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How To Train Your Dog to Come When Called

Nicole Cosgrove

Teaching your dog commands is essential on several scores. Of course, it’s fun with some tricks, such as fetching your slippers–without chewing on them, either! Others are imperative, like stop, stay, and come. It can mean the difference between an unfortunate event and saving a life. Think of telling your dog to stay as a reckless driver is rounding the corner.

You can start teaching your pet basic tricks and commands from day one after bringing your pet home. They are just beginning to bond with humans at this point, making them malleable and agreeable to the process. Short words like come and shake work well. While dogs are capable of understanding some things we say, it helps to keep it simple.

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Importance of Training

Doberman Pinschers working dog_Yama Zsuzsanna Márkus, Pixabay
Image Credit: Yama Zsuzsanna Márkus, Pixabay

Training serves several purposes. First and foremost, it establishes communication between you and your pup. That can reinforce your bond, especially if you make it stronger with a treat. It’s helpful during vet exams, particularly since many familiar ones are the common language between dog owners.

It’s also essential for the person that happens upon your pup. Encountering an unfamiliar dog is disconcerting. Being able to communicate with the pooch with commands that everyone knows can relieve the tension in these situations. That’s particularly true if you live in a rural area where a pet is likely to roam the surrounding land.

Ease of Training

shar-pei dog_Christel SAGNIEZ_Pixabay
Image Credit: Christel SAGNIEZ, Pixabay

Many factors contribute to whether it’s easy or more challenging to teach a dog to come. First, there is the breed. Some are more intelligent than others, thanks to selective breeding. Think of Border Collies, German Shepherds, and other pups that typically show well in the competitive show circuit.

Other breeds are less agreeable, particularly ones that often act independently in their jobs, such as herding and hunting dogs. They usually have excellent problem-solving skills because their job depends on them. Other pets are more aloof by nature, such as Chow Chows. Some, like Siberian Huskies, are focused on quite different tasks.

There are also practical considerations, such as the pet’s age and individual characteristics, especially if you have a rescue pup. Dogs that have already been exposed to training are usually more receptive to expanding their repertoire. That’s something to consider when scrutinizing a puppy’s early upbringing with different breeders or sellers.

Other tips for training success include:
  • Limit treats to training aids.
  • Be consistent with the commands.
  • Use gestures with the command work to cover all situations.
  • Practice, practice, and practice again.
  • Only use your pet’s name in positive circumstances.

The essential thing is to make training a positive experience for you and your dog. Those associations will make your job easier and help cement these commands in your pup’s memory. If your pet doesn’t follow through correctly, refrain from punishing it. Discipline to control unwanted behavior is one thing. Training is another animal altogether.

The supplies you’ll need are a leash, preferably a retractable one, and some treats. You’ll find them a more powerful motivator if it’s something different than your pup’s usual yummy. It’ll make a stronger impression on your pet to help the lessons stick better.

1. Start practicing in a small indoor room.

playing with dog_Olena Yakobchuk_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

It’s best to start your training indoors. There are fewer distractions so that both of you can focus on the task at hand. Think of it as beginning with training wheels. We suggest practicing with just you and your dog in the room.


2. Face your pet and slowly back away as you say come.

Dog owner_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

The point of this approach is to keep things calm so that it isn’t playtime. We suggest saying the command only once and not using your pet’s name. The reason for the latter is that the chances are you use it for other things that have nothing to do with what you’re teaching your pup now. The goal is to teach your pooch this command.


3. Make sure your dog reaches you all the way.

Havanese dog_ralfdeon, Pixaba
Image Credit: ralfdeon, Pixabay

Let’s face it. Your pet may seem confused at first until the penny drops, and it figures out what’s expected. If your pup stalls halfway to you, take another few steps back as you repeat the command. You can use it with a hand signal or a clicker as added reinforcement.


4. Reinforce the goal.

woman hugging dog_Christin Lola, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Christin Lola, Shutterstock

You need to do two things if your pet has made it all the way to you. First, take hold of its collar to reinforce the point of the command. That teaches your pup to learn that come means walking to you and standing by your side. Second, it’s treat time! Give your dog its reward, along with some lavish praise for a job well done.


5. Rinse and repeat.

dog training outdoor_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

Practice just a few times the first time with the lesson. After all, only 10% of your pup’s diet should come from treats. After a while, it may just seem like a game to your pet, anyway. The key is to repeat it frequently until your dog gets it and can graduate to the outdoors. In the meantime, you can continue to practice with other people in the room.


6. Take it outdoors.

dog training outdoor_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

Ideally, you have a fenced-in yard. If not, the retractable leash we mentioned earlier will come in handy. We understand that it’s a distraction in itself. Your pet may assume it’s time for its daily walk instead of training. The process is the same that you did indoors only your dog is on its leash for the safety factor. Don’t forget the treat and praise! Exposing your pup to new situations will also make it less fearful.


7. Incorporate training into your daily walks.

man walking dog_Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

When it seems like your pup is getting it, it’s an excellent time to try it in different scenarios, such as you’d encounter on a walk in the neighborhood. It’ll also improve your pet’s concentration to repeat the command with distractions around the both of you. However, pick your moments carefully. Sometimes, greeting your pup’s canine buddies trumps training.


8. Increase the distance between you and your pet.

dutch-shepherd-dog_Ksenia-Raykova_shutterstock
Credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

Increasing the distance takes the command and training to the next level. However, it’s a vital step in the process. Think of those times when you’ll need your dog to respond without hesitation. You can continue the lessons indoors and outdoors to reinforce them. That makes the retractable leash handy again.


9. Training never stops.

dog training outdoor_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

No matter how intelligent your pet is, it’s essential to keep repeating its lessons regularly. Reserving treats just for training is an excellent way to ensure that your pup doesn’t forget its training. It’s also a time to bond with your dog. There can’t be too much of that time!

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Final Thoughts

Teaching your dog commands isn’t a difficult process. Just remember that your pup is young. Training is a whole new world to your pet that goes beyond playing fetch or games of tug-of-war. Most likely, your pooch won’t get it the first time. It may do fine a couple of times before it feels like you’re starting at step one again. It goes with the territory.

Training is a vital part of pet ownership. It helps curb unwanted behavior and encourages your pup to do what you want, especially commands like stay and come. Your attitude and dedication to the task will decide how successful you are. Most dogs are eager to please their human companions. All it takes is patience and persistence to master these tasks.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.