1) Your dog runs happily to you when you call.
2) Your dog is polite enough to acknowledge that you called. And when they’re done doing what they’re doing they slowly saunter over. They make no eye contact at all and act as if it was their idea in the first place.
3) Your dog doesn’t even acknowledge that you called them. You get so angry you blow a gasket resulting in one of two reactions. Your dog either infuriates the situation further by playing the ‘catch me if you can‘ game or they freeze fearfully, maybe even roll over and pee.
So I ask again, what would you like to see happen when you call your dog? How do you train your dog to come? What if I were to tell you it’s totally your choice. Which ever reaction you get from your dog is a direct result of the choice you made. Let me explain.
Why won’t my dog come when I call?
If you call your dog for reasons they won’t be happy about, such as playtime is over or they’re in trouble, they’ll develop a negative association with coming when you call. You will have very effectively taught your dog to react with option 3 from above.
If you call your dog to come one time in a strong, friendly voice, then follow through with making them come to you, you will have effectively taught your dog to react with option 1 from above.
The choice is entirely yours. Personally, I love it when I call my dog and she comes to me enthusiastically and happily.
So how do I teach my dog to come when I call?
The association in your dog’s mind to the word ‘Come’ has to be positive, no exceptions! So let’s start right from the beginning, which is teaching your dog the word ‘Come’. Definition of ‘come’: they stop what they’re doing and come directly to you.
Start familiarizing your dog with the word ‘come’. Put a leash on your dog and head out for a walk. Suddenly, without warning, run away from your dog and say, ‘come-come’ in a happy, excited voice. Make sure you bend down, pat your leg or open your arms to make it inviting. Put some animation into it and keep it fun for your dog.
Dogs love to chase, so run if it makes them chase you. Majority of dogs will see this as an exciting game! When your dog reaches you, praise them! Laugh out loud and emphasize the praise ‘good come’ to help your dog understand the praise is for coming to you.
Practice this lesson in different locations until your dog learns to listen to you everywhere. Add distractions. Once you feel your dog knows what the word ‘come’ means, try these games:
Games to play with your dog to help them learn ‘come’
-Play hide-and-seek! Hide from your dog, then call them and see if they can find you. Make sure finding you is exciting for them!
-Lay on the floor, face down, and cover your head with a pillow. Then excitedly call your dog over and over again. Make sure they’re right there desperately trying to get to you. Laugh, squirm and enjoy yourself so your dog sees that it’s a game you’re both enjoying.
-In your yard, run away from your dog as you call ‘come’. Remember, dogs love to chase. Once they reach you offer lots of praise. Once your dog gets really good at this in your yard, bring them to parks and different places so they learn to listen everywhere. REMEMBER, coming to you cannot ever be a bummer! So if you’re at a park with your dog, play this game a number of different times. But then let them go and explore or play with other dogs after. That way they learn to come to you no matter what.
What do you do if your dog is defiant and won’t come when you call?
Chances are at some point your dog will test you just to see what happens if they don’t listen. Stay calm. If you get emotional or angry, you’ll be teaching them that they got ya!
Call your dog again. If they don’t come, walk toward your dog but don’t make eye contact. If you do they may turn it into a ‘catch me if you can’ game. Once you arrive, say nothing! Simply put the leash on. Then walk back to the exact spot you were standing when you called them. Then tell them ‘good come’! Let them go again and in a few minutes try it again. They may test you a few more times, but consistency will teach them that not coming when you call is not an option.
Let me know how this works for you! Happy training 🙂
Written by Brenda McBurnie, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Behavior and natural nutrition
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