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Teaching your puppy to come when called is one of the most important behaviors you can teach your dog. Having a dog who can be trusted off-leash and come reliably just makes life with a dog much more enjoyable. The easiest way to teach this is by using a food item to lure a dog over. So it starts off very simply. Come. Yes. Good boy, Dexter. So Dexter gets rewarded for coming toward me. He doesn’t have to come from far away. He doesn’t have to come off-leash. He’s only been on the planet Earth for 12 weeks. I can’t ask him to join the doctorate program just get. He has to stay within his grade level. So he’s a baby. We’re taking baby steps.
All right. While he finishes that, let me also make a point. When you are using food, use tiny, tiny pieces. You can use a dog’s kibble, or you cut up small pieces of cheese. This is dehydrated lamb lung, and they also sell liver and things like that, that are really high-value to a dog. And when you do use them, don’t keep them in a Ziploc bag, and don’t keep them someplace where it’s going to make a lot of noise or be really super-obvious to a dog. I tend to keep a little treat pouch like this that I can keep behind my back so the dog can’t see what I’m doing. All right. It’s not about the food. It’s about the command. So I’m asking him, Dexter, come. Yes. Good boy.
So I’m moving away from him a tiny bit. Giving him the command. And at this age, he’s just happy to come over to me no matter what it is I’m saying or I’m doing. So we’re conditioning a response from him when I use that command. So a conditioned response, a good example of that is if you are at a meeting and everybody has a phone, their cell phone out, and it’s on the table, and one vibrates. Everybody checks their phone. Your phone is a really reliable and consistent trainer. So you need to be the same way. You give him the command. He gives you the response, you give him the reward. Okay. When he does it, I’m picking one sound that tells him he’s doing the right thing. I’m going to say “Yes.” Okay. Now I like to say “Yes” instead of “Good boy” because we tell dogs “Good boy” for just about everything. All right. He walks into the room. He’s cute. Good boy.
You want to make sure that you’re using a specific sound that says he’s accomplished a task, and is earning a reward. Okay. So I’m going to say, “Dexter, come. Yes. Good boy.” All right. We’re going to do one more, and I’m going to see if he can handle it being off-leash. Okay. Now being off-leash in an enclosed area that’s very much under my control, I’m not that concerned about. I wouldn’t necessarily start this at the dog park. I wouldn’t start this someplace where the distraction is way over what he’s capable of. Dexter, come. Yes. Good boy. All right.
So you notice I’m saying “Yes” then “Good boy.” I don’t mind that so much. You just want to make sure that “Yes” is first. He knows that “Yes” means I get the reward. Okay. Dexter, come. Dexter, come. Yes. Good boy. So you can even, from further and further away, you can also give your dog encouragement. So they look at you, and you immediately, “Yeah. All right.” Get excited. Make a loud noise. High-pitched noises. Get excited for him. Let him know that he’s doing the right thing. Dexter, come. Yes. Good boy. All right. So he’s getting the hang of it now. He knows more and more that he’s getting rewarded for this behavior. Dexter, come. Good boy.
Now big mistakes people make is they’ll call the dog over for punishment even if it’s only by mistake. You’re at the dog park. Come. The dog doesn’t listen to you. Come, come, come. You’re repeating yourself, which is teaching the dog how to ignore you. They finally come and you leave the park, something that didn’t work out very well for the dog. The dog will stop listening to you. Dogs will only do what works for dogs. All right. This is a quick, easy exercise. You can practice this before every meal, two or three times a day for a few minutes at a time. And you’ll start getting more and more reliability out of your dog. And that’s how you teach a puppy how to come when called.