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Coming When Called – article recently published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette

I wanted to share this with you guys because the “come” command is EXTREMELY important!

Teaching an emergency recall command – a word other than “come” – for use in potentially dangerous situations involved a process of “loading” a word with meaning by saying the word, then immediately giving the dog a treat so he would learn to associate the word with something positive.

Yes, that could be used as a first step in teaching your dog to respond to the word “come,” although it’s not essential, says professional dog trainer Charlotte Mallion of See Spot Sit Training (seespotsit.org) in Sherwood.

She explains that when “loading” a word, you’re only getting your dog used to hearing the word while it’s paired with a treat. He’s not learning the action that goes with the word, which is the next step.

If you want to begin withloading, however, condition your dog to associate the word with the treat by saying the word, then handing him the treat. Do this several times a day. He doesn’t have to do anything to get the treat.Treats can be commercially prepared training treats or tiny bites of anything the dog loves, such as cooked chicken or pieces of hot dog. Just make sure you use that treat only when teaching recall.

The second step would be to test the word after a week by going into another room, then saying the word come. If he comes to you, give him a treat. Mallion recommends keeping a covered container of treats (something that won’t spoil) in each room of the house while your dog is learning. That way, you can call him to you several times a day, then reward him when he responds appropriately. Of course, he gets no treat if he doesn’t come when called.

Another method of teaching recall or “come” is to take your dog outside and tether him to you with a long leash or lead – usually 20 feet long, but anything from 6 feet to 25 will work. You can buy long leads at a pet store or makeyour own. Trainer Jamie Walden of See Spot Sit explains how to make a lead at tinyurl.com/bnllo2y.

During training, Mallion suggests pairing a gesture with the word, which gives you two cues to use when you want your dog to come to you. The gesture becomes important in situations in which there’s a lot of traffic or other noise that might prevent your dog from hearing the spoken command.

The gesture Mallion teaches involves tapping or patting yourself high on the chest or on the collarbone.She describes how to teach it and the verbal cue:

“Put your dog on a long lead and hold it very loosely. Let him get some distance away from you and get engaged with something else. Don’t look at him and don’t invite him to play. You can even turn your back so he’ll get distracted.

“When your dog is distracted, it’s time to call him to you. Repeat the word ‘come’ in a happy tone – ‘come, come, come, come’ – andgently reel him in. When your dog gets to you, continue to say ‘come’ and pat yourself high on the chest so he’ll look up toward your face. Then you can reward him with the treat and lots of petting. Treat the action of coming to you like it’s a party and your dog is the guest of honor.”

After he’s consistently coming to you while on the lead, try the command without having him tethered to you. Reinforce the come command by practicing it every day, varying the location every time you call your dog to you. Also practice it in situations where there are distractions such as other people, animals, activity and noise.

You can gradually wean him from the treats by giving it to him every other time he comes, then every few times, then every now and again. Even when he has learned to respond perfectly every time, continue to party when he comes so in his mind the action and your happy response will be forever linked.

Do you have a question about

pets? We’ll get you an answer

from an authority. Send your question to Rhonda Owen,

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203 or e-mail askcreature@att.net

Family, Pages 34 on 04/03/2013

Print Headline: Creature feature