The Come Command

by Jenny Hawthorn
(c) Copyright 2002

First I feel that a few comments on using food to train and other aids are called for. Many people say "But I shouldn't have to bribe my dog to work for me"

There is a large difference between a bribe and a reward. When I train our dogs I use rewards and praise while they are learning the basic commands. When they have the command response perfect (ish) I start not rewarding (but always still praising) occasionally until eventually the reward is only very occasionally.

A reward can be a food treat, a game, a big cuddle. I use combinations of all three but I'm sure other people also have other rewards.

Your dog works hard and tries hard for you during training ... surely rewards are warranted and they certainly teach a dog much quicker than just praise. Study the dog origins and you find that much of the praise we offer our dogs is a PEOPLE thing - dogs do not use this between dogs so we need to teach our dogs to love praise and the easiest way is to offer rewards with praise early on and then, later, start cutting down (but never out) on the rewards and keep the praise going. This is "conditioning". Many experienced handlers can "condition" their dogs to thinking that the simple word "YES" is all the praise they need. I still use "Good Girl" and give heaps of pats - I enjoy praising our dogs!

Teaching your puppy to come is really important and should ALWAYS be a fun thing for the dog. When I teach 'COME' in my obedience class I set down some rules at the beginning:

NEVER EVER growl at your dog/pup if you have called it to come and it has responded - always praise (lavishly to start with) - This means even if your dog has killed the neighbours cat - if you called "Fido Come" and Fido came then PRAISE & REWARD!!!!!!

If you wanted to growl at the dog - go to it and don't use the "Come" command.

When learning, always be in a position to reinforce the command - on a lead, in reaching distance to grab and pull dog towards you etc. If the dog doesn't come, correct (i.e. pull him/her towards you as if he had decided to respond) and PRAISE & REWARD!!!!!

Always use a happy welcoming (High squeaky usually) voice to call. Always PRAISE & REWARD the correct response.

If you want the dog to come, it is a long way away and not 100% reliable to the come command, go to the dog, grab the collar or suchlike, run backwards calling it "Fido Come" and PRAISE & REWARD!!!!! as it comes.

This is not formal obedience recalls but basic well trained 'will always come when I call' family member that I am trying to teach. And it is easiest to teach from an eight week old puppy - bring out food and call "Fido Come" (remember happy happy voice). Fido Comes. "Wow Good Dog - here's dinner". In most cases Fido is already coming - its dinner time! So you are reinforcing name and come command. Also if you bring out a toy, sit in a chair when he is likely to head for your lap etc. All these situations give you a chance to call the puppy at a time it is going to respond anyway and then give great PRAISE & REWARD!!!!! for responding.

A dog who responds to the come command 100% will be a dog you can save the life of! A dog will not respond 100% of the time unless it thinks that COME IS THE BEST THING EVER!!!!!

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