Free Tips to Train Your Dog to Come on Command

By: David Codr

Published Date: December 29, 2016

loki

Loki is a one-year-old Terrier Yorkie mix who was adopted a few months ago and lives in Omaha. His guardian set up a dog obedience training session so I could teach him to come on command as “he likes to run like the wind” and runs out the door if given the chance. He also is a little cautious around new people and likes to jump up.

Knowing that Loki wasn’t super confident around new people, I adopted soft body language and movement to help him feel more comfortable when I arrived for the session.

It took some patience and soft movements, but eventually I was able to get Loki to take a treat directly out of my hand. I remained in the entryway to give him a chance to chew it, then waited for him to give me a sufficient sniff before I joined Loki and his guardian in the living room.

I always start my sessions by gathering more information about the dog and it’s day-to-day routine with the guardian. In the course of this discussion, I learned that Loki did not really have any commands that he knew. I also noticed that he seem to walk and carry his hindquarters in a bit of an usual way.

Because he is a rescue dog, we’re not sure what happened to Loki in the past. It’s possible this is simply a case of arthritis or a sprained muscle or two. However I recommended that the guardian have her own veterinarian take a look at the dog to make sure there is nothing wrong. If it is early arthritis, the guardian may want to consider starting the dog on Cosequin or another glucosamine supplement.

The guardian mentioned that she placed Loki in the kennel while she was at work to prevent any accidents in the home. I made sure to point out that leaving a dog inside of a kennel for longer than five hours can result in stress. As a result, I recommended that they pull out a puppy playpen that they had in the basement and attach it to Loki’s kennel when they leave to work. This will give the dog some free room to stretch his legs so that he doesn’t have to sit in a kennel all day long.

Next I went over some potty training basics so that she can brush up and motivate Loki to stop having accidents in the house. Because she was using a long expression that he wasn’t responding to, I recommended that the guardian change the command word to “business.” I also showed her how to use positive reinforcement to motivate Loki to eliminate outside.

Because every dog should know some basic commands, I spent the next several minutes showing the guardian how she can train a dog to sit, lay down and sit up.

Training a dog to lay down, sit or sit up is usually done while a dog is still a puppy. But as the above video shows, you can teach an older dog new tricks.

I recommended that Loki’s guardian train the dog to sit, train him to lay down and train him to come – multiple times a day in short 1 to 2 minute training sessions.

I also recommended that the guardian switch things up when practicing. At first it’s OK to start out by putting the dog into a sit, then transitioning into a down, then transitioning into a sit-up position. But if you always practice these commands in the specific order, dogs were often start to associate all of them together. When that happens, you often get what I like to refer to as the floor show; the dog sits then transitions into a down position and then sits back up all on its own unprompted as it thinks that’s what the guardian expects.

So practicing the down command by itself, then practice training the sit without a down and the same thing for a set up is an important part of Loki’s dog training. This will help the dog understand that each movement is its own and has its own specific command word.

Next up was training the dog to come on command. Usually I prefer to have at least three people present when teaching this exercise, otherwise the dog simply starts going back-and-forth between two people before they get a chance to call the dog. Fortunately one of Loki’s neighbors stopped by to drop something off. This gave us an opportunity to recruit her to help us practice training the dog to come.

Because we had spent a little bit of time working on the sit earlier in the session, we were able to incorporate that movement into the recall or come command.

I always like to end a command by having the dog sit unless there is a specific reason not to. I consider this a formal finishing position for dogs and it is just a good habit to get your dog trained to do.

I recommended that the guardian continue practicing training the dog to come this way a few times a day in short 1 to 2 minute training sessions. As the dog gets better at listening and being obedient, the guardian can start increasing the distance between her and the dog until he will faithfully come to her anywhere in the home.

Once that is the case, I suggested that the guardian go to a friend’s house with a fenced in backyard and practice the recall exercise there as detailed in the above video until he is also consistently obedience when called.

As we were winding down the session, Loki’s other guardian arrived home from work. It was interesting to watch the dog’s demeanor change as soon as the husband arrived. Loki perked up, showed a little bit more energy and was clearly happy to see him.

As I chatted with the husband to catch him up on the session, I learned that they had been picking the dog up in placing him inside the kennel rather than training the dog to go in the kennel on his own.

Once inside the kennel, Loki was very calm and didn’t show signs of stress. However if you have a dog that runs away or cowers when you attempt to put them into the kennel, it is a clear illustration that the dog has a negative perception of the kennel. Picking it up and repeatedly placing him inside when he doesn’t want to go is a great way to get a dog to develop a negative perception of the crate.

We wrapped up the session by showing the guardians how they can help Loki get over his fear of the kennel using positive reinforcement. It took a couple of minutes, some patience and a liberal supply of high-value training treats, but eventually I was able to get Loki to go into the kennel completely voluntarily.

I recommended that the guardians practice this kennel exercise with Loki a few times of day as well. The more time that Loki goes into the kennel on his own and receives a reward, the better he will feel about it. This sort of crate training can go a long ways towards helping a dog feel relaxed and confident about their kennel.

By the end of the session, Loki was going into the kennel on his own, he was sitting, laying down and coming to anyone who called him on command. It’s going to take a little bit of patience and some practice but based on all the progress we made during the session, I don’t see any reason why Loki’s behavior problems can’t be a distant memory very soon.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Say the new command word “Business” as soon as Loki starts to go and within 3 seconds of finishing while saying the command word again as the treat touches his lips.
  • Pet Loki after successful eliminations outside.
  • Practice sit, down and up commands 2-5 times a day in short 1-2 minute training sessions.
  • Only use the command word when giving the dog a treat. Avoid using “good dog,” good sit,” etc.
  • Once Loki has the sit down, start asking him to sit before petting him.
  • If Loki jumps up or nudges for attention, give a sit or down command and only pet after he complies.
  • Practice the recall command 3 or more times a day, gradually increasing the distance between people.
  • Practice tossing treats into the kennel and saying “Cabin” the second the treat touches Loki’s lips.
  • Get Loki a bunch of appropriate play and chew items. Leave one new one in his kennel (when he is away) every day.
  • Set up puppy play pen.
  • Consider changing to a higher quality food.
  • Add structure to meal time and pick up any remaining food after 3-5 minutes or as soon as dog moves 10+ feet away from bowl.
  • Pick up a bag of bully stick pieces from the Green Spot and give one piece when leaving him alone.
  • Pick up other ingestible chew items to give him a nice variety of appropriate things to gnaw on.
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