Basic Dog Training Commands—Step 3: Come
“Come” is a vital command that can save your new puppy’s life. Paula Nowak, CPDT-KA, CTDI, head trainer and behavior consultant for Canine Country Academy in Lawrenceville, Georgia, asserts that training a dog to come is “one of the most important skills you can teach your puppy. We need them to come to us immediately no matter what is happening around them, since this can be lifesaving.” For instance, if your pup is chasing a ball or a squirrel and they start heading towards the street, you can use the come command to call them back to you and away from oncoming traffic.
Training a dog to come requires you to build a positive relationship with your new puppy and to establish a strong foundation of trust and respect. If you continually use negative corrections with your dog, they will not be as inclined to come to you when called. That is why positive reinforcement training is so useful when starting your pup down their obedience training path.
Nowak says that training a dog to come should always lead to treats if your dog performs the correct behavior. “We never want to pair coming when called with a punishment; even calling our puppy inside to be crated, leaving dog-dog play or getting a bath can be perceived as icky.” So when first starting out at training your new puppy to come, you will only want to use it in positive settings where there will be no perceived negative consequences (and lots of treats!).
How to Train a Dog to Come
- Find an area with minimal distractions to begin training and have your puppy on a 6-foot leash.
- Say your puppy’s name and then the command, “come.”
- As your puppy starts moving towards you follow up with praise and encouragement.
- Upon arrival to you reward them with a jackpot of small puppy treats.
- As your puppy becomes more reliable, add more distance between you or go somewhere with more distractions, to help them truly master the skill.
“To teach a solid come,” Nowak says, “we want to start in a low-distraction area on a 6-foot leash to limit their options of not coming when called.” Nowak then says, “Since the likelihood is high that they will come to you immediately, you can pair the word right away by saying their name and ‘Come’ while backing up a little—keeping a loose leash since we want them to make the choice to come towards us.” The moment they start to head towards you, begin cheering them on with positive reinforcement commands like “Good job” or “Nice work,” so they feel encouraged to continue coming to you. Nowak also emphasizes that, “Our body language and tone are important. We want to be loose and fun and use a sing-song, happy voice when calling them. If we sound angry or look scary, they will likely try to avoid us.”
Once your puppy has begun to understand the come command, you can start to use it while on walks. Nowak recommends that, while on a walk with your puppy, you should randomly ask your dog to “Come,” and if they do, reward them with a jackpot reward. Nowak explains that a jackpot reward is “when you deliver three to five bits of tasty treat to them one at a time while praising them with each reward.” This will make your puppy feel like they just won the lottery, and they will associate the come command with affection and treats. As your new puppy starts to master this command on your walks, you can then use longer leashes and practice the come command from various distances and in more distracting environments.
Choosing the Right Treat
Using the right treat to instill the come command in your pup is essential. True Chews offers a selection of particularly delectable treats that are sure to intrigue and engage your new puppy. Paula Nowak says that her pets favored the True Chews Premium Grillers with Real Steak Dog Treats, adding that, “I like them because they have ingredients I would recommend and are super soft to break apart for rewards.”
While the treats come in large pieces, they are very pliable, so you can easily tear off a tiny morsel to reward your pup for performing their dog commands correctly. Bigger treats will fill your dog up and cause the lure of a treat to lose its appeal. Smaller pieces of treats also cut back on calories and will help your puppy keep a healthy weight and feel rewarded for their hard work.
Now your four-legged friend is ready to move on to the next basic dog training command: off.