So You Want a Dog: Getting Pups to ‘Come’.

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By: Lynne Frady
By: Lynne Frady

Now that pup is home and settled into her new routine it’s time to get some training under our belt.  To me the most important command you can teach your dog is ‘come’ or ‘here’, which ever word you prefer. I have seen this command save dogs lives.

For instance, you and your buddies go on a pheasant hunting trip in North Dakota and the only place to park your truck is along the road. You unload your dog and it slips the lead and starts to take off across the road. In some peoples mind, no harm no foul, there is no traffic.  But what if there was an oncoming truck?  If you called your dog would it stop in its tracks and coming barreling back or would it give you the paw and just keep going? With the correct training it will stop immediately and come back, another dog saved.

To begin the ‘come’ command we begin the foundation for it the day we bring pup home with the food bowl.  Every time you feed the dog you are going to make a big deal out of it. Pour in the dry kibble, shake it around call their name and the command ‘come’.  Then set it down and let them eat.  This associates the word come with food which is a wonderful thing.

As we progress this command we will begin to do ‘recalls’ while we are walking.  The way this is done is visualize walking on the beach making footprints in the sand.  When you call your dog you will call their name give the command ’come’ and pop the collar toward you, which will be collar level. You will run backwards in the footstep you just made.  Show the dog a tasty morsel that you will have in your right hand as you are moving backward and you will lure the dog to you.   When the dog gets to you, you give it the treat then step forward into your dog to turn them back around in the heel position and keep moving.   This will be done four million times a week. Well maybe not that many but you get the point. You cannot do to many recalls.

For treats I use string cheese or hot dogs, never dog food.  This is the only time the dog gets this delicious treat. Think of it like giving candy to a child. If they only get it now and then for something done well you better believe they will do double back flips for it. On the other hand if they get candy all the time, it’s no big deal and they will get to the point that they know they are going to get it anyway so why bother coming for it.

At this point we want the dog to associate our ‘come’ command  with food and the collar correction. We want our pup to understand that every time we say ‘come’ they get a delicious treat. You do know about Pavlov’s dog right, ring a bell get a treat, same concept.

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Here is the kicker, if you can’t reinforce the command don’t use it. By reinforce I mean if the dog is loose and you can’t make it come to you with the collar and lead and treat, don’t tempt fate.  Dogs can’t have options especially in the early stages of training. Everything must be black or white, no grey area.  These commands need to be so imbedded it’s like they read your mind before you say them. The only way to achieve this is by repetition, just like you saying 2×2=4 over and over till it’s easy, same with training. When your pup catches on then you go to a long line and work with that.

When your pup is out playing under your supervision on the long line and they have all their attention on something else, pop the collar and give the command ‘come’. You have full control of the situation and here she comes to get the delicious treat.  In no time this game will be 100% effective so she will come every time you call.

Now, let me give you an example of what not to do.  Pup has decided that she must hit the potty place at 5am. You, in your most holy and comfy pj ‘s decide that it will be alright just this once to take pup out without the leash, she will just go out and do her business and right back to bed we will go. What could go wrong…….so out we go ahhh straight to the potty place she squats and all of a sudden that nose goes up those ears go forward and the sweet smell of whatever just went through the yard fills her nose and we’re off to the races!  Full blown rocket dog. You would think it was a hound on a fresh coon track. Let the Games Begin!  You have no leash, you have no treats and she is headed to the bad side of town at a dead run with you hot on her heels. You’re yelling the command ‘come’ and she turns and starts toward you, she gives the air a quick sniff, oops you have no treats and there was no collar correction. She gives you the stink eye and she is off and running through the neighborhood.  You chase her for 30 minutes through places you didn’t know existed. As you stand there heaving for your last dying breath with your hands on your knees she comes out from behind the trash cans and comes to you. She looks at you as if to say, geez you look a fright, your hair is all over your head and you’re dripping with sweat. Did you get those pj’s in 1980 or is it my imagination?

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At this point you are ready to commit murder and you know you will be the topic at the water cooler because everyone in your neighborhood got up to see what all the commotion was.  Understand that the dog came to you, even if it did take a turn for the worst. Whatever you do don’t scold or whip the dog if you do it will never come to you again.  Just get her by the collar and take her home.  On the other hand if you had to do a flying mare off the top of the trash can on the dog and tackle it then we can have a good ole southern come to Jesus meeting with the dog.

Moral of the story, don’t take your dog out in the middle of the night or any other time off lead until your 100% sure they will come back.  Also make sure you leave treats by the door just in case you’re not up to another moonlight run.

For video: https://www.facebook.com/lynne.frady/videos/10208490963405210/

Until next time, keep your eyes on the sky and your nose in the wind!

For more please go to: Lynne Frady