If your dog will not come, do you ever consider that could turn into your worst nightmare?
What if your dog does not obey your come command at that critical, life-saving moment? Talk about frightening!
Not coming when called can also produce some embarrassing moments when your dog gets out the front door and digs in your neighbors flower bed. There you are out in the front yard yelling your head off and your dog will not come. Next comes the chase or keep-away game.
Because of these and many more reasons, every dog owner wants to have a dog that will stop on a dime, turn and come when called every time, even around high distractions.
That would make you proud and feel safe, right?
But on some level you know “this is gonna take a lot of work.” You also know that even though you might have taken a “big box” pet store group obedience class to learn the come command, you are reluctant to give it a whirl off-leash because everything was in the store and on leash.
And, maybe somewhere deep inside you know you really haven’t practiced that much.
So, what does it take to have a great come command?
There are a number of things that make up a great come command. Here’s a list of some of the important elements to having a great come command. Let’s take a look:
1. Having a proper working relationship with your dog: One of respect and trust.
2. Obedience training the come command
3. Practice, practice and more practice
4. Breed of dog can play a role too
Let’s break down each element and see what it’s about.
Having a proper relationship
If you want your dog to be a better listener, especially around distractions, having the respect and trust of your dog is priceless.
What’s this mean?
• This means that you have set a solid foundation in your dog’s mind about what your rules and expectations are in your home and elsewhere.
• You’ve created a partnership with your dog that is mutually beneficial. He knows what you want and he gives it to you.
• You know what he wants, and needs and he gets it because he knows your rules and always gives before he receives anything from you.
Obedience training the come command
In addition to properly teaching the come command, there are other factors that will influence your dog’s ability to “get it” quickly.
This is important: Never call your dog to you for something he considers a “negative” like giving him a correction or crating him or giving him a bath if he doesn’t like that experience.
Building a fast start is critical. You want to train your dog so that when you say, “Fluffy here!” he stops immediately, turns and makes good eye contact.
The follow up to a fast start is building speed in the recall or come command. The faster your dog is running to you, the less distracted he will be with distractions in the environment.
A good finish is making sure you train your dog to sit when he gets to you. The sit can be followed by a release like “okay!” This is important because some dogs will come to you but as you go to grab their collar to leash them up, they will dodge your hand grab and dart off playing that keep-away game.
Sometimes it’s good to add a collar-touch at the end as well. When your dog has been taught to come and sit, then touch his collar before praising and treating him.
Regular daily obedience training with your dog is critical. The repetitive work on daily sits and downs will eventually foster better discipline in the come command.
Practice, practice, practice
This is where dog training begins to break down for many dog owners. They simply don’t get in enough practical practice, especially around distractions that are important to them.
You’ve heard that old real estate saying: “Location, location, location.” You could really apply that to your dog training as well.
Here’s an example
Let’s say you have an 8 month old Golden retriever and a lake house in the hill country. Your goal is to be able to give your dog a great off-leash experience when you go to your lake house. Who wants to be bothered with keeping your dog on leash, right?
You begin your practice in town so that when you get to your weekend lake house you can turn your dog loose. Now let’s say that day comes and you turn your dog loose at the lake house. You are a little nervous but he seems to be having fun.
Then the unexpected happens. He crosses a fence line onto someone’s property so you try to call your dog. He’s having no part of it. In fact, he’s having too much fun rolling in a newly found cow patty! I see a bath in his future!
What’s wrong with this picture? You haven’t practiced in that location and you haven’t practiced in that location on a long line.
Learning to come at home doesn’t mean your dog will necessarily come at your lake house.
You must practice in as many different locations as possible. Location, location, location! You should also include relevant distractions.
Someone once asked me: “How do I know my dog knows the come command?” I told them that if their dog will come to them 5 times in a row around distractions in 5 different locations on a long line, then there is a solid chance their dog knows the come command on a long line.
Those locations should be places where you frequent with your dog and you expect him to always come when called. Consistency and repetition breed habit in dogs.
Breed of dog can play a role too
Some breeds are just easier to train. And, the traits for which dogs were originally bred may influence the ease or difficulty of your dog training process.
What I mean is that how readily the obedience training will generalize (be understood in different locations and around different distractions) can be influenced by your dog’s breed.
For example, it may be easier to teach your Golden retriever to come when called in comparison to a scent hound, like a Bassett, whose natural trait is to keep his nose to the ground and possibly get distracted halfway back to you. That could be very frustrating.
Just remember that the ease of training your dog on some commands will be largely determined by the extent to which the task is in harmony with his natural born instincts.
Also remember that it takes about 6 weeks of daily training in locations relevant to you, like your lake house, for the command to finally become permanent. Age, lack of maturity and temperament of your dog can influence your training as well.
So, have patience, don’t loose your cool and above all have fun.
We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from. I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions on this. I’m here to help.
Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 9000 clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have, easy step-by-step process to helping your dog. Be the dog owner your dog needs to be a great dog. Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.