How to teach your dog the come command

The most important command you can teach your dog is to come when called. It will save you from frustration when you’re bringing your dog in from the yard before you go to work and it could save your dog’s life if he or she gets loose near a busy street.

This command, which is formally known as the recall command, is fairly easy to teach your dog.  The only equipment you need are copious amounts of treats and a leash.

Getting Started

To start, put your dog’s leash on, then position yourself a foot or two in front of her. Say your dog’s name and “come” in a happy, excited voice, while waving the treat. She might come right to you with no encouragement, but if she looks at you like you’ve lost your mind, gently tug on the leash until she comes to you. Give her the treat and shower her with praise.

Repeat the exercise a couple more times and then take a break until later the same day or even the next day.  Brief training sessions are key for puppies, who have very short attention spans. Repetition and practice is critical to mastering this dog training command so you can feel confident your dog will come when needed.

Leveling Up

After a few sessions, your pup will probably start to figure out what’s going on and then you can make the exercise more challenging. You can increase the distance that your dog must go to get to you — start using the full length of the leash, then go off-leash and use the length of the living room, hallway, your fenced-in backyard, etc. You can even play hide-and-seek with your dog — just have him sit/stay in one room and go to another room or hide behind a door and call his name. When he finds you, shower him with treats and praise.

You can start to introduce tougher challenges like asking another person your dog likes to walk by as you say “<dog’s name>, come!” or possibly a distraction that could make your dog nervous such as a loud noise or clanging of a pan in kitchen.   Both of these situations are meant to practice for real-life scenarios where your dog could be in danger if he doesn’t listen and come. Your dog needs to know that coming to you when called is always the best choice.

As you level up your training, if your dog stops responding or gets too distracted, that’s ok. Take a step back and do one easier scenario to try to end on a high note for that training session.

Using Postitive Reinforcement

The harder the challenge the more you need to praise and treat your dog. However, it’s important to note that eventually, you will need  to cut back on rewarding your dog with treats for completing the recall. Praise and petting are good alternatives for positive reinforcement methods.  To keep your dog on its toes though, surprise him or her with a treat every now and then to reinforce that great things happen when he comes to you when called.

Next Steps

Practice makes perfect! No matter what your dog’s age it’s always good to reinforce the come command for a few minutes every now and then to make sure your dog remembers the recall command.  If you need help, or want more training challenges for your dog, check out the PetU website.  We have training options for dogs of all ages and skill levels!

PetU is a locally owned K9 higher education facility dedicated to helping you and your dog be the best team you can be.  We do this through training, daycare, boarding, grooming and our campus store — with K9 education at the core of everything we do.  We welcome your questions and invite you to call or stop by for a visit!