COME: The Most Important Command
Perhaps the single most important command you will teach your dog is “COME.” This command is one you will use at home, outside, anywhere you take your dog. It is the basic foundation for your relationship with your dog.
Today I am working with Scout, a rescue who the shelter described as a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix. You see that Scout is very responsive to the “come” command and knows reinforcement will be his reward! But Scout has made a lot of progress from where he started thanks to the hard work and patience of his owners, long-term clients of mine and very responsible dog owners. They reached out to me early in the adoption process as Scout was very possessive of the house and threatening to guests.
When I first met with Scout, we decided it would be best for him to be on leash. Scout was skilled at masking his behavior; he appeared social and his tail wagged continuously. But when I approached him he became aggressive, and his intent to bite was clear. We had some work to do, so that is where we began!
I first introduced my client Michael, as well as Scout, to his harness and focused simply on helping both of them adjust to this new equipment. The change in Scout was transformational. Michael humanely took the leadership role, and over time, Scout has developed into an exceptional canine citizen.
To achieve the level of cooperation with your dog that Scout exhibits when he hears “come,” start in your own home. Keep in mind, there should always be something reinforcing when you tell your dog to “come”—a treat, a toy, food, etc. Watch for the moment your dog turns to you and takes that first willing step toward you, say “come,” and reward. It’s that simple! Walk away, change direction, vary your pattern, and do it again. Keep practicing, and be sure to find your next thank you!