Teaching Your Pup To Comeby Candee Teitel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Candee owns two mastiffs: Ch. Miyaka Misha, UDT (Utility Dog, Tracking Dog) (CGC, TDI, TT) and Foxglove Hope's Just In Time, CD (CGC, TT). The following was written by Candee in response to a request on the mastiff mailing list for information on teaching a puppy to come.
I disagree with using anything but praise when FIRST teaching the come exercise. I have seen the results of the following method, and I would never use another!
After you are certain that the dog knows the word come, and you have worked on distractions in a controlled environment, you can take the dog outside.
I start with a retractable lead. I let the dog know that I have treats. I let him go out to the end of the lead, sniff around, or do whatever, and then I call, "Alexander Come" in the SAME HAPPY voice. If he fails to come, and he may, this is a new environment, pop gently on the leash, run backwards, use encouraging words, and praise when he starts in your direction. Reward him with a treat, delivered close to your body (don't step forward and offer the treat with outstretched hand, or you will teach him never to come close.) Use a release word (I use OK) and send him away again. Repeat over and over until he flies to you when you call. This teaches him that just because you called him, it doesn't mean that it's the end of his fun. You will release him again as soon as he comes to you.
After he is proficient at this, take him to a small, new, enclosed area, like a tennis court. Play the game on lead, then remove the leash. Call him before he gets too far away. Release him, call again and again. If at some point, when he is 10 ft away, he doesn't come, walk calmly to him, attach the leash, repeat come in a sweet voice, and bring him to the place where you called him from. Praise him. Release again. If he doesn't come to you 3 times in a row, he is not yet ready for off lead, or you are letting him get too far away before you call.
Don't wait for a response. You have spent a week at least, teaching an immediate response, don't give him the wrong message now, that he can take his time, or you will undo all the previous work.
While teaching come, if you need to call the dog inside, or put it in the crate, use some other words, lets go, comeon, etc.
If you don't have another person to play the game with, just let the pup wander around, come close to him, wave the treat, and run backwards. This works well.
After training in the enclosure (tennis court, school yard) take him to a strange place, and when he looks away, run and hide behind a tree or a building. If you do this with the right attitude, and make a game of it (act like a fool when he finds you) the dog will never let you get another chance to "disappears" on him. Sometimes, you can even just lie down in the leaves (or snow). It's such fun to watch the look on their faces when then think you are gone, and when they find you!
Have fun. I think you will love the response this method brings.