Top Six Training Problems Solved Part 3 – Training a reliable ‘come’

3. Training a reliable ‘come’


‘Come’ is probably the single most important behaviour your dog will ever learn so it is worth taking the time to train thoroughly each of the several components which make up this exercise.

Step 1: Attention!  – or your name means “look at me”

Make sure your dog understands that whenever he hears his name he should look at you.    Start by saying your dog’s name whenever he does look at you –  this “labels”  the behaviour of looking at you with your dog’s name.  The next step is to call your dog’s name and see if he turns to look at you – if he does immediately reward with praise, a treat or a game. It is important that there is a positive consequence when he hears his name.  You don’t want your dog to ‘come’ on his name  but rather  to give you attention because a command or ‘cue’ will follow.  For example you may say   “Rover Stay”  rather than “Come” .  Your dog’s name should only mean “tune in – I’m about to ask you something ” and not any specific behaviour in itself.


Step 2: “Come” is a position close to you.

Teach your dog that ‘come’ is the human name for a position close to you with your hand on his collar (so you may attach the lead).  Hold your dog close and in a pleasant but firm manner say “Come” just as you would in the park and follow immediately with a treat.  Repeat frequently at different times and in different locations.  Never give your dog a treat unless you are holding his collar.  This is a safety issue which prevents creating a dog who comes close to you, perhaps grabs a treat but stays just outside the “gotch-ya” zone.


Step 3: “Come” on  lead

While walking on lead, surprise your dog by suddenly saying his name followed by the word “Come” and move quickly away from him.  Encourage your dog to into his ‘come’  position, take his collar and reward him.  This is a foolproof practice run for your dog as being on lead will prevent your dog from choosing to ignore you.


Step 4: Reinforcing “Come!” as the right choice

Your dog will only chose to move into “Come” position if it ALWAYS is a happy place to be.  Reward your dog every time he ‘checks in’ with you with praise and/or treats and games.  The best thing your dog can do is to choose to spend time with you.  Every time your dog moves back to see you when off lead – acknowledge and reward his attention.  If you need to do something your dog perceives as unpleasant such as putting him outside, going to the vets or having a bath – do not call him to you.  Simply go to him and put a lead on with as little emotion as possible.


NEVER EVER PUNISH your dog for coming to you or for allowing you to catch him.  In either case from your dog’s point of view he is being punished for being caught.  Next time he’ll be faster and craftier.  If you have to ‘collect’ your dog you may not feel like rewarding him but try to stay as neutral as possible and simply put the lead on and get over it – punishment might make you feel better but it will only set your dog’s recall training back immeasurably


Step 5: Semi-freedom – “Come” on a long line

Prevent bad habits from developing by attaching a long drag line of approximately 5 meters to your dog when you first take him out to off leash area.   PVC rope is ideal as it is light, easy on the hands, waterproof and difficult to tangle.  Initially, hold the end of the line and regularly repeat the exercise in Step 3 above.  Later you can drop the line to allow your dog even more freedom but you will still be able to regain control quickly by standing on the end of the line if necessary.

Your dog will have a lot more space and freedom but you have ensured coming is still not optional . You may choose to use a light line for many months before you feel confident enough to grant your dog complete freedom .


Step 6:      You’re the best game in town!

Although it is natural for a dog to engage in some amount of independent exploring and socializing, the best game in town should always be time with you.  Interactive games are a great way to enhance your relationship with your dog and to help him burn off excess energy in a controlled way.

Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, owner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney
You can also follow this and other articles at my publishing site


Previous post:

Next post: