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Teaching Your Dog To Come: Prepare to put in the work

Phase one

First, I can’t stress this enough, STOP treating your dog like she knows what to do. Unless you’ve worked with a professional or have that one in a thousand awesome dog, I can assure you, your dog has no clue of the true meaning of “come”. Sure, she may sometimes be compelled by your high pitch yelling and outstretched fist full of food but that does not mean she understands the come command in its entirety.

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Begging doesn’t work

The come command means, come to me. Come to me immediately. Come to me quickly. Come to me no matter how interesting something you’re sniffing is. It takes an immense amount of work to get this command in the 90% success range. And I’ll be honest, this little blog is probably not going to get you there. But it’s a good start, and hopefully it will help you understand why it’s so hard. Understand this; your dog was not put on this earth to respond immediately to your requests. She has her own idea of what she’d like to do and coming to your boring self while she’s busy eating delicious rabbit poo doesn’t even make the top ten cut. You can’t do a few repetitions of this command and expect a trained dog. For a pet owner not working with a professional, it takes months. So do yourself a favor and stop saying the command when you know she’s not going to do it. Yelling, screeching, and pleading is not eventually going to teach her. Consistent repetitions, where YOU control the outcome, will put you on the path of long term success. 

Video support: Please note, I go over how to use a long line in this video, though I recommend a regular leash for beginners.

Equipment for first phase: six or ten foot leash, martingale or other collar, treat bag, high value treats (protein based like chicken or freeze dried liver), tennis shoes. Do NOT do this in dress shoes or flip flops.

Step One: say whatever command you plan on using, such as “Here!” in a bright, very audible voice.

Step Two: give the leash a very quick snap and release to get her attention. The leash must be slack in order to give a proper “Pop”.

Step Three: take off away from your dog. Don’t be lazy about it, really hustle away from her. Continue back until she catches you. note: if you have a naturally fast dog, you may not get far. If you have a slow dog, you’ll be burning more calories, yay for you.

*Step one, two and three should be very, very close together.

Step Four: reward very close to your body, conditioning her to come all the way. (do not make the dog sit, you are working on come, reward the come)

Additional tips: Don’t beg or praise in an attempt to get her to do it.  Praise because she is doing it right. Remember when you praise, You are saying “you’re doing it right!”. Don’t talk all nicey nicey if she’s stopped to munch on some trash. Give another pop while repeating the command.

Practicing while going on a walk is a great opportunity to work this command.

Do this in as many scenarios as possible, practicing when your dog is facing away from you, not looking at you. Progressively work in higher distraction areas until your dog is beating the pop (spinning and running right as she hears your command)

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Some common issues:

If your dog begins “sticking” to you and not leaving your side, just lessen the frequency of your command. For example, do ten commands throughout a 30 minute walk instead of fifty.

If your dog is constantly charging towards the end of the leash, increase the frequency of repetitions.

If your dog could care less about the pop or food and is just dragging you everywhere, you probably need a more “correcting” collar.

If your dog isn’t motivated by food, she’s likely overweight. Fix that. If she is one of the very few who really won’t take a treat even if it’s steak, just praise her and genuinely play with her when she gets to you.

Stay tuned for the next step to achieving a decent “come” command.

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Dec 21, 2021

Good to know that it could take months. We have a ways to go.

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