We had a potential home dog training client from Lawrenceville contact us last week telling us that they were really frustrated with their recently rescued Beagle. They thought they had gotten their dog to come on command and then, all of a sudden, he would just look at them and walk away. Other times, he would come. Sometimes they had to say “Come” over and over again and he might eventually come to them. They thought they must be missing something. What are they doing wrong?
Robin and I hear this many times when we are talking to potential dog training clients on the phone or when we get out to our first dog training session at their home. For some reason, our client believes that their dog understands “come” if he correctly goes to them once or twice while they are practicing. The next thing they know, they are at the dog park or outside and say “Come” and nothing happens. This normally results in the human yelling and screaming at their dog. Well, we all know how well this works.
The first thing to observe is that whatever they were doing wasn’t working. In order to understand what will work, we have to understand how our dogs learn. Dogs learn by repeatedly doing things the same way. This is the same way that we successfully learned our “times tables”. Every time we “turned the card over”, the same answer would be on the other side. After a while (longer for some), we didn’t have to flip the card because we knew what was on the other side.
In translating this to our client’s dog and their dog training, we have to make sure that every time our client issues the command “come”, his dog will go to him. Here is what we taught our client and what must be done to properly teach his dog the come command:
- Our client and his dog are in the house and the dog has a six foot leash on. The environment must be calm and quiet environment. He must stoop down low and say “come” in his normal voice. If our client’s dog doesn’t come when commanded, he needs to give the leash a minor tug. Once his dog comes to him, he needs to acknowledge the action by praising his dog in a high voice and then stand up.
- He should leave the leash on his dog and then meander around the room. During this time, he should not look at or pay any attention to his dog. Next, he will approach the end of the leash, put his foot on it, stoop down, grab the leash, and tell his dog to “come”.
- Our client needs to do this exercise over and over again until his dog is always coming without the need to tug on the leash for additional guidance (and hints).
- It is time to ramp it up and switch the six foot leash with at twenty foot training lead. We instruct our client to use about ten feet of the lead and have the rest wrapped up. He now stoops down low and says “come” from ten feet in his regular voice. If our client’s dog doesn’t come, he again gives the lead a little tug, repeating the tug until his dog comes to him.
- Our client must do this step over and over again until he no longer has to tug on the lead to have his dog obey him. As things are going well, he can increase the length of the training lead to fifteen feet and then twenty feet.
- Once successful inside, our client can now take his dog to the back yard. I instructed him to repeat everything he had just done in the house in the back yard. The difference between the house and back yard is the fact that there are more distractions in the back yard that could divert our client’s dog away from his guidance.
At this point our client has his dog consistently coming to you outside. Since he isn’t yanking on the leash to get his dog dog to obey, the leash is no longer needed.
- We now tell our client to continue the come command with the leash attached to the dog. The difference is that he is not physically holding the leash. If the dog is constantly coming, that is great. If he “slips back a bit”, we tell the client to pick up the leash again.
- Once our client’s dog is successfully going to him with every come command (leash still attached but not held), we take the final step. We ask that another person calmly release the leash from the dog. Our client should now be able to issue the come command and his dog will go to him without the need of the leash.
We taught our client how to train his dog through consistency and repetition. We set the scene so that every time his dog heard “come”, he went to our client. We also created a lesson plan with small, easily attainable and measurable benchmarks.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over fourteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.