Basic Training: Come

One of the basic commands that every dog should learn is the “come” command but it is probably the most important commands that you can teach a deaf or hearing dog because this command can make the difference between lifant and deaf.

When training for the “come” command remember these three golden rules of training.

  1. Positive reinforcement only (dog does something good, dog gets something good)
  2. Don’t use ‘no’ or other negatives if the dog makes a mistake, as this will kill his confidence and he won’t want to try new things in the future. If the dog gets it wrong, it’s because he doesn’t understand. Reward when he gets it right, and ignore the mistakes. He’ll soon learn what behaviours get rewarded and which ones don’t.
  3. Keep training fun for you and your dog. Keep them short (5 minutes max) so that your dog doesn’t get bored or frustrated.

The signs I use when training dogs work for me, but you can use whatever signs work for you and your dog.

Step 1

Start in an enclosed area, (room in the house or backyard). Let your dog know you have tasty treats. Throw a treat a short distance away from you so the dog goes to get it. Then, when the dog looks back towards you, hold a treat down in your hand and when he comes over to get it, give him your ‘good’ sign so he knows he’s got it right, and give him the treat. Repeat this step a few times

Step 2

Now, repeat the same process only this time, don’t actually have a treat in your signalling hand. Throw a treat a short distance away from you and then when your dog looks back at you, pretend to hold a treat down in your hand, and as he comes to get it, give him the ‘good’ sign and then reward from your other hand. Repeat this step a number of times. Note that you don’t have to throw a treat away from yourself; this is only to get the dog a short distance away from you. If your dog is already a short distance away from you, just wait til he looks at you and follow as above.

Step 3

Now you can gradually change pretending to hold a treat down for him, into your recall hand signal. (I use an open palm down by my side for my recall cue because it’s easy to transition from pretending to hold a treat by your side, to an open palm by your side, but you can use whatever works for you and your dog).

Step 4

Gradually build up the distance of your recall and gradually build up the level of distraction as well. If your dog is struggling at any step, go back a step and try again. If your dog doesn’t come when you ask, it means that either he didn’t understand, or the distance was too great, or there were too many distractions. If this happens, go back a bit, shorten the distance, and decrease the distraction level, and build it up gradually. Unless your dog has 100% reliable recall no matter what, don’t let him off lead in an unenclosed area. 

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