Updated: Sep 5, 2020

A Potential Life Saver

Why teach your dog to come to you?

This is the ultimate in safety cues! If your dog ever escapes the home you will want to have a solid foundation for this behaviour to potentially save his life. It is also a great way to direct him onto something else. If he is about to check out what’s in the trash, call “Come!” (And give him his reward as you cover the trash can.)

Do these exercises after your dog has learned “Name Recognition”

If your dog knows and enjoys a healthy game of ‘tug-of-war’, you may also use this as a very valuable reward along with (to make it really fun in the begging) or in place of a food treat.

Teaching the Basic Behaviour, “Come”

1. Find a quiet place to practice and get your clicker (or use the word “YES”), treats and dog. Put a treat on the floor for your dog to eat and walk to the other side of the room. Hold your hand out with a treat visible and say your dog's name if he is not looking at you. Once you get his attention (or if you already have it), say “come” in a normal/happy tone of voice. Click (“YES”) when your dog begins to come to you. Praise him the rest of the way and give him a treat when he gets to you. While you reward him, touch his collar (this is a good idea in case your dog ever decides to play the grab the treat and run game!).

Practice this about 10 times and take a break.

Alternatively, you can play this with a second person and “Ping Pong” him back and forth. This tends to be a really fun game for your dog and therefore really effective!

2. Begin the exercise in the same way as above, hold your hand out as if you have a treat in it, but it will be empty (we will fool him a bit!). Click (“YES”) him for beginning to come and treat him when he gets to you from your pouch or pocket.

Repeat 10 times and take a break.

3. Continue practicing using the empty-hand. This is now a “hand signal”! If you would like, you can also fade this so that the dog responds to the verbal cue alone.

Becoming an Expert at Coming

1. Practice out of sight, outside and in more distracting environments as detailed on the worksheet. Always have a long leash on your dog so you can help him find you and be successful...even if he needs a little help! 

2. Decoy exercise: One person is the “handler” and will call the dog. The other person is a “teaser” and will try to tempt the dog with food or a toy. If the dog goes toward them while the handler is calling, the teaser should ignore the dog and turn away. When the dog finally comes to the handler, he gets rewards from both the handler and the teaser.

3. Fetch-interrupt exercise: Toss a ball or piece of food. As the dog is chasing it calls him. If he comes after getting the ball/treat he gets clicked (“YES”) and one small treat. If he comes before getting the ball/food he gets a click (“YES”) and jackpot (multiple treats, even if it is the same treat broken up). Sometimes you might need a little luring to get him started: toss the ball/food and then quickly put your treat to his nose, click and jackpot if he comes directly to you then fade the lure out.

Alternatively, if your dog will fall for it you can try faking him out by making the appropriate motions but not throwing anything. This is a great game to play with his meal of dry food – toss one piece of food if he interrupts chasing it to come to you when you call, click (“YES”) and give him a whole handful of it.

4. Hide and seek: When you are outside together and your dog is wandering around and seems to have forgotten you exist, hide behind a tree. When your dog comes looking for you Click/”YES” & Treat and make a big deal of him. Always work in a safe area.


- Never call your dog for something he may feel is unpleasant. For example, when leaving the park, call your dog, put his leash on and play for a bit longer before exiting.

- Make coming to you always fabulous! Always treat, use the jackpot, and occasionally bring out a ball from your pocket and throw it or play a little chase as an additional reward.

- If your dog does not respond when you call and you must get him, try these tricks: running backwards away from the dog, crouching down, clapping your hands, whistling, squeaking a toy, or showing him food. Do not run towards him as this is an invitation to play “catch me” and humans usually lose this game! You can also use your long leash to gently pull him in for success!

- Once he comes to you he must ALWAYS be rewarded, even if he didn’t come initially and stressed you out in the process!

- Click/”YES” & Treat your dog for “checking in” when you haven’t cued it and he’s off the lead.

- Practice “Come” at least 5 times per day (forever!).

- Work in a fenced area or use a “long line”- get a light clothesline rope and knot it every couple of feet. Let your dog drag this and practice in a park or field. Make sure it is long enough so that you will be able to step on it if he decides to “take off”. It is safest for your dog to attach the rope to a body harness instead of a neck collar.

- Have two “Come” cues, one that means a great food treat is not necessarily involved (as in “Cum’ere and sit on the sofa with me”) and another that means “I have great stuff!”

When your dog Comes to you 8 out of the 10 times you request it (without using a lure), add extra distractions starting with low distractions, working your way up to higher distractions in the same situations:

Example Distractions:


- Someone else in the family is in the room

- You have a toy in your hand


- An alarm, doorbell, or phone going off during request

- Asking while you are in a different position (sitting or lying down, back is turned)

- Asking in a different area (in the basement or middle of the street)

- You have food or a toy visible in your hand


- People or dogs or other animals are interacting with your dog

- Food or ball being thrown

- You are in a busy place like the park or pet store

- You have guests visiting

Genevieve Reisinger,

BSC, CAPPDT, CBATI Pawsitive Plus Dog Training and

Behaviour Consult Service Ltd.

gen@pawsitiveplus.com www.pawsitiveplus.com


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