How to Train Your Dog to “Come”

The “Come” command is going to be the most important safety command that you teach your dog. Not only does this command teach your dog to be where you want them to be, but it is an essential command to keep them out of dangerous situations that may arise in the future.

The come command is very powerful and will take longer than the sit and down commands took to master. However, once your dog gets the hang of it, you will be very glad that you invested the time into this command. I still tell my kids to this day that the dogs listen to me better than they do.

The most important face to remember about the come command, is that it is an instant command. You need to train your dog to come to you the second that you say that word. You do not want them to get in the habit of you saying it 6 times and then they finally make their way over to you. An instant response is what we are after here. No matter where they are or what they are doing they come to you.

Like I just mentioned, this will not happen overnight. It is very difficult for dogs to master the instant response part of this command word. Why? Well, there are several factors that we have working against us as trainers.

  1. Your dog might not realize what the word “come” means.
  2. You may have waited a long period of time before training your dog, and they are use to ignoring you and doing what they want, when they want to.
  3. You may be fighting against the natural nature of your dog. They may be following a scent or chasing an animal when you say “come”.
  4. If you adopted your dog from a shelter, their prior owner might have hurt the dog after the come command. I have seen it many times with dogs. An owner will get mad, and call come, the dog comes, and then the owner says “bad dog” and hits them. They are punishing them for the action that the dog was doing before they said come, but to the dog, they are being punished for coming.

This brings me to my number one rule of dog training. Please, never punish your dog by being physically violent. There are much better ways to control behavior than hitting.

Before you get started with the come command, keep in mind that it will take a while to master this command. Praise your dog when he does come to you. It may take a little while longer than you wanted it, but he will pick up speed on response time as he gets more use to the command.

The Come Command

Step 1 – Praise your puppy every time he comes over to you on his own. This is natural for puppies to run over to you. This association of coming to you and praise is an important building block.

Step 2 – Once your puppy is coming over to you on his own, start watching for when he begins to come over to you. Right before he reaches you say “come.”

Step 3 – Try and begin the association between the action and the word. Bend down on the floor and say “Buster come” (substitute Buster for your dog’s name). You can tap the floor lightly, hold a toy, or a treat to lure them over if they need a nudge in the right direction.

Step 4 – If you have another family member or a neighbor that can help, you can use the back and forth method. Place yourself on one side or the room, and the other person opposite you. Call your dog over “Buster come”. When he does come, reward him. Then have the other person do the same thing.

Most dogs really like this game, but they can get really fast on you. Sometimes they run back and forth so fast, that you don’t have time to say the command before they arrive. If this is the case, move into a larger room.

Step 5 – Once your dog has mastered this game it is time to move outside. This is the location where the come command is normally used for safety reasons. Put your dog on his leash and say come as you walk backwards. Praise your dog when he comes to you.

Step 6 – Attach a long line onto your dogs collar. These can be found at pet stores or even a hardware store. This allows the dog a sense of freedom, but really they are still on a “leash”. Say “come” and praise your dog when he comes over.

Step 7 – Go into your backyard with the person who helped you in step 4. Stand about 40 feet from your assistant. Allow your dog to wander around the yard without his leash on. Throw a ball near your assistant. As soon as you begin your throwing action, say “Buster, come!” This is a true test of the command. Naturally your dog wants to chase down the ball. However, they should listed to your come command. If they listen and come to you, praise him. If he heads straight to the ball, have your assistant scoop up the ball before your dog gets to it. Have your assistant then hold the ball and ignore your dog.

Remember that the come command should be something positive to your dog. He should want to come to you. Make sure that you are using the come command throughout the day, so he can get use to it in many different situations.

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