The basics: "come" when called
Sydney Head & Shelley Erdman, Full Circle Obedience
First thing's first. It is best that your dog has a reliable “come when called” before you have him or her out and about in the Oklahoma City metro with you. This is the one command that could save your dog’s life if she or he slips out of the harness or collar, or bolted through an open door. You will want to begin teaching your dog this behavior well in advance of enjoying any trips or activities together.
Tips for teaching a reliable “come when called”:
- Stop your habit of wasting the “come when called” command. If your dog is barking at a squirrel, chasing birds, or sunbathing out in the yard, she’s probably not going to find your words as interesting as what she’s doing.
- Do not yell out, "Come," and let your dog ignore you. Get creative - step out and shake a bag of treats or rattle dry dog food in their bowl, squeak a toy, bounce a ball, and use a fun exciting voice, “Hurry, Puppy!” not saying their name or come. The dog’s name and commands are often overused or have no training behind them so he can be desensitized to the words or just not understand what you want.
- Once the dog comes to you, JACKPOT! Feed your pup several little treats, pet and praise him, and celebrate his success.
- Do not immediately crate your dog or leave the house once the pup has come in from the backyard. Let him hang out with you for a bit so giving up the activity he was engaged in was worth it.
- When you have time to practice "come," gather your tools which include plenty of high-value treats (hot dog, cooked chicken, freeze-dried chicken, beef, or liver, or anything your dog cannot resist), some regular kibble, and a 10-15 foot training leash which you can purchase at a retail store or make using light rope and a snap from a home improvement center.
- Let your dog go out in front of you and get distracted, then you back up, yell out "dog's name, come!"
- Once the dog gets to you feed a couple of very small treats (you don't want the dog to fill up fast on food). Deliver the treats to your dog very close to your leg so he learns to come all the way into your space.
- Practice “come” with your long leash in several new locations each week. If your dog is more interested in sticking with you than checking out the surroundings scatter the pieces of kibble on the ground so he has something to gain his interest.
- Try playing games of Ping Pong Puppy to transition to off-leash training after several on-leash practice sessions. You will need a safely fenced area, a partner, and several treats for each person use as rewards. Start off with your helper holding your dog, back away six to ten feet, and call your dog to you ("dog's name, come!"). Once the dog reaches you, grab the leash or collar and reward your dog with a tasty treat. You are now holding on to the leash or collar and your partner will call the dog to him/her. You will do this back and forth several times, increasing the distance each time. It doesn’t have to be only 2 people involved with Ping Pong Puppy; you can make a triangle, square, or circle with friends and family members.
- Don’t make training sessions too long because your dog will become tired or bored and begin coming to you slowly or begin to ignore you and find something more fun to do. Training sessions should always end on success while your dog is still fast and responsive in coming to you.
For more tips, or to enroll your dog in a training program, visit www.fullcircleobedienceschool.com.
The lifestyle magazine for Oklahoma City dog lovers.