Coming when he’s called can be one of the most important things your dog ever learns. If he returns reliably on your command, you can help keep him out of any number of dangerous situations, from just plain running away to running in front of a car or into an encounter with a dangerous animal.
The first step to teaching your dog to come when called is to be sure he knows what it means. This seems fairly obvious, but many pet owners have difficulty communicating to the dog what exactly they want.
The key to making sure your dog understands is consistency. When you’re training a dog, always use the same command, and always be sure he responds. If you vary the command, the dog will be confused. If you let him get away with not doing what he’s told, he’ll assume it’s okay to just ignore you. Neither of these situations will bring you to a positive result.
One way to introduce a dog to the “come” command is to follow these steps:
1. Start in a safe environment, such as your living room or a fenced-in area.
2. Encourage the dog to come to you by speaking the command, “Come,” enthusiastically, and rewarding him with treats, petting, or play when he responds.
3. If the dog doesn’t respond to your enthusiastic tone of voice, use a lead to gently redirect his attention toward you until he responds to the command.
4. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog, until he can be recalled from several yards.
Some important things to remember:
1. Don’t take your dog off-leash in a non-enclosed area during any of these exercises unless you’re absolutely certain he’ll come when called.
2. Always reward your dog when he comes to you, even if you’re calling him because he’s done something bad. If you punish or correct him when he comes, you will undo months of work, because the dog will no longer associate a positive reward with obeying your commands.
3. Never let the dog ignore you. This, too, can undo much of your positive work.
Most of all, have fun, and let your training exercises be a time to bond with your dog, not a chore for either of you. Enjoy your dog’s company, and he’ll be that much more likely to respond to your training.