Dog Training Tips

By Sarah Wilson, MA,
Healthy Planet Staff Writer

Come: A Couple of Common Canine Confusions

Canine Come Confusion #1: What Did You Say?

“Watch this,” a man told me as our dogs played in an open field. “Max, Come!” he called out. Max instantly bolted away from him. “See how defiant he is!” the man said.

 “What if, every time you ran away from me, I yelled, ‘BLARG!’ After a while, you might, understandably, think BLARG meant to run away? Maybe he’s not being defiant; maybe he’s just confused.”

 Problem #1: We don’t teach “come” before we use it.

 Often, we start saying “come” to our dogs when they are off leash, having fun, and expect them to somehow know what we intend.

 Good “Come” training starts on the leash inside. And when you can easily call your dog away from toys, food, and other fun inside, on leash, then and only then do you two have the chops to start work outside.

 Canine Come Confusion #2: Wanna play?

Just last week I saw a neighbor trying to get her puppy safely into her arms after he slipped out the front door. Every time she got close, her pup would dance away from her, wagging and grinning. He was trying to play a game; she was not. How did that happen?

 We humans often love, love, love playing catch-me-if-you-can with our pups. We laugh as we playfully grab at them and as they scoot out of reach. Our pups quickly learn that we love it when they run away from us!

 So, is it surprising that our pups try to initiate that same game from time to time, as this pup was?

 Problem #2: We reward running away with laughter and attention.

Because of this easy confusion, I don’t play run-away-from-me games with dogs. I play come-to-me games instead. Frequently, I’ll ask a dog to come to me inside. At first, when they are not doing anything fun, I am more likely to succeed. I’ll pat my leg, say, “Come,” then smile and sound super happy. When the dog comes – praise, pet, and give a treat. Message: coming to me is fun!

Playing helpful games regularly can improve your dog’s understanding of the word and their willingness to approach you. Happy training!