Dog Training: How to teach "Come"

Today’s question is from Dana and she asks:

How do you get an extra large lab to listen and obey the command come? He’s just turned one on Feb 13th an took 6 weeks of obedience training that appears to have been a waste.

Come is one of the hardest things to teach. Well, it isn’t HARD it just takes consistency for an extremely long amount of time. Additionally, this is a training area where it doesn’t matter what type of dog you have or their age, etc – everyone starts in the same place. As you train – different dog personalities, ages, etc can change how you continue (and eventually succeed) with this…but we’ll start at the beginning.

First – I use two different words for different “actions” I want my dogs to do. There is “Let’s Go” (you can use whatever words you want) which means I simply want them to be in my general area going in my general direction. So, if we are out walking around and they are off-lead and I want them to go in my general direction, I say, “Let’s go.” Second, if I say “Come” – that means come NOW and come FAST – don’t think about it, just do it. And come straight to my face. This one takes more time to teach.

So, to train “come”…it MUST ALWAYS BE ON LEASH when you start (and for a significant amount of time afterward). You do NOT want your dog to figure out you can say “come” and they don’t have to. When that happens, you spend a lot of time re-training to get back to a good starting point.


Start with a regular 6 foot leash and be walking (NOT HEELING) with your dog – it doesn’t matter where the dog is. Have treats ready (most dogs do best with treats in the beginning stages of training new commands). Be walking along and suddenly stop and start walking backward calling your dog with “Fido, come”. Say it in a VERY happy, excited voice. When fido comes to you – immediate praise and very small treat. Repeat many times.


The next thing you can do is have someone hold your dog lightly by the collar as you walk away further. They should hold the dog until you call him then let him go. Once you call your dog in a happy tone, you run backward and your dog runs to you. DO NOT LET THE DOG GO AROUND YOU. (You should be reeling in whatever leash that is attached so he comes to you and doesn’t go around you.) Immediate treat and praise. Repeat many times.

Just so you know – after two 6-week classes dogs are often prepared for the Canine Good Citizen test. One of the things they have to do to pass is sit or down stay at the end of a 10-foot leash and come when called. Just so you know – most of the students in our classes passed. So, it is possible and it can be done fairly quickly – if the owners train regularly and are consistent.

Real quick – treat suggestions: hot dogs or cheese sticks cut up very small (size will vary depending on the size of your dog but a one year old lab is pretty big so for you cut maybe 1/4″ slices lengthwise of the hot dog, then cut those in half). Two “official” training type treats that most dogs like are: Stewart Pro Treat Liver treats (these are dry) and Bill-Jac liver treats (these are moist). [With both of these – still cut them into smaller bites for training.]

Dana, I pray these help you and your family with your new little bundle!

Anyone else have a training question? Please leave a comment and I’ll answer it in another post.

I currently have one pending / coming soon:

Sam: training “stay”

You may be interested in checking out the other training posts I’ve done lately:

My dog training experience
Calming the Storm (the hyper dog)
Crate Training & Potty Training

Have a wonderfully blessed day!

Disclaimer: although there are “general rules” that can often apply / help a dog, sometimes more information is needed or there is a “special situation” that is unknown by the trainer. Therefore this answer may not work for all dogs at all times. With that said, please do not bash me if you have tried what I have suggested and it did not work for you. (You are more than welcome to leave a comment telling me so and asking for additional advice, if you’d like.) My training philosophy is “positive motivational” and starts with the least “harsh” option and works up as necessary. Additionally, all my advice is intended for dogs that live INSIDE the home. Although the training would basically be the same, I’ve found it takes much longer to train a dog that lives outside the house.



One thought on “Dog Training: How to teach "Come"

  1. Dana February 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm Reply

    Thanks, Dawn! Some very helpful tips. He’s so set in his way but so sweet too. And extra large sized as he is makes it harder but we will try the suggestions you have made! Thanks so much!!


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