Practicing come when called with our dogs indoors can be overlooked since so often they are constantly underfoot there. Then we try calling them when they are outside and/or gleefully distracted and…well… the lack of practice shows. And really, we should not be surprised; it’s a lot like giving a child a pop quiz on something you never taught in the middle of a baseball game. We can skip that frustrating stage (though, if you’re in it, fear not, these exercises will help) and jump right into creating success. Here’s where you start:
Praise immediately after you say “come” to help attract him back to you.
Practice with your dog close to you before you expect success at a distance.
Smile and praise before you give the treat.
Make this a big deal – sound excited and pleased with him. You are, right?
Do a little every day.
Mini Recalls before Meal
With dog sitting right in front of you, say “Name, Come” and then praise with a kibble or two. Yeah, we know, seems pretty silly; after all he isn’t really coming to you, but trust us and do it. What you are teaching him is that “Name, Come” = good things. And it is giving you daily practice linking fun with the words.
Oh, and if your dog is a food nut, do this after meals when he is slightly calmer around the treats.
Hint: Praise is critical! Sometimes when we have treats in our hand, we forget to praise. Don’t forget to praise! Praise a few seconds before you give the treats. This pays off big time down the road.
Dealing with Distractions
With dog on short leash (we prefer a four footone), call dog to you and back up praising. As dog comes to you, slide your hand down the leash so your hand is near the collar when the dog gets in front of you. This prevents drive-by recalls with the dog shooting past you to the end of the leash in the other direction. Have dog sit; praise, treat.
If your dog doesn’t come, continue to back up as you squeeze/pulse the leash. Keep at it. Your dog will glance at you at some point, then PRAISE! Good dog! Encourage him to come to you.
Got it? Good…Now – ADD DISTRACTIONS! First easy (boring) ones and offer excellent rewards, then as dog progresses, harder and harder options including the cat, other dogs (under control), etc…etc…. As above, Practice makes Progress!
When your dog is busy chewing or sniffing in the house, step out of the room. Pause then call your dog excitedly (Dog, COME! good dog smart dog gooodd dog!) clap your hands, make it sound like he is missing a party. When he arrives, praise and pet him. If you have a toy, toss it and start a game. After 20-30 seconds – go quiet, go still and walk away. We want him thinking, “Hey! Wait! That was a blast!” Good. He’ll come even more quickly next time!
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By Sarah Wilson, author of the two handbooks of MySmartPuppy.com: My Smart Puppy (Kindle Version here) and Childproofing Your Dog (Kindle Version here)