Yesterday, I gave you some tips for teaching your dog to “leave it!” – a command that can potentially save your dog from disaster. Today I am going to give you tips for teaching another important command: “come.”
This is the mother of all commands. If your dog knows nothing else, at least get this one down pat. It takes some time to perfect, but stick with it and you’ll definitely reap the rewards.
To teach your dog to come, start with him on a regular collar and 6-foot leash. Command “come” and run backwards away from your dog. When your dog catches up to you, reward and praise like it was the best thing he’s ever done. (Hint: running away from your dog makes him think you want him to chase you, which dogs love to do. If you teach this exercise by running away from your dog, he will think that “come” is the most fun command there is!)
When your dog has mastered the 6-foot leash come, repeat this exercise with a 25 or 30-foot training leash. This will be tough, but practice makes perfect.
After that, it’s time to take the show on the road. You will only get a solid “come” command if you practice, practice, practice – especially amid distractions! So take your 30-foot leash to the park (the more squirrels the better), on a hike, or to the beach. Call your dog back to you randomly, then treat, release to go play again. If your dog gets distracted, don’t give up; it’s just part of training.
When your dog is an expert at 30-foot recalls in many locations, take training to the next level. Go to a safe place where you can let your dog off-leash, and practice “come” without the leash. Make sure you’ve done plenty of practice sessions off-leash before you really need this command in real life.
When your dog has mastered the “come” command, it can save him from wandering off and getting lost, running into traffic, stepping into a bear trap – all sorts of situations that could spell disaster.
Dog training is all about practicing for when you need it, so think of practice as a way of life. If and when your dog is in a real situation where they could get into trouble, they will just think of it as another practice session. The more practicing you do, the better results you are going to get, so get out there today and practice, practice, practice!