon arrival.
- The Distractor moves to the Handler
- Obtain SIT in front (silent, not commanded) Lure SIT if needed.
- Release “ALL DONE” while…
- Distractor gives Handler the toy or object used in step 5 which is then given to dog. (dog is no longer in STAY.)
- The Handler plays with dog with toy or gives Roiver the item the Distractor had.
- Dog learns that the way to get what he wants is to obey the Handler.
IF the dog comes to the Handler prior to the cue, ignore the dog. Switch between Handler and Distractor and utilize different people to be your distractors. The key to success here is repetition!
As a dog trainer, I believe that the most effective method of dog training revolves around teaching your dog what you want them to do, how to behave, how to act in their environment, and what appropriate behaviors are, under given circumstances and situations.