We were at a new Home Dog Training client in Lithonia last Monday working with them and his two-year-old Beagle named Brownie.  They had recently rescued Brownie from the local Humane Society and had started working on his obedience commands. The reason that they called us out was because, just as they thought he had “got it”, he would simply ignore them and not obey a command he had been performing perfectly just a few minutes earlier.

One of the commands that they “really wanted him to master” was the Come command.  As I said earlier, he would obey for a while and then just ignore them. Or, he would stare right at them and then nonchalantly walk away. Then, all of a sudden, he would come to them. Other times they would have to say “Come” over and over again to have him get to them. Everything they did “sometimes worked and sometimes failed” and they were at their wits end as to what to do. 

At the end of our session Brownie was successfully performing the COME command for our clients.  They were amazed at how easy it really was to get Brownie to come to them.  With this said, I would like to recall what we did during the session so that you, our readers, will have the opportunity to experience the same success as Brownie’s owners.

As someone once said, “Every journey starts with the first step”. The same is true here.  If you are in “complete failure mode” in trying to have your dog come to you, the first thing to do is to step back and evaluate what you are doing that isn’t working. Once you identify your failed attempts, you must clearly understand that you are “not going to do those things again”.

Now, it is time to figure out what works.  To accomplish this, you need to have a clear picture of how dogs learn.  (Since you are teaching your dog, that is a really, really important tool to have in your “teaching bag”.) To put it quite simply, dogs learn through a process often referred to as “linear learning”. They learn by doing something the same way over and over again.

If you think about it, we also use this process for many of the things that we know today. To prove my point, I would like to have you think back and remember how you learned your “times tables”.  You had a set of “multiplication cards” with the question on one side (i.e. 5 x 5 = ?) on one side and the answer (i.e. 5 x 5 = 25) on the other.  Every time you flipped the card, you saw the same answer.  Soon, you naturally knew that 5 x 5 = 25.

In other words, when we are teaching our dog something (like Come), we must be sure that every time we verbalize the “Come” command to our dog, the next thing, and only thing he will then do is to move to our side.  So, how do we make this happen when, for example, our dog only “sometimes moves to our side” when we say “Come”.  Here is the process that we have shared for many years with our clients:

  • Begin the process inside with a six-foot leash attached to your dog. Make sure that your house is quiet and relatively empty.  You don’t want extra, external distractions to interfere with your lesson.
  • Move to the extent of the leash, calmly stoop down low, and verbalize “Come” in a normal voice tone (don’t yell). If your dog doesn’t move towards you, give the leash a slight tug to encourage him to get to you. Once he is by your side, acknowledge the fact that he did the right thing (correctly answered the question) by praising him in a high-pitched voice.
  • Drop the leash and walk around the room for a moment or two. Do not pay attention to your dog. After about fifteen to thirty seconds, slowly approach the end of the leash, step on it, stoop down low to place the end of the leash in your hand, and issue the “Come” command as previously described.
  • You should practice this repetitive exercise for about five to ten minutes four or five times a day until your dog will get to your side with no leash tugs when you issue the Come command. Once he has successfully mastered the “six-foot-away” Come command, you can move on.
  • Replace the six-foot-leash with a twenty-foot training lead. (You can also attach three or four six-foot leashes together, it you wish.) Begin by performing the Come command at the ten-foot mark on the lead. Have the lead in your hand at the ten-foot mark, go down low, and verbalize “Come” in a calm and natural tone.  As before, if your dog doesn’t appropriately respond, give the lead a tug or two until he moves to your side.  As before, praise his correct action by praising him in a high-pitched tone.
  • Once you no longer have to tug the lead at the ten-foot mark, start holding the lead farther out until you can be twenty feet away from your dog and he will come to you every time you issue your command without the need to tug the lead. Once you are successful inside the house at twenty feet, it is time to change venues.
  • Take your dog outside into the back yard. Repeat the processes you had performed inside the house. The only difference is that you are now doing it in the backyard.  What you are now doing is to introduce external distractions to the process.  This will require your dog to provide you with a higher level of focus and obedience to successfully complete the exercise than was required in the relatively calm environment of your house.

The difference between the process we have just provided for your review and what our client was doing is that the process just described includes a repetitive teaching method.  (Attachment to the leash and tugs for proper direction when needed.)  Our client was not doing these things before we arrived.  Once these simple concepts and methods were introduced into the learning process, Brownie quickly “learned his lesson”.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.