Quiz 28. “Come here!”

False alarm. There is no quiz here. Instead, you’ll find a series of steps to follow if you want to train your dog to come to you. And, a few tips.

Step 1. You will need:
– another person, if you have one. Otherwise, just you will do.
  bag of tiny, tiny treats each.

Step 2. Find a place with no distractions. Home is good.

Step 3. Two people stand at opposite ends of the room and take turns to call the dog. Say to it “Come” or call it by its name, and coax it to you, cheerfully repeating the word. When your puppy comes to you, grab its collar gently while giving it plenty of praise, a cuddle and a treat. Make a big fuss. Let it think it’s a hero. Let the collar go. Finally, when the dog accepts that it’s a hero, have the other person call it and do the same thing.
  Keep doing that. Have the puppy going back and forth to the word “Come”.
  (Why do you grab the collar gently? Because there will be times in the future when you will need to attach a leash to its collar, and you want your dog used to the motion of you grabbing its collar.)

Step 4. Keep a lookout for when the puppy is losing interest in the game. When it does, end the session. Dogs have short attention spans, so make the training sessions short but frequent. Short sessions keep it interested, and frequent sessions help the learning ‘sink in’.

Step 5. Do this a few times in the day, gradually increasing the distance. As your puppy learns, change the location and lengthen the distance.

Simple really. Just be diligent and patient. It’s a work in progress, so throughout its life apply the following tips.

Tip One: Get your puppy to assume that when it comes to you, something wonderful will happen. For example, if you are about to take your dog for a walk, don’t walk to the dog. Instead, go into another room and call it. When it comes, immediately go for the walk.
  Each time your dog comes to you when you call it, and is then rewarded, you increase its motivation to respond favourably in the future. (That’s why you don’t call a dog and then reprimand it when it eventually comes to you. That’s counter-productive.) 
  Another example: if it is your dog’s dinner time, make sure your dog is somewhere else in the house before you call it. Your dog will see its dinner as a reward for coming.
   Aim to make your puppy want to come to you when you call it. Do that by consistently rewarding it when it does come.

Tip Two: when you call your dog and it comes, don’t immediately do something it doesn’t like. For example, don’t immediately put it on a leash if you are about to leave the dog park. When it comes to you, praise it and walk for a minute or two before putting the leash on.
  Even better: instead of calling your dog when it’s time to go home, walk up to your dog and put the leash on.
  Even better: tire your dog, so when it’s time to go home your dog is willing! Or at least, amenable to the idea.

Tip Three: Give your dog praise every time it comes to you, and the occasional treat, for its entire life.
You have trained your dog, now keep it trained!
  However, if you follow the next tip, you won’t need to give it treats at all.

Tip Four: Don’t unnecessarily summon your dog. When you are walking your dog off-leash in a dog park, call your dog as few times as possible. Every time you are about to call your dog, ask yourself “Do I really need to call my dog? Is there another way of achieving what I want? Is what I want really important?” Many times you will find that you don’t need to call your dog.
  It’s comforting to call our dog and have it come to us: then we don’t have to monitor what it’s doing. But that’s wasting the dog’s time and interrupting it’s investigations. Worse, you’re undermining the trust it’s placing in you. You’re ‘crying wolf’.
  But if you call your dog only when it’s necessary, there will come a time when you begin to relax and the need to keep calling it to you dissipates. On a dog walk you will find that you won’t have to call your dog even once. Imagine how relaxed you and your dog will be!
  When it’s time to go you should be able to walk up to the dog and (if necessary) put it on the leash and say “Come on, then” and then leave. That’s not a summon, that’s an agreement!
  Some people call their dog repeatedly, for trivial reasons. It’s as though they are frightened to let their dog wander from them more than a few metres. Then they wonder why it doesn’t immediately come when they call it! If someone called your name constantly for no good reason you’d soon ignore them too.
  The fewer the times you call your dog, the more responsive it will be. And, without the nagging, both of you will enjoy the walk. And you won’t have to give it many treats!

   “But won’t my dog wander off and get lost?”

   Once you and your dog have developed a companionable bond, and trust, you should be able to let your dog wander a reasonable distance away. (It should still be in sight, and you must be certain it won’t hassle picnickers, cyclists, or any other user of the park.) Besides, if it’s wandering a reasonable distance away, why not follow it? After all, it’s your dog’s walk.
  So, don’t be a control freak: reduce the number of times you call your dog. Let your dog wander about. When you do need to call your dog, it’s likely to respond.

Tip Five. Don’t call your dog when it is too excited to think straight, or when it’s eating, or when its distracted in a play-fight. You’re only setting it up to fail and you’re setting yourself up to fail. Wait for when it’s not distracted before calling it. Or, instead of calling it, walk up to it and  attach the leash to its collar.