Teaching Your Dog the Long Distance Come Command

Girl in forest asking dog to come

The American Pet Products Association surveys the percentage of households who own dogs and for 2017/18 the number fell at 60.2%. That means over half of all households in the United States own at least 1 dog. Out of the different types of animals included in the survey, dogs are the most popular pet to own. Teach your dog basic obedience commands like sit, stay, and come will shape your pup into the dog of your dreams. One of the most difficult and sought after commands dog owners want their dogs to know is the long-distance come command — also known as long-distance recall.

Every Dog Needs Come

Most dogs learn how to come from an early age. Every time you are in your house, and call your dog to you, you are practicing the come command. Most dogs pick it up pretty quickly. Especially when they make a connection between the crinkling sound of you opening or handling a bag of dog treats. Teaching your dog to come when you are 10-feet away and there are no distractions is easy. Teaching your dog to come when he is 50-feet away, you are outside in an unconfined area, he is off-leash, and God only knows how many squirrels and other enticing distractions are between you two, is not.

Come or recall is a basic puppy training command that all dogs should learn. In a sticky situation, like if your dog chases a cat into moving traffic, or your child or company accidentally leave the door open and your dog escapes, the long-distance come command could literally save your dog’s life. Not to mention, if you are able to recall your dog from a distance it will save you countless hours of chasing down, looking for, and trying to rescue a lost dog if yours should ever escape.

You would be surprised how common it is for dogs to bolt like their lives depended on it every time they are presented with the opportunity of an open door to the open road. If your dog is a runner, it does not mean that they don’t like you or the life you’re providing for them. It means that they think everything in the whole World is just as exciting as you are and they want to see it, smell it, lick it, taste it, bark at it, tear it up, and roll in it. Remember, dogs have shorter lives than humans, so they have a smaller timeframe they are trying to fit all their adventures in to.

Training Mistakes to Avoid

Humans have been domesticating dogs for over 16,000 years. As a culture, we have had a lot of opportunities to try, test, correct, and improve dog training techniques. Dog trainers have made hundreds if not thousands of mistakes along the way and because of that, you are able to benefit from the trials of others while you are training your own dog. Here are some common pitfalls dog owners experience while teaching their dogs to come back to them and how you can avoid them. The more you know about dog training, the more successful you and your dog will be.

“Good-boy-come? Who’s Good-boy-come?” -Your Dog

Teaching “come” is ambitious if your dog does not know its name. It may seem rudimentary, but certain dog obedience commands do have dependencies. Teaching most any new command will require that your dog knows its own name. If your dog does not know its own name there are games and training techniques you can use to teach it. For instance, you can receive a free eBook with simple training tips, including how to teach your dog to respond to its name, when you sign-up for the MuttFitters newsletter.

Puppies are not born speaking human. Think about that. If you only spoke English, would you understand someone who was talking to you in Mandarin? Probably not. For dogs, understanding “human-ese” takes time, patience, and repetition. Using a recognizable sound, like with clicker training, is a great way to communicate with your puppy while he or she is still learning your language. This is America, but repeating something and saying it louder doesn’t always work on mutts. Often, it is easier to succeed to your dog’s lead and speak their language instead (woof!).

Be what your dog wants — captivating, exciting, thrilling.

Puppies are tiny little narcissists. If coming to you has no benefit to them then they just aren’t going to stop chasing the butterfly or car they are after. It sounds awful, but the truth can hurt. You need to be more exciting to your furry friend than whatever else is competing for his attention.

Consider tempting your dog with high value treats like his favorite cheat food or something you know he will be able to smell from a mile away. Bacon? It isn’t healthy, but in small amounts, bacon can be an excellent training aid and when you think about it, what dog can resist bacon? Dare you to leave out a plate of bacon alone in a room with your dog and see what happens.

If your dog doesn’t know come and you find yourself in the middle of a nature hike with him, dangling a few low hanging treats and flashing your dashing good looks aren’t going to fit the bill. Take time to understand what your dog loves — what drives him to act — while you are in a safe and confined environment like your home that you will be able to use to your advantage when you venture out into an uncertain world later on.

Keep consistently positive

A mistake that is made too often by uninformed dog owners is punishing your puppy when you feel like he has taken too long to come. It is okay for you to feel frustrated. Maybe you are calling for your dog over and over again and feel like he is ignoring you and you are ready to let him have it when he finally decides he is ready to come. That feeling is normal. The trick is realizing that you are dealing with human emotions from plant human and your dog is off living on planet dog.

When your dog comes to you give praise. Every time. Coming to you needs to be a positive experience if you want your dog to come without hesitation. If you punish your dog when he comes then your dog begins to interpret your come command as a time to get scolded command, instead. Sending a consistent and consistently positive message to your dog every time he comes to you will teach your dog that he is doing the right thing and that doing the right thing is a good thing.

Step-by-Step Come Training Instructions

Let’s get right to the meat and potatoes of teaching your dog to come when you command. Understanding your dog’s learning process from a high-level overview gives you perspective and confidence when it’s time to follow through.

  • Identify an irresistible reward
  • Schedule daily training sessions
  • Practice a few short times per day
  • Challenge your dog’s obedience

Always reward a successful come. You want your dog positively identifying with you and your command.

Identifying a Reward Your Dog Cannot Refuse

You have to make your dog an offer he cannot refuse. It is as simple as, if you can be more exciting to your dog than anything else then you will garner your dog’s full attention. By finding a reward that your dog can’t pass up — a reward could be a treat, toy, or game that your dog loves — and saving that special reward only for training sessions, you’ll already be ahead of the pack because you have a secret weapon that gives you an advantage over your dog’s mind. Knowing what your dog can’t say no to is like having the power of mind control over your pup (how could you possibly fail when you can control minds?).

Scheduling Appropriate Time for Training

Dog learning happens faster if you are able to remove distractions from your environment during training sessions. By choosing a time of day when everyone else is out of the house — kids, significant other, roommates, etc. — you can give your dog a fighting chance at focusing on your goals instead of everything else going on in the world around you.

As your dog’s education progresses, and his ability to come on command improves, you can begin to introduce distractions into your training sessions. Diversifying the environment during training sessions teaches your dog that the environment has nothing to do with him being rewarded. You would not want a dog who only knows how to come when you are in your living room, right? Dogs appreciate a good challenge. By mixing it up and keeping them on their toes you are doing them a favor. After all, variety is the spice of life.

Practicing Your Come Command

Practicing the come command with your dog is the only way they will learn. Dogs learn best through repetition. Scheduling daily training sessions are a great start for approaching your sessions with consistency. When you are first starting out you should minimize the distractions in your dog’s environment. Practice the command in the same place, the same way, with the same hand signal and/or verbal command, until your dog shows an understanding of your intentions.

Example come command teaching strategy

To begin a teaching session with your dog you will first need to get your dog’s attention. Call his name, show him a treat, ruffle your treat bag, or walk right up to your dog if that is what it takes to make him acknowledge you. Once your pupil is paying attention, they are ready to learn.

We recommend always teaching your dog a command with a hand signal before adding voice control. The reason is that you may not always be in earshot of your dog, so hand signals offer you control at a distance — which is essential for teaching your dog the long-distance-come command. If you recall, dogs do not naturally speak a human language. However, every creature in the animal kingdom speaks body language. Sometimes teaching your dog a new trick using a hand signal can be easier than repeatedly saying the same command and hoping that by the 5th time your dog makes a cognitive association.

While your dog is looking at you give them the command then immediately turn and take off in the opposite direction. Dogs possess a natural instinct to chase moving things — and they already love YOU — so by running away from your dog, you are setting off automatic reactions in your dog’s brain resulting in him chasing, following, and coming to you. By using your dog’s natural inclinations against them you have become a dog mentalist. Make sure not to run too far because the goal is to let your dog catch you, so you can reward for coming to you. Toss a treat, rub the spot, bust out the special toy. Give him the reward you identified as the awesome, only for special occasions, offer so good he cannot refuse. Lots of praise, rewards, and sweet-talking affirms to your dog you are pleased.

Pause for applause, rinse, and repeat.

Practice for a short time each day, so as not to over saturate how much of the awesome reward your dog gets. Limiting training sessions to shorter time intervals ensures your dog won’t get bored with listening to you. Boredom could lead to bad habits and less effective training sessions. Additionally, long training sessions could lead to over treating and over treating can cause serious health conditions including, but not limited to canine obesity and heart conditions.

Challenge your dog with distance and diversity

Dogs are smart. There is no debate about that. Some dogs are more intelligent than others, but most all dogs enjoy a good challenge. There’s always that one dog who’s a lush, but most dogs are going to appreciate an infusion of mental stimulation that gives them a sense of confidence and accomplishment. Like people, dogs seem happier when their self-image is positive. When you notice your dog has mastered the basic come-recall command you can stimulate their minds, putting their training to the test, by switching things up and diversifying your training environment.

Adding diversity to training sessions will send the message to your dog that what you are asking them to do has nothing to do with the world around them. When you teach a dog to come the hope is that they will come no matter when you ask them, where you are, who’s around, or what they’re doing. A dog who comes every time you recall them to your side is an exemplary student and canine companion. Consistently obeying a come could someday save your dog’s life.

You can incorporate diversity in any number of ways. Changing the location of your environment is one easy way. Inviting a new person to your session is another. Essentially, you are building confidence that your dog is going to listen to you even if there’s a little excitement going on in the background. As you feel more comfortable with your dog’s progress you can begin to increase the distance you are asking your dog to come.

Gradually increasing the distance you are able to recall your dog from allows you to ease into the long-distance-come command. Good things happen over time. Great things happen all at once. Getting your dog in the first place was a great thing that happened all at once. Making your dog’s behavior more convenient to your lifestyle is a good thing that takes time.

Additional Teaching Opportunities

An unintended useful side-effect of training come is you will have ample opportunity to continue practicing stay and sit, too. Ever time your dog comes, you are going to need to get away from them, so you can practice more than once. Asking your dog to sit and stay or lay-down and stay is a nice way to get more out of each training session.

Tips for shedding the leash

If you do not or are not comfortable off-leashing your dog you still have options. Trust between you and your dog is a learned skill that you can work at to create and to increase. Until you trust your dog to wander off and return when called, you should consider keeping your dog on the leash for its safety, as well as others. A normal 4-foot to 6-foot leash or even a 16-foot retractable leash isn’t really enough to simulate a real long-distance-come, but you can pick up a 30-foot, 50-foot, 100-foot or even 300-foot dog leash made especially for training that is. Using a long leash gives your dog a sense of independence without giving you a heart-attack if they don’t respond to your commands. You want your dog to feel like they are off on their own, so you can practice for when they are off on their own.

If you are interested in purchasing an extra long dog leash for training your pet, check out this one from SportDOG Brand. It’s 30-feet long, brightly colored, and floats if you are going to be tossing toys into the ocean, a pond, or pool for your dog to fetch and return with.

Stuck? Watch this Come When Called dog training video

Here is an informative dog training video for you. If you are stuck with training or visualizing how training should happen then watch the video. This dog trainer gives simple step by step instructions with visuals and explanations of the methods you should be able to imitate and do on your own.

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Thoughts or Comments?

Do you have thoughts or comments on training your dog to come from a distance? Have we missed something? Did you try something different that worked really well for you and your dog? Leave a comment in the comment’s section below.


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