How do I teach my puppy to 'Come'?
A very important command to teach your puppy is to come when called. Teaching the come command needs to start the first day you bring your puppy home. Every time you see your puppy begin to come towards you, say "Puppy Come!" in a happy voice. Vary your body posture at times to keep it interesting and unpredictable. Squat down on one knee. Open your arms wide, clap your hands, pat the front of your legs, pat the floor, and act like a silly fool every time he comes to you. Praise him while he is in the process of coming, not just when he gets to you. Use the same word and happy tone of voice every time you call your dog.
Practise this often. Make this a special game and lots of fun for him to play. Coming to you should always be rewarding for the dog. Never chastise him after he has come to you (no matter what he might have done before that).
Use his meal times as reinforcement sessions by calling your puppy to "Come" every time you feed him. Rattle his bowl and tell him "Come" in a happy lively tone of voice. The meal is a great reward for coming when he is called.
Try different places. Practice "Come" in different areas of the house and vary the rewards between praise, food treats or a squeaky toy.
Add distractions. Once your puppy is responding well, continue to work indoors, but add distractions. Wait until the puppy is preoccupied to call him to you, clap your hands to get his attention, and call him once again. Give him a food reward. Spend several days indoors before you move outside into the backyard. Take some small pieces of food in your pocket. Let the puppy explore the backyard and when he is preoccupied with something call him by name with the word 'Come!' always in a happy tone of voice. When the puppy reaches you give him big praise and a bit of food. Continue this process beyond when you feel your puppy is reliable. History shows that puppies will do the unexpected. The more conditioned your puppy is to "Come", the better he'll respond when faced with irresistible temptations.
The next stage is to try at a park or a friend's backyard. Practice in different locations, always having food in your pocket. Try again what you have done at home.
When he is older and off lead at the park, practise the "Come" command several times during his walk. Once he comes to you, praise him and let him explore again.
If you reward him with a treat, he will be eager to return to you when you call "Come." Don't make the mistake of only calling him back only when it is time to go back on his lead and leave (fun is over). He will very quickly learn that "Come" signals the end of his walk and he won't be keen to come straight away.
© Fernamber Golden Retrievers 2002-2008