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How to get your dog to come to you

How to get your dog to come to you

by Danette Johnston / Special contributor

Posted on November 15, 2011 at 11:13 AM

The most common complaints I hear from my clients is “How do I get my dog to come to me?” and “How do I get him to walk nicely on the leash.” Let’s start with the recall…

Getting Your Dog to Come

Consistent recall from your dog can literally mean his life or death. Though it’s the most important command we teach our dogs it is also often, the most ignored.

Here are the five most important tips to remember for getting a great recall:
1.   When you are teaching your dog a recall, never say the word “come” unless your dog is on a leash or headed straight for you. Otherwise, he will hear you say it (trust me, he DID hear you) but may choose to ignore you thus deeming the command optional.
2.   When your dog comes to you, you are HAPPY – no matter what he just did or how long it took you to get him back to you. If you yell at him when he comes to you, he will definitely think twice about coming to you again.
3.   Continue to treat your dog with a high value reward for a long time. This is not something to start intermittently rewarding for quite a while. You want him to know it is always good when he comes to you, he will get something good and may even get to go play/sniff/run again!
4.   Don’t call your dog to “come” if you’re going to have him do something he doesn’t want to do like get a bath, toenail trim or to leave the park. You may need to simply go get him for those tasks.
5.   It’s never too late! If you have been saying the word “come” and it is now being ignored go ahead and start over using a new word such as “here” instead.

Recall Training Tips

There are two ways to teach your dog to come: on-leash and off-leash. On-leash is great for public arenas and class practice but off-leash recall training is often more effective (not to mention more realistic!).

•    Have your dog on a long leash
•    Put your dog in a “sit”, “down” or “stand”
•    Tell them to “stay” (hand signal=stop sign to the face)
•    Back up – start with a short distance and gradually move further away
•    Release them with “ok” and tell them to “come”
•    If they don’t come you can reel them in on the leash.

Off leash:
•    Start in a small enclosed area (inside your house or yard)
•    Call your dog to you by saying anything BUT the word “come” – say “over here”, “let’s go”, call his name, whistle, make a crazy sound, fall to the ground, wave your hands in the air etc. You may need to get animated to entice your dog to you.
•    When you dog starts running towards you can encourage him with  “good come” and reward with a yummy treat.
•    Repeat this as you extend your distance and increase the distraction level meaning, if you started in the house now do it in the back yard, then at an enclosed off–leash area and so on.
•    Continue to call your dog (saying anything BUT “come”) in intervals less than 2 minutes (at 20 sec., 1 min., 30 sec., etc.)
•    Each time he is headed toward you encourage him with “good come”.  As he gets to you, gently grab his collar (this way he doesn’t learn to come to you and stay just out of reach), while giving him a yummy treat and then release him “ok, go play”. Repeat!

Often, we only tell our dogs to come when we are taking them away from something they like. With these training tips, your dog learns to come to you, get something yummy and may STILL get to go play.

Danette Johnston, a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) in the state of Washington and a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT), owns and operates Dog’s Day Out, a dog training and day care facility in Seattle. She has published articles on dog day care and dog-on-dog interactions for The Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). She has lectured on dog behavior to Veterinary Technicians and students at the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians conference. Danette is also a Licensed Canine Good Citizen evaluator for the AKC and has worked as a Delta Society Pet Partner’s (animal assisted therapy) Instructor and Team (with her dear departed dog Georgia). She shares her home with two cats, one dog, a preschooler and a very tolerant husband.