"Come!" Make recall fun and rewarding, one baby-step at a time. If you bounce back and forth between a sugary-sweet, sing-songy, “Come Blinky” and a frustrated, commanding, “Blinky, Come!” — try these recall tips instead.
Always reward for “coming”
Living things perform best on the reward system. Each time your dog “Comes” to you, reward her with a yummy treat. To start, substitute meal calories for training calories, using food to help your dog learn quickly. You can transition to affection or a “Good Girl, Go Play” later.
Start with easy “Comes”
Start inside your home and progress slowly, week by week, to more difficult environments. From just 3 feet away, use a big hand signal, saying, “Come” as your dog runs toward you. Reward. Increase distance, vary distractions and locations step by baby step. Later, work outdoors in an enclosed area or with a 50-foot leash until recall is reliable. Always reward when your dog comes back to you without being called.
Never punish for “coming”
Don’t clip nails, medicate, leave the dog park, or scold your dog for being slow to “Come.” If necessary, reward first, wait a minute and then do what your dog dislikes. Otherwise, she’ll learn that “Come” means that something unhappy may happen and she’ll run the other way.
Practice regularly and frequently
Get the whole family on the same training page. Play “Come” Round Robin. It’s fun! Repeat “Come” and reward in four 3-minute sessions per day. Regular routines and predictable outcomes speed training and reliability. Once learned, use recall throughout the day to cement it. Remember to have realistic expectations for your dog. Some breeds seem to naturally stick closer than others. If you train your dog to “Come” to the sound of “Blinky, Come” paired with a whistle for dinner, your dog’s ears will perk up when she hears those words in other contexts too! It’s easy.
Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: LindaMichaelsPositively@gmail.com for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at DogPsychologistOnCall.com
Originally published in the U~T San Diego, Scratch n' Sniff. Chris Ross, Editor, 2012.