Some dogs have learned from a very early age that coming when called is very rewarding. When trained properly, dogs will run towards their humans with great excitement every time they are called. Unfortunately many dogs learn to ignore the call when they are distracted or feel like coming when called is not a rewarding experience. In many cases we can fix this by changing the name of the cue. So instead of calling it “come” we can call it “here” or “close” any other word you haven’t used in training yet, just make sure you keep the cues straight.
Whether you are changing the cue to a new one or feel that you can still save “come”, there are many games you can play with your dog to make sure their everyday “come” improves.
Hide and seek: One person holds the dog while the other hides. The person hiding will then call the dog “Sugar, come find me!”, as they do so, the person holding lets the dog go. If the dog is having a hard time finding the hider, the person who was holding can help the dog by encouraging them when they move in the right direction, “good job, find her”. When the dog finds the person hiding, reward with yummy treats, playing and/ or verbal praise.
Recall game: Two people are needed for this game. The first person calls the dog “Lola, come!” in a very happy and upbeat voice, as the dog runs to the person he or she “clicks” and gives the pup a treat. Then the second person calls her, as the dog turns to run towards the second person he “clicks” and gives the pup her treat and so on.
As your dog gets better at this game, increase the distance between the people, then move to a more distracting environment. This is a great way to tire out your dog. Always quit before your dog gets bored or too tired. We want her to keep her enthusiasm in the game.
Remember the game is the “recall game”, not the running back and forth game. If the dog starts doing that, wait to call her back and then reward.
Tunnel come: With your dog about 4 feet away from you, ask the dog to come to you. When she starts moving towards you verbally praise, then throw the treat past you in between your legs, so the dog goes under to get to it. As the dog is eating the treat, turn around and call again in the opposite direction.
Come and run: Ask the dog to come and as the dog starts moving towards you, verbally praise and run away from the dog so they have to chase you a bit. When the dog reaches you praise, play and reward with treats.
For your dog to be successful at this exercise we must make sure that this cue is never used at the end of something fun. For example; Asking your dog to come into her crate because you are leaving for work, or calling your dog into the house while she’s playing with your neighbor’s dog. In these instances we much rather you approach the dog and lead her by the collar, or bounce her favorite squeaky toy, than using that precious “come” cue. Your dog should never hesitate to come to you which also means you must never call a dog to punish her. After coming to you ONLY good stuff ever happens.
Remember, no matter what happens, if the dog comes to you, they are a good dog. NEVER reprimand your dog for coming to you. The worst thing you can do is call your dog, have her ignore you for a bit, and then reprimand her when she finally decides to come. Coming to you even after a few minutes of running wild should still be rewarded, maybe not with 30 seconds worth of treats, but they still get rewarded.
Keep your games and training sessions short so you leave your dog wanting more!