|by Pamela Brimhall
"COME!" -- The Most Important Command Your
Dog Will Ever Learn
Let's face it, dogs run away. It's a fact.
They'll dart out the front door the minute it's opened,
curious to explore their world. They'll chase other dogs,
squirrels, and cats. They'll bolt when loud noises frighten
them or aggressive dogs threaten them; and they'll never
watch for traffic--they'll run right into the street.
And you'll be standing there in dismayed
silence wondering, "How the @*!#@ am I ever going to catch
You can avoid becoming one of those dog
owners who screeches at the top of their lungs, "Here
boy! "Get back here right now!" "Here boy, here boy, here
boy" while they race down the street in hot pursuit of
a happy-go-lucky runaway pooch who's leash is flapping
wildly in the wind. Just remember this cardinal rule:
If you never teach your dog anything else, teach him to
come when you call, every time.
For many dog owners, teaching their dog
to come on command can seem a daunting task. But, if you
learn a few simple guidelines, you can be successful.
Specifically, you'll need to work with your pet every
day, teaching him to come a little at a time. For instance,
start by teaching him to come at short distances away
from you, then build up to longer distances. Along with
that, be sure he's always on a leash when training so
that you can reinforce your commands if he becomes stubborn.
You should also offer soft, easy-to-chew doggie treats
as a reward for your dog's obedience. And, until your
dog has proven himself trustworthy, never allow him outside
without a leash--even if it takes your pet a year, or
longer, to get there.
When you're training your pet every day,
you're establishing a routine that, over time, will become
your pet's new "way of life." Similarly, as you lengthen
the distance between you and your pet, you're establishing
a "rule" that Rover must always come to you, regardless
of where you are. Then, after Rover willingly comes to
you from a considerable distance--about 30 feet--you can
introduce a few distractions during your training sessions
to set him up. This will further instill the "rules" in
your pet's mind that when you say "Come," he must obey.
Since you'll be training Rover on a leash
during this entire process, if he ignores you or tries
to run away, you can utilize leash corrections (short,
sharp jerks or "pops" of the leash alternating with plenty
of slack in the line so that you aren't physically dragging
Rover to you--hopefully).
This form of reinforcement is a common tool
used in dog training to let your pet know when you're
displeased with his behavior. Likewise, you can offer
him a treat when he complies to let him know you're pleased
with him. Furthermore, when Rover's with you outside the
confines of your home he should remain on a leash, with
you holding the other end. Whether you're taking out the
garbage or puttering in the garage, if he's outside, he's
on a leash. This will prevent any "accidental" escape
scenarios that would diminish the effectiveness of all
that training you're doing. Eventually Rover will become
convinced that his place is by your side at all times,
in all places. Even if it takes Rover a year before you
can trust him without a leash, it's time well spent. So
even if your dog never learns another command, teaching
him to come will curb your pet's wanderlust, and you'll
be the envy of the neighborhood.
The next time your pet bolts down the street,
you'll be the owner who commands with confidence, "Rover,
come!" And all the neighbors will be in awe watching your
well-behaved canine friend stop on a dime and come running
home--safe and sound.
About the Author
Pamela is a professional dog trainer in Southern Arizona.
She is also the Founder and Webmaster of LostPetSOS.org,
a non-profit pet lost and found database, providing a
free community service to pet lovers nationwide. Whether
you've lost a pet or found a stray, you can search or
report the animal for free at LostPetSOS.org.