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Brandon McMillan’s Guide to Teaching Dogs the “Come” Command

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 13, 2020 • 5 min read

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Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training

Dog training is a necessary activity that keeps your pooch sharp and well-behaved. When you teach a dog basic commands, you can strengthen your bond and increase your understanding of one another. While hiring a professional dog trainer or consulting an expert behaviorist isn’t necessary for most dog training, many different factors can influence how a dog responds during training sessions. It’s important for dog owners to incorporate the best tools and techniques to make the most out of adult dog or new puppy training.

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Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog TrainingBrandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training

Expert animal trainer Brandon McMillan teaches you his simple, effective training system to build trust and control with your dog.

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A Brief Introduction to Brandon McMillan

Brandon McMillan is a renowned animal trainer who has spent most of his life working with domesticated and wild animals. The Emmy Award-winning host of the critically acclaimed CBS series Lucky Dogs comes from a family of wild animal trainers—Brandon began helping raise tigers by the age of four. The animals he’s trained have appeared in countless television commercials and motion pictures, including the comedy blockbuster, The Hangover (2009). In 2016, the successful dog trainer released his first book, Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days. After spending a year training a service dog for an injured combat veteran, Brandon realized his calling was in training dogs to change people’s lives. To further his goals, Brandon co-founded the Argus Service Dog Foundation, an organization that trains service dogs to assist veterans with disabilities.

Brandon McMillan’s Guide to Teaching Your Dog the “Come” Command

Recall training is how you can teach your dog the “come” command. This recall cue is an important command to teach your dog, especially if you take your dog off-leash, as it ensures your dog will respond to your voice behave. Reliable recall is essential for controlling dog behavior in public places like the dog park and can be a lifesaver around the home and other situations. To teach your dog the “come” command, check out this step-by-step guide from successful dog trainer Brandon McMillan:

  1. Have your dog stay. To begin the training, start your dog in the “stay” position. If your dog doesn’t already know the stay command, use a second person to hold your dog in place. With the dog’s leash in hand, slowly take a few steps away from your dog.
  2. Implement the cue. Slap your leg (or clap your hands) while saying your dog’s name and “come” in a very inviting tone of voice. Make sure to keep a treat between the first two fingers of the hand you’re using to slap your leg. Once your dog runs to you, pay them with a high-value treat (a treat your dog loves and only gets occasionally), and offer heavy praise.
  3. Reset and increase the distance. Reset your pet, then move back at least six feet or until you’re at the end of the leash, then repeat the command and the leg slap. If your dog doesn’t come to you immediately, pull them towards you with the leash. Once they come to you, make sure to pay them in treats. Now, move back 10 feet and repeat the process. Then go for 20 feet. Just remember: You only want to increase your distance after your dog is reliably coming to you every time.
  4. Introduce distractions. Once your dog has mastered these techniques, it’s time to introduce distractions. Grab some of their favorite toys, then begin the process again, standing just a few feet from your dog. Maintain control of the leash in case your dog wants to keep running after their toys.
  5. Increase distance with a toy. Get your dog’s attention focused on a toy, then back up farther. When you’re ready and your dog is focused on the toy, throw it off to the side. At the same time, call for your dog to come.
  6. Practice. Repeat this process until your dog ignores the toy and comes straight to you. Some other ideas for distractions include having another dog join in, getting someone to ring the doorbell, and enlisting a friend to compete with your dog for your attention.
  7. Try a different leash length. Once your dog has mastered the come command on a short leash and with added distractions, try the techniques on the long leash.
  8. Wean them off the treats. Over time, give fewer treats when your dog completes the recall command. Eventually, you’ll want to implement a reward lottery system in which treats become sporadic but heavy praise is always offered. You want to start and end with a treat, but give treats throughout a session, too (so earning a treat becomes a “lottery”). As time goes on, you’ll give fewer and fewer treats until you’re only giving praise. This process is vital for weaning dogs off of treats.
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3 Reasons Why Your Dog May Not Respond to the “Come” Command

You may notice that sometimes when you call your dog over, they may not respond to your command. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Your dog hasn’t learned the command. When you teach a dog a command for the first time, they must learn the desired action and associate it with the verbal cue (and hand signal, if taught together). Mixing up other words with the command will confuse your pet, and they won’t learn what the word “come” means. Make sure you practice getting your dog to come, using only your verbal command—and practice it often.
  2. Your dog thinks they’re in trouble. If you only utilize the come cue when your dog has done something wrong or bad, they will only make negative associations with that word (like they’re in trouble) and be hesitant to respond to your call. Make sure you use “come” for fun activities or walks so that your dog makes positive associations with the command.
  3. Your dog doesn’t have enough incentive. If you haven’t been providing your dog with enough positive reinforcement (tasty treat rewards, lots of praise, petting), they won’t be motivated to come to you when you call.

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Want to Learn More About Training the Goodest Boy or Girl?

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