Teaching Dogs the "Come" Command

For dogs, learning to come when called is not only a behavior issue. It’s a safety issue.

For instance, if your dog slips out the front door and races down across the yard, you must be able to get him to stop and come back before he runs into the street.

Bear in mind that the “come” command isn’t always the best option when you want your dog by your side. For instance, if you haven’t fully trained your dog to understand what you want when you say “come,” don’t use that command and expect results. It’s better to go and get him than to say “come” repeatedly.

Keep practicing the “come” command until you are certain your dog will respond immediately the first time you call.

Method 1 for teaching your dog to come: The back up and recall method

You can practice this method in the house or while out on a walk with your dog.

  • Put your dog on a leash.
  • Hold the other end of the leash, say “come” once, then quickly move backward.
  • Keep moving backward until your dog gets all the way to you.
  • When your dog catches up to you, say “Yes!”
  • Give your dog a treat.
  • Training tip: Teach your dog polite leash behavior
  • The Back Up and Recall is a good way to teach your dog not to pull on his leash when you take a walk.
  • Each time he starts to pull, say “come,” and move backward until your dog gets to you. Say “Yes!” and reward him with a treat.

You may spend much of your first few walks going backward, but it won’t take long for your dog to learn that he must pay attention to where you are going instead of choosing his own path and speed.

Method 2 for teaching your dog to come: The long line

You can also practice “come” outside using a long (20-foot) training leash. The long leash makes it easy to catch your dog if he gets distracted and wants to wander around the yard. For this method, you’ll need the help of another person.

  • Attach the long training leash to your dog’s collar.
  • Your assistant should stand behind your dog and hold him by lacing her hands across his chest.
  • Get your dog’s attention by holding a treat in front of his nose and talking to him in an excited voice.
  • Run away a few feet then call your dog to “come.” Encourage him by clapping your hands or making noises but don’t repeat the “come” command.
  • When your dog runs to you, say “Yes!”
  • Give him a treat.
  • As he gets better at “come,” run farther away before you call him.

Training tip: Make it a game for your dog

As your dog learns “come,” practice inside (a leash isn’t necessary) by having your assistant distract or hold your dog while you go out of the room. Call out, “come.”

When he finds you, say “Yes!” and give him a treat. Over time you can make this game more difficult, by moving to more distant rooms of the house before you call “come.”