When you bring home your new puppy, one of the first commands that you should teach him is "come." This is a very important lesson because it establishes that you are in charge of the relationship: you are, so to speak, the alpha dog. And when your puppy comes on command, you have the ability to call him to your side when he is about to do something that is wrong or dangerous. You can also easily get his attention, which is vital if you're going to teach him other things – like sitting, or doing tricks.
Some people think that this is a difficult command to teach. Fortunately, that's rarely true. Most puppies are intelligent and eager to please their masters. If you treat your puppy well, then he will want to make you happy. Here's how to show your puppy what he needs to do when you call him.
First, you need to make sure that your puppy knows his name. Use his name every time you address him. "That's a good boy, Fred" is one of many ways to help him realize that he's called Fred. You and your puppy are ready for the next step when you are certain that he recognizes his name. He will acknowledge the name in some way: he'll turn to look at you, perhaps, or perk up his ears.
Now that your puppy is ready to learn how to come when he's called, you need to make that command an enticing, interesting thing to do. The dog will figure out what you want, but you have to give him an incentive at first.
So: grab his favorite toy, or a handful of puppy treats, and get somebody in the family to hold the puppy. Hold Fred (or whatever you've named your new pal) on the floor so that he can come to you when you call him. Now walk a few feet away and kneel down to the floor.
You should squeak the toy, or rattle the puppy treats, or whatever it takes to get the puppy's attention. As you do this, say, "Come, Fred!" in a clear and pleasant voice. You want to sound happy: if you don't, your puppy might think that he is in trouble. Then he'll associate the "come" command with bad things and be tempted to run away instead of obeying you.
But when your puppy sees the toy or the treats, he'll come to you. Reward him as soon as he reaches you. Let him chomp on the toy for a minute. Give him one of the treats. Pet him and tell him what a good boy he is. Say things like, "Good come, Fred. You know how to come, don't you?" Repeating the "come" command while rewarding the puppy will help him associate that word with what he just did – and with the goodies that you give him when he obeys you.
You will have to repeat this process a few times, if not more, before your puppy figures out what "come" means. Have different family members take turns holding the puppy, calling him over, et cetera. Everyone in the house needs to participate: that way, your puppy understands that he is to obey them all – not just you.
With a little practice and plenty of rewards, the puppy will soon figure out what you want him to do. You will have a well-trained companion who, with enough practice, will drop whatever he is doing to come to you when you call. This is a crucial step toward having a well-behaved dog: accomplish this and you can begin more advanced training.
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