There are plenty of commands you’ll want to teach your dog to follow, from sit to stay, fetch to roll over, lay down to “high five,” and just about everything in between.
But while you might not be able to teach your dog every command on your list, there’s one command that you absolutely need to teach her—and that’s to come when she’s called.
Teaching your dog to come when called isn’t just a training issue. It’s a safety issue. You need to know that if your dog is ever wiggles out of their leash or escapes your yard, she’ll come running back as soon as you tell them to.
But how, exactly, do you do that? How do you train your dog to come when you call them?
Positive Reinforcement: The Key To Teaching Your Dog To Come When Called
If you’ve ever wondered “how do I train my dog to come to me?” there are a few things to keep in mind—particularly when it comes to how to reinforce your dogs behavior.
You can’t expect to bring your pup home, yell “come,” and expect them to stop what they’re doing and run towards you. That’s not the way it works! In order for the “come” command to be effective, you need to lay a foundation. And that foundation starts with positive reinforcement.
In order for your dog to come when they’re called, they need to a) associate the word “come” with the action of running towards you, and b) needs to associate that with some kind of reward. Once they makes the connection between the command, the action, and the reward, they’ll hear the command (“Come!”) and perform the action (running towards you) in order to get the reward.
Using positive reinforcement to train your dog to come is important—but it’s equally important to avoid negative reinforcement. If you want your dog to come when called, it’s important to never, ever do anything your dog might perceive as negative once they obey the command. That can include things that are obviously negative (like scolding her) and things that maybe aren’t as obviously negative (like putting them in their crate or taking away a toy).
So, in a nutshell, when you yell “come!” and your dog obeys, they should get a reward. Anything else will build a negative association with the command—and discourage your dog from following it.
(Side note: If you’ve already built some sort of negative association with the “come” command, that’s ok! Just choose another word to use when you want your dog to come to you, like “here!” or “let’s go!”)
Alright, so now that you understand the importance of positive reinforcement (and of avoiding negative reinforcement), let’s talk about how, exactly, to answer the question “how do I train my dog to come to me?”
To train your dog to come, there are two things you’ll need—a training partner and some delicious dog treats.
Have your training party gently hold your dog while you sit on the floor about 10 feet away. Call your dog’s name excitedly and have your training partner let get of your pup. When your pup runs towards you, shower them with praise and give them a nice, yummy treat.
After you’ve gone through the process a few times, add the “come” command and repeat the call-come-reward cycle. As your dog catches on, gradually increase the distance between you.
Once your pup understands the training game, you’re going to want to incorporate the command into your pup’s daily routine. For example, if they’re laying on the couch in the living room and you’re cooking dinner in the kitchen, tell them to “come” and reward them when they do. The point is, you want to get your dog comfortable with the “come” command long before you ever have to use it (like if they’re in danger or get off their leash).
The more you practice “come” with your dog—and the more rewards you give her—the more comfortable she’ll get with the command. And once she’s comfortable with the command and actually comes when you call her? Then you know no matter what the situation, all you have to do is yell “come”—and your pup will be right there by your side.
***As mentioned, treats are one of the most important parts of training your dog to come. You’ll need a steady supply of treats to get them good and trained. And the best way to keep refreshing that supply? BarkBox.
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