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Improve Your Dog's Reaction to the Come Command

Learn how to improve your dog’s response to the come command.

The come command is one of the most important things your dog can learn to respond to consistently. In fact, it can be lifesaving. But come can be one of the most challenging commands for a dog to follow too. That's because there are so many distractions that a dog sometimes can't focus on you well enough to respond immediately. He's getting such a great reward in the stimulating circumstances that coming to you only means less reward.

If your dog does not already know the come command, check out this article for a step-by-step guide on how to teach him: "Teaching Your Dog to Come."

If your dog already knows the come command and you want to work on the reliability of his response to it, try following these tips.

Remember to Always Reward Your Dog for Coming

When you are in a situation where your dog won't return to you, and you're afraid he may get hurt or you simply become frustrated because he's not responding, it's easy to react with irritation once he does get to you. So many times, people will yell at or even smack a dog once they get ahold of him, thinking the dog will understand they mean the correction to be for not returning.

However, a cardinal rule of dog training is always to reward or correct behavior in the instant it occurs. When your dog arrives at your side and receives a swat, jerked leash, or harsh tone, it reinforces his idea that it's more fun to stay away from you than to return. That's not what you want in the long-term. So, no matter how irritated you are, you must always reward your dog for coming to you, even if he does so a bit late.

Get Out Your Dog's Extra Energy

If you're going outside and you know your dog will be off-leash, try to get out any extra energy he has pent-up first. Play some tug-of-war or fetch either inside or as soon as you get out. The less energy your dog has, the more likely he will be to stay close or be able to better focus on responding to your come command.

Quick Tips for Reinforcing a Dog's Recall Command

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind as you work on improving your dog's recall:

  • Always use a high-value reward. That means a super yummy treat or a game with a toy your dog really loves and doesn't get other times. It's also a good idea to change up the reward. That way, your dog won't become bored with it and start finding higher value in continuing to run around.
  • Stick to the same command. Choose your word or phrase for the come command and stick to it. Changing what you say is confusing and will make it difficult for your dog to remember what to do.
  • Never stop training. Remember, dog training is never "finished." You must always continue reinforcing the commands and your dog's response to them. Use structured training sessions regularly to keep the come command foremost in your dog's mind.
  • Let your dog know he's on the right track before he gets to you. When you're training the come command (or any command), it helps to let your dog know he's on the right track before he performs the entire command and gets the reward. One of the best ways to do that is with clicker training. That way, you can click as the dog starts to move in your direction, letting him know he's doing the right thing. Learn more: "Clicker Training for Dogs: An Overview."
  • Let your dog have fun off-leash. A great way to help reinforce your dog's recall command is to let him have fun when he is off-leash. If he gets the idea that coming to you always ends the fun he's having, he may try to delay that moment. Sometimes, call him to you, reward him, and then let him run around again. That way, he won't feel like returning to you always means an end to the off-leash time.
  • Know when it's the wrong time. Each dog is different, and there are times for each dog during which it will be super hard for them to concentrate through. It's important that you know your dog and don't put him in a situation during which you know he's unlikely to come when called. Keep your dog on a leash during those times, so you don't get frustrated and your dog doesn't get hurt.

Always Be Positive with Your Dog

Remember, stay positive when working on the come command with your dog. It's easy to get frustrated, but doing so will only undo your efforts. If you start to feel annoyed or the dog appears to be losing interest in listening to you, put on the leash and stop working on it. That's always a better choice than damaging your relationship or doing something that will decrease your dog's response to the come command.

You May Also Like These Articles:

How to Teach a Dog to Fetch

Teaching Your Dog to Come

Why Does Your Dog Ignore You When You Call?

Clicker Training for Dogs: An Overview

3 Commands That Could Save Your Dog's Life

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