Teaching My Dog to Come When Called

I am really frustrated with my dog.  Just as soon as I think I have trained him go come to me when I ask, he ignores me completely or I have to say it over and over again.  I must be missing something.  What am I doing wrong?

This is a common complaint that we hear many times when we visit our clients for the first time.  They think that their dog understands “come” if he comes to them a few times.  Now, when the dog is at the dog park or in the back yard, he completely ignores them.  The client normally gets mad and yells at the dog.

It is obvious that this method does not work.  In order to understand what will work, we have to understand how our dogs learn.  Dogs learn through repetition and consistency.  We could compare this to the same way we learned our times tables.  Every time we “flipped the card”, the same answer would be on the other side.  Eventually, we didn’t have to flip the card because we knew what was on the other side. 

To relate this to our dog’s training, we have to make sure that every time we give the command “come”, out dog will go to us.  With that said, let me explain, exactly, what you must do to assure that your dog understands and consistently obeys you when you tell him to “come”:
  • Have your dog in the house with a six foot leash.  Make sure that you are in a calm and quiet environment.  Go down low and say “come” in your regular voice.  If your dog doesn't come, give the leash a slight tug.  Once your dog comes to you, praise him in a high voice and stand up.
  • Leave the leash on your dog and just walk around the room without paying attention to him.  Next, go to the end of the leash, put your foot on it, stoop down, grab the leash, and tell your dog to “come”.
  • Repeat the above process until your dog will always come without the need to give the leash a tug.
  • Now, switch the six foot leash with a twenty foot training lead.  Use about ten feet of the lead and have the rest wrapped up.  Go down low and say “come” from ten feet in your regular voice.  If your dog doesn't come, give the lead a slight tug, repeating the tug until he comes to you. 
  • Repeat the above step until you no longer have to tug on the lead to have your dog obey you.  Extend the training lead to fifteen feet and repeat the process.
  • Extend the training lead to twenty feet and repeat the process.
  • Now, take your dog to the back yard.  Repeat everything you have done above with both the six food leash and twenty foot training lead.

Now you have your dog consistently coming to you outside.  Since you aren't tugging on the leash to get your dog to obey, it has now become unnecessary.
  • Continue telling your dog to come to you, but do not hold the leash anymore. 
  • Now, have someone unhook the leash from your dog and tell him to come.  He should come to you without the need of the leash.

What you have done is to program your dog in a consistent and repetitive manner.  You set the scene so that every time your dog heard “come”, he went to you.  You initially used the leash to assure the outcome.  As the programming took hold, the leash became superfluous and could be removed.  If you have any questions, we are always available at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.


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