This page on Command Training is part of the Advanced Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network

Comprehensive Behavioral Conditioning for Dogs
Section Two of the Advanced Course

Command Training
Page Nine of an eleven-page section

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Requesting the Presence of Your Dog

When the situation calls for it, instead of commanding your dog to come to you, you can simply request that he come over and join you in the general area where you are located.

A dog can choose to react to a request in any way he sees fit, but all commands are, in fact, a sort of shorthand that describe for your dog exactly how he is to respond, and the command to come is no exception.

The Command to Come

When commanded to come, a well trained dog will go to where the commanding person is, sit down a few feet away, facing that person, and wait for further instructions.

Since the second part of executing the command to come requires your dog to sit, it is obviously best if you wait to teach him to come until after he can pretty much be counted on to always immediately follow your command to sit. If your dog is still seriously lacking in the sit department, it will be better for you to postpone teaching him to come to you on command.

In the meantime, you can still request that your dog come to you, as in: Hey Fido, come on over here, Bud. That will get him in the habit of responding to your call and help him to start learning what the word come means. Just don't issue him a formal command to come or teach him to respond in formal fashion until you first create the necessary behavioral infrastructure by teaching him to sit.

Teaching Your Dog to Come to You On Command

To teach your dog to respond properly to the command to come, you will need a length of cord that is something in the neighborhood of fifteen or twenty feet long. You should be able to purchase the necessary lightweight line from any hardware or variety store.

Attach one end of the cord to your dog's collar and hold the other end in your hand. Then, allow the animal to wander out a ways, or move casually away from him to create a little distance between the two of you.

When the time seems right, you should issue the command to come using the proper command protocol: Fido - Come.

As always when commanding a dog, you should give the animal an instant to respond to the command on his own before you move to ensure compliance. After you have issued the command and given your dog a heartbeat to react on his own, begin gently tugging on the cord as you sort of reel him in toward you with one smooth, steady, hand-over-hand motion.

If possible, see if you can also find a suitable human who can help you double team your dog, so that after commanding the animal to come, instead of tugging him into position, you can rely on your human partner to lead him to the designated spot. Either way, when you get your dog to a point a few feet in front of you, tell him he is a good dog, in order to reassure him that what he has done up to that point has been correct. That way he will be more likely to understand that what comes next is an additional command, and not a correction of the response that he has made up to that point.

Immediately after telling him that he is a good dog, command your dog to sit, and if necessary, gently put your hands on him and ensure that he does so. If you are double teaming your dog, your partner can move him into the correct posture after you issue the command.

Then, issue the release and make sure that you provide your dog with some kind of immediate payoff, because if you want the little guy to learn his commands and execute them joyfully, then, in one way or another, you are going to have to make his participation worthwhile to him.

The first few times you command your dog to come, and follow it up by reeling him in, the animal will be tentative due to his uncertainty about just exactly what it is that you want him to do.

In that early phase, immediately after issuing the command, as you reel him in, you can reassure and encourage your dog using the good dog sandwich cue, which you will want to fade out later as, increasingly, your dog gets the hang of the command to come.

Start off by reeling him in short distances. Then, as your four-footed pupil starts to get the idea, you should gradually extend the distance from which you call the animal before reeling him in.

Once Your Dog Starts to Get the Hang of Coming on Command

At some point, after many trials, of the Come command, carried out over a period of days or weeks, you will find that your dog will hurry over into the correct position, a few feet in front of you, the instant you issue the command, and before you begin the process of reeling him in. After that, it will just be a short time until your dog will reach the point that you can all but count on him to always respond to your every command to come.

At that point, you should begin commanding your dog to come without the cord attached to his collar.

If you should subsequently find that you cannot count on your dog to execute his come command in reliable fashion, after all, go back to working the animal with the cord attached for a while.

Fading the Sit Command Out of the Sequence of Events

After your dog has been through enough repetitions, you will find that when he reaches the designated location, a few feet in front of you, he will sit down on his own, without any prompting from you. If so, that's good, because that's what you want.

However, if you find that months have passed and after many repetitions of the come command, you still have to remind your dog to sit at the designated spot, then, at that point, you might want to start fading out your reminder.

To fade your sit command out of the sequence, all you have to do is to begin issuing the command in a voice that grows gradually softer over time.

Wait until you definitely know that your dog definitely knows that, halfway through the command to come he is supposed to arrive at the designated spot and sit down. Once you know that he knows what is expected, just start giving the command to sit in a voice that gradually grows so soft over time that after a week or two, you are really doing little more than mouthing the words. By then, your dog will have begun to sit on his own whenever he reaches that point in the command-to-come response sequence.

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This page on Command Training is part of the Advanced Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network