Have you ever seen the movie “Funny Farm” with Chevy Chase? He has an Irish Setter named “Yellow Dog” and as soon as he brings him home, the dog runs away. Throughout the film, the dog reappears but will never come to anyone who calls him. Don’t let this happen to you. The come/recall command is a vital connection between you and your dog. It is important not only for safety, but for establishing the appropriate hierarchy in your pack structure.
The come command can be mastered with only a few simple exercises. With consistent practice and praise to your dog, your neighbors will be astonished in no time. To ensure your dog WON’T be a “Yellow Dog,” follow the below simple tips:
1. Come is ALWAYS a happy place. The come command should always result in praise and affection for your dog. You NEVER want to recall your dog and correct or discipline. Any corrections or discipline should be used when you approach your dog, not on a recall command. A good recall exercise can be achieved on your daily walk; with your dog on the lead, run backwards and command come in the most energetic, enthusiastic voice you can muster. The more tone/pitch/frequency in your voice the better. I want your neighbors to look at you funny due to your heightened excitement. Bottom line, your positive energy will attract your dog to come to you, and will be seen as a happy place.
2. Hide and seek. A dog’s best sense is scent, followed by sound, and finally sight. To challenge your dogs’ senses and to help he or she register the come command, practice a good old-fashioned game of hide and seek. While your dog is distracted eating or playing with a toy, have you or one of your children run and hide in another room and yell “Come (dog’s name).” When your dog seeks you out (via scent and sound) praise your dog with, “Good come.” This exercise will teach your dog that they are coming to a happy place when they find you in your hiding spot.
3. Off-leash at your local baseball diamond. A great way to get your dog prepared for off leash obedience as well as mastering the come command is to work them at an enclosed baseball diamond. Find a local ball diamond and arrive early or late in the day to ensure you will be the only ones there. Go prepared with a leash and poop bag to pick up after your dog. Enter the ball diamond and be sure ALL gates are closed behind you. Release your dog from the leash and begin to walk the perimeter of the park. After only a few times of this routine, your dog will begin to follow/come to you. You can also practice running backwards combined with the come command in the ballpark as well. For a local ball diamond near you, visit http://phoenix.gov/parks/parks.html.
4. Practice, practice, practice. Mastering the come/recall command takes time and practice. As I’ve stated in prior articles there is NO perfect dog, so, remember that if your practicing come/recalls be sure to use the leash until your dog is 70 percent confident of the command. The leash will always reinforce that the dog MUST come to you.
Sometimes the solutions to our problems are right in front of our noses. Don’t make the come command any more difficult than it is. Dogs instinctively WANT to follow a leader. With the proper recall techniques — tone of voice, praise, and affection — your dogs days of “cat and mouse, chase me down play” will be a thing of the past. Say NO to “Yellow Dog,” and say HELLO to your good dog.
• Mark Siebel is owner of DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training, LLC. He has trained more than 400 Valley dogs, speaks regularly at local schools about the importance of dog safety and ownership, and donates time to youths wanting to learn more about dogs. Siebel is a member of the Arizona Professional Pet Sitters Association and Australian Shepherd Club of Arizona. Contact him at (602) 318-0122 or www.DoggieStepsDogTraining.com.