Teaching your Puppy to “Come”
by Geoffrey English
Of all the tricks and commands you could teach your puppy, “come when called” is the most important. It keeps you from chasing around after a playful puppy trying to get him to come inside. It could prevent injury. It could save your dog’s life. Here are some different ways to train your puppy to “Come”.
Remember: “It’s all a game!” If your puppy is having fun, he’ll retain more of what you are trying to teach him. Puppies have very short attention spans. Keep training sessions short and rewarding. Only practice a few repetitions at first. Find a quiet spot with few distractions, grab a handful of treats and you’re ready to begin.
The first game is played with the puppy on a leash. Wander around a bit and wait for your puppy to get distracted. It won’t take long at all. When he isn’t paying attention to you, take a tiny treat, hold it at your knee, and say “Buddy, Come!” If Buddy comes right over to the treat, praise him and give him the treat.
If Buddy doesn’t come, don’t repeat the word “Come”. Instead, make kissy noises or whistle while taking a step backwards. If he comes to you, praise and reward him. Try it one more time. Next time, try to give the command in a voice that’s higher and more excited. As Buddy gets better, increase the distance by using a longer leash.
Hide And Seek
The next game requires two people and is played in the house. One person holds Buddy, while the other person “hides”. Make it very easy at first. Next, the person who is hiding says “Buddy, Come!”, and the person who is holding lets go. If Buddy finds you right away, give him a treat or a toy and lots of praise.
If he doesn’t find you, or he gets confused and wanders away, make kissy noises or whistle. Don’t say “come” again. When he finds you, praise and reward. Try it again. Make it easier this time. When he gets better, change your hiding place or take the game outside.
“Come” From Anywhere
The last game is played in a secure place and requires a little patience. This can be a very effective way to train a reliable “Come” if you practice often. Find a spot where you can pretend to ignore your puppy. Let’s say you’re on the couch. Buddy is just out of sight. Say “Buddy, Come!” in you’re most excited voice. If he comes right away, give him a tiny treat and praise and pet him. Now, pretend to ignore him. Don’t even look at him. When he gets bored and wanders out of sight, do the exercise again.
If Buddy doesn’t come right away, make kissy noise or whistle. Don’t repeat the command. Don’t wave the treat at him. When he comes to you, praise and reward. Then ignore and repeat. Once Buddy learns the game, change locations, make it random and begin doing it all over the house. Soon he’ll run to you no matter where you are in the house.
Only do a few of these exercises each training session. That doesn’t seem like much, but you can do several sessions each day. Be upbeat and excited every time your puppy comes to you. Use treats in the beginning. It helps you get the behavior and is a great motivator for most puppies.
Finally, never call your dog to you and then punish or yell at him. This will cause him to think twice about coming to you the next time he’s called. If Buddy has been a bad boy, it is better to simply let him in the house and say nothing, than to destroy all your hard work.