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How to Teach Your Dog To “Come”

Have a dog that runs away from you instead of to you? Don’t worry, you are not alone! This is one of the biggest complaints I get as a dog trainer, and usually it happens because we don’t start teaching it soon enough!

Here’s why…

As a puppy, our little guy follow us around as if we are the best thing on Earth. We say their name and they fly into our arms. So we think, wow, our dog has an awesome come and we stop worrying about reinforcing or training it. BUT when they hit “teenager status” (around 9-10 months) all of a sudden the rest of the world is much more interesting that we are and our dogs stop coming to us.

So what do you do?

Well, if you are starting from scratch, with a puppy or a new rescue. Follow these steps:

  1. NEVER call your dog to do something it does not like, it won’t come again.
  2. Say your recall word and then give a treat immediately. Try fitting in 90 repetitions in 1 minute. If you do this a few times a day, that word is going to be really valuable to your dog.
  3. ALWAYS reward your dog when he comes to you, even if he did something naughty. I know it’s hard, but if you are mad when he comes to you, why would he come next time?
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice! Work up to larger and larger distractions as your dog is successful. If he fails three times, you made the distraction to hard, make it easier.
  5. Keep your dog on a leash or long line why you are teaching come. This way, if he decides to not listen, you still have him and he can’t run off.
 If your dog won't come, use their natural predatory drive and run away from them. @MichaelGil via Flickr
If your dog won’t come, use their natural predatory drive and run away from them. @MichaelGil via Flickr

What to do if your dog doesn’t come

  • DO NOT repeat your cue. If your dog doesn’t come after a few seconds, go and get him
  • IF he runs? DO NOT CHASE! That’s a fun game for your dog. Instead, run away, making fun, loud happy noises; grab a toy and start to play with it; do anything you know your dog can’t resist.

What do you do if you ruined your come?

Does your dog already ignore the come cue? Pick a new word and start over with the above rules. It will be almost impossible to fix the other cue, and why bother? It will be quicker and easier for both you and your dog. Plus, if you use the old cue, there is more of a chance your dog will revert to his old ways and ignore it.

Don’t feel bad. We all do it. I have a dog that is on his third “slow” cue because it is just not something he wants to do and we haven’t found a method that works with him…yet…..but we will and so will you! Just be patient, get creative, and have fun!

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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