New year, new dog part IV

Finally, we come to the last and most important of the basic commands: “come.” Now, every owner wants to be able to call their dog and have him respond, and sees this as the first priority in training. Yet while it is a priority, it’s important for your dog to be able to respond to other basic commands first, to keep him under control while learning this one.

Then, the goal of “come” is for the dog to come to you from a distance and sit in front of you. To get him to this level, add the command to your training regimen once the other four commands – heel, sit, down and stay – have been learned.

Begin walking the dog, giving the command “heel.” After a few paces, take a step backward, call your dog’s name and give the command “come” – as in, “Fido, come!” and simultaneously snap the leash so that the dog is tugged around to his right, facing back toward you.

Continue walking backward, repeating the command. When he comes to you, stop and give the command “sit.”

Some owners will tempt their dogs forward with food treats. This is fine in the initial stages as you want to teach him that obeying the command brings good things. Or, you may limit food rewards and use lots of praise instead. In any case, keep the training positive, always reward responses to your commands, and don’t get frustrated.

Learning these basic commands is critical to your dog’s, and your family’s, well-being, and as such, they should be taught regularly and reinforced daily. Every family member should work with the dog to learn how to give commands properly, when to reward a dog, and when not to.

Recommended book: Breaking Bad Habits in Dogs, by Colin Tennant (Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.)

Originally in print Jan. 28, 2008.