Come”

After your puppy recognizes, and begins responding to his name being called, then the “come” command takes priority as the first command to teach. Why? Because this one could save his life, save your sanity, and avoid you the embarrassment of running through the neighborhood in the middle of the night wearing little more than a robe and slippers, pleading for your dog to return.

If by chance, he is checking out the olfactory magic of the trash bin, the best way to redirect your dog is firmly command him to “come,” followed immediately by a reward when he complies. Petting, verbal praise, or play is an appropriate reinforcement and an effective redirecting incentive during this type of situation.

In order to grab your dog’s attention, no matter what activity he is engaged in, it is necessary to implement an effective verbal command. Unfortunately, the word “come” is a commonly used word that is spoken regularly during daily life, thus making it difficult to isolate as a special command word, so I suggest that a unique and infrequently used word be chosen for this. With my dog Axel, I use “jax” as my replacement word for come. For example, I say “Axel jax,” which replaces the standard, “Axel come,” or “Axel here.” When your dog hears this special cue word, he will recognize it as the word associated with the command to return to you and receive a special treat. However, there is nothing wrong with simply using “come” as your command word if you find it effective and natural.

Note: Choose a command word with one or two syllables, and one that you can easily say, because it will be difficult to change the substituted “come” command word later.

When training the come command outside, use a long check chord leash about 20 feet (six meters) or more, especially when you leave the yard and head to an open field or park. These leashes are also handy for field work, sports and tracking.

Here’s what to do-

– If you have chosen to use a unique “come” command, you can begin here. We will not use the clicker at this time. First, gather your assortment of treats such as bits of steak, bacon, or whatever your dog most covets.

Begin with the tastiest treat in hand, and speak the new command word, immediately followed by a treat. When your dog hears this new word, he will begin to associate it with a special treat. Keep repeating this exercise, and mix up the treats that you provide. Remember to conclude each training session by providing a lot of praise to your dog. Repeat for about ten repetitions then proceed onto the next step.

– Gather your clicker and treats, and then find a quiet, low distraction place so that both of you can focus. First, place a treat on the floor and walk to the other side of the room. Next, hold out a hand with a visible treat in it. Now, say your dog’s name to get his attention, followed by the command “come.” Use a pleasant, happy tone when you do this.

When your dog begins to move towards you, press the clicker, and praise him all the way to the treat in your hand. The objective of this is for him to ignore the treat on the ground and come to you. When he gets to you, treat him from your hand and offer some more praise and affection. Be sure and not click again, only give the treat.

Each time your dog comes to you, pet or touch his head and grab a hold of his collar before treating. Sometimes do this on top of the collar, and sometimes beneath his head on the bottom of the collar. This action gets your dog used to being held, so when you need to grab a hold of him by the collar he will not shy away or fight you.  

Do this 10-12 times, and then take a break. Make sure that your dog accomplishes the task by walking the complete distance across the room to you, while wholly ignoring the treat that you placed on the floor.

– For the next session, you will need the assistance of a family member. First, situate yourselves at a distance of about 5-6 paces opposite each other, and place a treat on the floor between the two of you. Each of you show your dog a treat when you say his name followed by “come.” Now, take turns calling your dog back and forth between the two of you. Treat and praise your dog each time he successfully comes all of the way to either of you, while ignoring the treat. Repeat this about a dozen times. The objective of this exercise is to reinforce the idea that coming when commanded is not only for you, but is beneficial to him as well.

– This time, grab your clicker. As before, put a treat on the ground, move across the room, and then call your dog’s name to get his attention, but this time hold out an empty hand and give the command. This will mess with him a little, but that’s okay, he’s learning. As soon as he starts to come to you, give him praise and when he reaches you, click and treat byusing the opposite hand that you were luring him. If your dog is not completing the distance to you, press the clicker as he begins to move closer to you, and the first time he completes the distance, give him a supersizedtreat serving (7-10 treats). Each additional time your dog comes all of the way to you; reward your dog with a regular sized treat serving. Do this about a dozen times, and then take a break.

– Keep practicing this exercise, but now call your dog using an empty hand. Using this technique over several sessions and days should eventually result in a successful hand signal command. Following your dog’s consistent compliance with this hand signal training, you can then take the training to the next step by phasing out the hand signal by using only a verbal cue. When shifting to the verbal cue training, reduce treating incrementally, first by treating one out of two times, then one out three times, followed by one out of four, five, six, and lastly without treating at all.

Note: It is important to treat your dog periodically in order to reinforce the desired behavior that he is exhibiting, as well as complying with the command you are issuing. Make sure your dog is coming when commanded; this includes all family members and friends. By the end of this section, your dog should consistently be obeying the hand signal and the verbal “come” commands successfully.

Let’s get complex

–  Now, by adding distractions we will begin to make obeying commands a more difficult task for your dog. The outcome of this training should result in better control over your pooch in times when there is distracting stimulus.

First, find somewhere where there are sights, sounds, and even smells that might distract your dog. Just about anything can serve as a distraction, here. You can intentionally implement distractions, such as having his favorite toy in hand, by having another person present, or even doing this training beside the half of roast ox that is on the rotisserie in the back yard. Indoors, distractive aspects of daily home life, such as cooking, the noise of the television, the doorbell, or friends and family coming and going can serve as distractions. Even move to calling your dog from different rooms of the house, meanwhile gradually introducing other distractions such as music from the stereo, groups of people and combinations of the sort. Of course, the outdoor world is a megamall of potential interruptions, commotions and interferences for your pal to be tantalized and diverted by.

– During this training exercise, I find it helpful to keep a log of not only how your dog is progressing, but also accounting for the different kinds and levels of distractions your dog is encountering.

Now, in the high stimulus setting, resume training using the previous set of learned commands. As before, begin with treats in hand, because in this instance, when necessary, the snacks will act as a lure for your dog to follow in order to help him focus, rather than as a reward. The goal is to dispense with the treats by gradually phasing them out, eventually only using the vocal command.

When outdoors with your dog, practice calling the command “come” when you and your dog are in the yard with another animal or person, followed by increasing and more complex distractions. Such as a combination of a person and animal together, then with multiple people conversing or while children are running around, and then you can even throw some toys or balls into the mix.

Eventually, move out onto the streets and sidewalks, introducing even busier locations, remembering to keep track of your dog’s progress as the situations become more and more distracting. The goal is that you want your dog to come every time you call “come,” no matter how much noise and movement is happening around him.

If your dog consistently begins to return to you seven or eight times out of each ten commands, regardless of the distractions, this shows that the two of you are making very good progress, and that you are well on your way to the ideal goal of nine out of ten times compliant. If your dog is sporting ten out of ten times, you may consider enrolling him at an Ivy League university, or paying a visit to NASA, because you’ve got yourself one special canine there.

We all want a dog that comes when you use the “come” command. Whether he is seven houses down the road, or just in the next room, a dog that comes to you no matter what he is engaged in, is a dog worth spending the time training. 

Interrupting Fetch Exercises, Hide & Seek, and the Decoy Exercise

Practice all of the following exercises with increasing distractions, both indoors and outdoors. Focus on practicing one of these exercises per session, eventually mixing up the order of the exercises as your dog masters each. Remember it is always important to train in a safe area.

Interrupting Fetch Exercises

Get an ample-sized handful of your BC’s favorite treat. Then, lob a ball or a piece of food at a reasonable distance, and as your dog is in the process of chasing it, call him by issuing the come command. If he comes after he gets the ball/food, give your dog a little reward of one piece of treat. If he comes before he gets the ball/food, give your dog a supersized (7-10) serving of treats.

If your dog is not responding to your “come” command, then throw the ball and quickly place a treat down towards his nose height while at the same time saying, “come”, when he comes to you click and supersize treat your dog. Then, begin phasing out the treat lure.

After you have thrown the ball/food over several sessions, it is time to change it up. Like the exercise prior, this time you will fake throwing something, and then call your dog. If your dog goes looking for the ball/food before he comes back to you, give a small treat. If he comes immediately after you say, “come,” give the supersized treat portion. Repeat this exercise 7-10 times.

Hide & Seek

While you are both outside, and your dog is distracted and does not seem to know you exist, quickly hide from him. When your dog comes looking for you, and eventually finds you, click and treat your dog in addition with lots of love and praise. By adding a little drama, make it seem like an extremely big deal that your dog has found you. This is something that you can regularly practice and reward.

The Decoy

One person calls the dog; we will call this person the trainer. One person tries to distract the dog with food and toys; we will call this person the decoy. After the trainer calls the dog, if the dog goes toward the decoy, the decoy person should turn away from the dog and neither of you offer rewards. When the dog goes towards the trainer, he should be rewarded by both the trainer and the decoy. Repeat 7-10 times.

HELPFUL HINTS

– Let your dog know that his coming to you is always the best thing ever, sometimes offering him supersized treat rewards for this behavior. Always reward by treating or praising, and when appropriate you can add play with a favorite toy or ball.

– Never, call your BC for something he might find unpleasant. To avoid this disguise the real purpose. If you are leaving the field where he has been running, call your dog, put on the leash, and play a little more before leaving. If you are calling your dog to get him into the bath, provide a few minutes of affection or play instead of leading him straight into the bath. This will pacify and distract from any negative association with coming to you.

– You are calling, and your puppy is not responding. What do you do now? Try running backwards away from your dog, crouch, and clap, or show your dog a toy or food. When he comes, still reward him even if he has stressed you out. Running towards your dog signals to play catch me, so avoid doing this.

– If your dog has been enjoying some unabated freedom off lead, remember to give him a C/T when he checks in with you. Later you can phase out the C/T and only use praise.

– You should practice “come” five to ten times daily, ongoing for life. This command is one of those potentially life-saving commands that helps with all daily activities and interactions. The goal is that your dog will come running to you, whether you are in or out of sight, and from any audible distance. As owners, we know that having a dog that obeys this command makes dog things less stressful.

~ Paws On – Paws Off ~