If your otherwise awesome dog doesn’t come when called, it can put him at risk. I am the proud owner of two chocolate labs with very different personalities. Luke comes obediently when called, tends to follow at my heels and rarely runs off. Meanwhile, my lovely Jake is a great dog, until a rabbit, squirrel or just about anything else passes by.
Fortunately, I was able to figure out how to train my excitable four-legger to come when called. Keep reading to learn effective methods to teach your dog to come using a long leash or a long leash with a vibration collar.
Teach your Dog to Come Using a Long Leash Only
To train your dog to come, first invest in a long training leash measuring 20 feet. The long line gives you control if your dog gets distracted or wanders off. However, it also provides ample space to train from varying distances without confining him too much.
For this technique, you’ll need the help of a patient assistant your dog knows. Once the behavior is learned, your dog will simply come when called.
- Put the long training leash on your dog.
- Advise your helper to sit or stand behind your dog and hold him using interlaced hands across the dog’s chest.
- Get your dog’s attention by holding a treat in front of his nose and talking to him in an excited voice.
- Run a few steps forward and call out, “Come!” If he needs additional encouragement clap or make noises to get his attention. Don’t repeat the “come” command. You want him to respond faster and faster without repeating yourself.
- When he gets it, your dog will run to you. Say, “Yes!” (This is a trigger word that people naturally say in a positive manner.)
- Give your buddy a treat.
- Keep this within a few feet until your dog responds consistently. Back up a bit further every time to teach your dog to obey over distances.
NOTE: Doggie treats are fine for this exercise, unless your dog already has some pudge. Jake responds just as well to regular dog food or a hug.
The pros of this method include positive reinforcement that helps you bond with your dog and a pretty universal success rate if done consistently. On the con side, it might be hard to find a good assistant patient enough to sit through multiple iterations of the exercise. Using high-calorie doggie treats can increase your dog’s weight.
Teach Your Dog to Come Using a Long Leash and Vibration Collar
If you have an active dog that resists commands in favor of doing her own thing, adding a vibration collar to the training might help. Vibration collars set to low intensity can be a valuable part of your training regimen and do not harm your pup. In fact, they can be an integral part of teaching your dog behaviors that keep her safe.
Here’s how it works. When you use a vibration collar, your dog first gets a quick alert vibration. This should trigger her to begin the behavior. If needed, you can send a second vibration if she doesn’t respond. You’re mostly following the method above, with a few modifications.
- Get your dog to sit still.
- Instead of using a partner, let out a few feet of leash.
- Run ahead a few steps and say, “Come!” Activate the vibration collar at the same time you give the command.
- Don’t repeat the command. If your dog doesn’t come right away, try a second activation of the vibration collar.
- You can clap or make noises to help get your dog’s attention the first few times. If your dog isn’t responding to the vibration collar, consider increasing the intensity slightly. Do not set the intensity too high to avoid frightening your dog or developing a negative association that impeded the training.
It’s important to pair this training with positive reinforcement. You can use voice (“Good girl!”), tactile feedback (pet or pat, positive touch) and food to show the correct behavior has been achieved.
On the con side, vibration collars used off-leash or over long distances aren’t likely to be immediately effective. Your dog will take longer to associate the vibration with the command over distance. Escalating the intensity of the vibration collar isn’t likely to do much beyond frighten your dog. In the pros column, adding a vibration collar to your training can be helpful with hyper, easily distracted dogs as well as for blind or deaf dogs.