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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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10 Steps to Teaching Come




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The "come" instruction is the most important one of all because you could save your dog's life.  In addition to the importance of recall training, having a dog come when you call means your dog trusts and respects you. Dogs who come quickly when called are not afraid of their owners but do rely on their owner's leadership.
Nothing negative should ever occur after calling the dog to you.  The dog must  associate coming to you with all good things.

Prevent accidental punishment after calling your dog

Many dogs will NOT come when called because they have learned that hearing the Instruction, "Come" is a bad word.

 For example, an owner comes home and finds a mess. He or she calls the dog using the Instruction, "Come" and then punishes the dog. The dog quickly learns the word "come" immediately precedes some type of punishment or scolding.

A second example is when the dog is allowed to play off-leash in a fun, safe area, and the owner says, "Come," to mean the fun is over, time to go home. The dog then begins to associate the word "Come" as the end of freedom and fun.

Therefore, NEVER use the instruction, "come" to discipline the dog or do anything he or she might perceive as unpleasant, like giving medication, or the dog may associate returning to you with a negative experience. Instead, approach the dog if something negative such as being put outdoors is about to happen.

ALWAYS ask your dog to "EARN" every thing he wants so that he will be EAGER to come when you call. Make sure that the word, come, is always be associated with positive, good things!

Make it in the dog's best interest to "come" when called

Do NOT call your dog if you know he won't come.

ALWAYS call the dog to breakfast and dinner.

Before placing the food bowl down, back up, and say, "Come" in an excited voice. The chances are almost 100% that the dog will come. 

Before feeding a meal, call your dog from room to room for a treat or kibble to reinforce the "come" instruction.

Hold the end of the leash, give the "sit-stay" instruction. Then walk to the end of the leash. Turn and face the dog and give the instruction, "Come."  if the dog does NOT come, use the leash to insist. Praise as you use the leash. NEVER threaten.

Repeat the same exercise using a long lead. Give treats for the fastest responses. Keep the dog guessing.

When the dog has demonstrated a reliable "come" inside the house and on a long lead, find a safe, fenced area (like a tennis court or school yard) for off-leash practice.

If the dog does not come

Keep a 50 foot leash on the dog at all times until you feel confident the dog will come when called. That way you can call once and "insist" using the leash.  Praise the dog for being reeled in but do NOT give a food treat. ALWAYS smile, praise, and lavish your attention on the dog to build a strong bond and reliable response.

Teach the dog that "come" means to park in front of you in a sit position, look into your eyes and expect something wonderful.

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