July 29, 2009

Teaching COME

Everyone wants a dog that will come when called...the first time! Teaching COME is actually very easy and can be a lot of fun for both you and the dog. It is however a step-by-step process.
Step 4 of my foundation behaviors is teaching a positive association with the word COME. Start with the dog in front of you. Say the dog's name and COME & click as soon as the dog looks at you then follow with a tasty treat. Please note: the dog does not have to move at all. He just has to look at you. Not any treat will do. This could potentially be a life-saving command so make it worth the dog's effort. Use a treat the dog doesn't get any other time. It must be very valueable like chicken, cheddar cheese, steak or something equally as awesome. Practice this step EVERYWHERE...indoors and out. In your yard, on the street, at the park, everywhere! Start introducing distractions, but no distance. The dog should still be on a 4-6 foot leash. If the dog is very responsive to you in new environments with distractions, then it is time to "test" to see if he responds to the cue when he is not looking at you. Simply say dog's name & COME while he is looking away from you. If he spins around and gives you eye contact then you have made a positive association with your dog and the word COME. Praise in a very excited voice and give a "jackpot" of treats (multiple treats, one treat at a time). Now start to add some motion. Start with the dog in front of you on a 6 foot leash and show him a treat then take a few steps backwards. When he reaches you...say dog's name & COME, click & treat. You are only saying the magic words once the dog gets to you, not before. Even though you have the dog on a leash...he still can decide to stay put, move to either side or run right pass you. If you say the command to soon, you may be teaching him that COME means to come to you and keep going. Again, practice in many locations slowly increasing the amount of distractions. Once the dog is coming to you on his own without the lure of the treat...try saying dog's name & COME once again when he is not paying attention to you. If he spins his head and rushes to you throw a party...lots of praise and a huge "jackpot". If he doesn't respond then keep practicing...he's not ready for the next step. Finally, put your dog on a long lead starting at 10 feet and slowly working your way up to 50 feet. Commerical dog leads can be purchased at many pet supply stores or online. A long clothes line with a leash clip on one end will work well too. Just be careful of rope burn on your hands. If you have a dog who is likely to bolt at the first chance of realizing he has room to run...you might consider wearing leather gloves. Have a friend or family member help you by holding your dog on this long line keeping the dog close to them. You start in front of the dog showing him the tasty treat you hold and then you sprint away. When you get to your designated location...call the dog's name & COME. The handler will release the lead (holding the end) and the dog should run right to you with enthusiasm. Throw another party with a "jackpot". Repeat again in different locations increasing distractions & distance. This could take a few weeks or a couple months depending on how much time you dedicate to the training, your dog's breed, age and personality. It will work for all dogs! Make sure you keep it fun!!!!

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I train dogs using positive reinforcement training to modify unwanted behaviors.  I step outside the traditional training box and use therapeutic-grade essential oils to assist in my behavior modification regime when it comes to dogs plagued with fear and anxiety as well as aggression.  My philosophy is to heal the dog's mind, body and spirit, not just to rid the dog of unacceptable behaviors.  I specialize in shelter dog rehab, reactive rover, and fearful fidos.