Perfect Puppy Training Book – Chapter 6 – Basic Commands (Part 5)
Chapter 6 – Basic Commands (Part 5)
Getting your puppy to come when you call her is one of the most important things you can teach her. Not only will it save you the trouble of chasing her, but it could save her life!
Coming to you must always be pleasant for your puppy. And her idea of what’s pleasant is the one that counts. Let’s say she’s been rolling around in the dirt and smells awful, and you want to give her a bath, but she hates baths. If you say “
Many puppy owners also make the mistake of calling their puppies to punish them. “Come over here so I can yell at you!” Why would they do that? This only teaches a dog that coming to you is a bad idea. You want to teach your puppy the opposite—that coming to you is always a good thing. It’s like your boss sending you a message like “Come to this meeting, and I’ll dock your pay!” versus “Come to this meeting and get a raise!” Which meeting would you rather attend?
Let’s cover the basics of teaching the come command:
- Put your puppy on the leash and have some treats in your hand. Walk in one direction, and let her get a bit distracted.
- Give the cue “
, come!” (Use a friendly voice!) Immediately start running backward. (You’ll still be facing your original direction; you’ll just be going in reverse.) If you are not comfortable running, that’s fine. Still reverse direction, and go as fast as you are comfortably able. Puppies usually love to chase things, so when you start moving backward, your puppy should run toward you. Don’t jerk the leash on her neck. Instead, encourage her to run to you.
- After about 10 feet, stop moving. When your puppy reaches you, mark “Yes!” and give her treat. Pet and praise her.
- Release her with “Okay!”
- Evaluate: Does your puppy already think that the cue “Come!” means “Chase me around the yard”? If so, start with a clean slate. Pick a different cue, such as “Here!” and try again.
- Keep your puppy on leash so that you can minimize distractions. If you’re in a fenced-in yard but not attached to your puppy, and you call her to come to you but halfway there she gets distracted by a butterfly, you’re just setting yourself up to fail. Set yourself up to succeed by staying attached. It takes a lot of training to teach a dog to come off leash, especially with distractions around. Remember, puppies learn best in gradual steps.
- When your puppy is regularly running to you when you give her the cue, it’s time for you to rest easy and stop running backward. You also can polish the behavior by training your puppy to sit when she gets to you.
- Gradually add distance between you and your puppy so that she has farther to come to you. You can get a really long leash for this, or practice in a closed room where few distractions are present.
Remember, puppies learn in gradual steps, so take your time. When your puppy does well, start practicing outdoors, in the neighborhood (always on leash for safety), and gradually add more distractions. If you find that she’s easily distracted or is getting confused, you may have to break down your training into smaller steps.
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