Step by Step Guide on Training a Puppy to Come

Teaching your puppy to respond to a “Come” command is extremely important. There may come a time when your puppy gets into a situation that could potentially be dangerous and you need to get his attention for his own safety. For example, your puppy might go dashing out the front door into your yard toward a busy street – calling your puppy back to you with a “Come” command could very well save his life. Below you will find a step-by-step guide for teaching your puppy to respond to a “Come” command.

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Teaching Name Recognition

The key to teaching your puppy to respond to a “Come” command involves making your puppy actually want to come to you. If you reward your puppy for coming when you call he will be more likely to repeat that behavior in the future. If, however, your puppy learns to associate negative things with you calling his name (such as a scolding, or confiscation of a toy) then he will be apt to ignore the command. The first step in teaching your puppy to come when you call is to teach him to recognize his own name.

  1. While you are at home (in a situation with few distractions for your puppy) call his name to get his attention – immediately after saying his name, give your puppy a treat or a toy.
  2. Wait a few minutes then repeat this sequence, rewarding your puppy after each time you say his name.
  3. Repeat this 10 to 15 times, waiting a few minutes between each repetition.
  4. Wait until your puppy looks away from you, then say his name – as soon as he turns to look at you, praise and reward him.
  5. After fawning over your puppy for a minute or two, turn away and ignore him until he loses interest and looks away too.
  6. Again, say your dog’s name and reward him as soon as he looks at you.
  7. If he doesn’t look, do not repeat the name – simply walk out of the room for a few seconds or play with your puppy’s toy yourself.
  8. Wait a minute or two then say your puppy’s name again – reward him if he turns to look at you.
  9. Repeat this sequence several times over the course of the day and try it in different rooms of the house, even when you are out for a walk.
  10. Once your puppy responds consistently to his name you can begin to teach him the “Come” command.

Step-by-Step Training Process

Once your puppy recognizes his name and he begins to associate it with positive things you can start training him to respond to the “Come” command. Again, teaching this command hinges on your puppy actually wanting to come to you – if he thinks you will praise and reward him, he will be more apt to respond to your command.

  1. Start by placing your dog on a leash in the house and stand in front of him.
  2. While holding the leash, say your dog’s name and give the “Come” command.
  3. Immediately take a few steps backward – dogs can’t resist the opportunity to chase you when you run away from them.
  4. Keep moving backward away from your dog while holding the leash until he reaches you.
  5. When your dog catches up, praise and reward him with a treat.
  6. Repeat this sequence several times until your dog begins to respond consistently then take the training a step further with a longer leash.
  7. Hold one end of a long leash and have a friend stand at the other hand, holding on to your dog’s collar.
  8. Wave a treat in front of your dog’s nose then give the “Come” command and run away from him.
  9. Encourage your dog to come by clapping your hands and acting excited, but do not repeat the “Come” command.
  10. When your dog follows and catches up with you, praise and reward him.
  11. Repeat this sequence several times then try it without the leash – you can also work your way up to doing the training sessions outside where there are distractions for your dog.
  12. You can even make a game of it by calling to your dog from another room in the house where you are hiding.

When teaching your puppy to respond to the “Come” command it is important that you only issue the command once. If your puppy doesn’t immediately respond it may be tempting to repeat the command but, ideally, you want to teach your puppy to respond to your commands the first time you issue them. As long as you are firm and consistent in your training methods and reward your puppy for good behavior, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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