Whistle Train Come

There are times when your dog may be too far away from you to hear the cue “come” or maybe it’s just too difficult for you to yell and the whistle would be an easier tool. Here are some simple tips from my book, “Come, Boy!”

The Start of Whistle Training

Say your dog’s name, and as soon as his neck turns, as he is moving toward you, instead of saying “come,” blow the whistle and strongly reinforce (lots of treats) when he arrives. After a few repetitions you will eliminate saying his name and simply whistle.

Allow your dog to get distracted. Say his name and as soon as he moves toward you, whistle. When he gets closer deliver treats.

Let me know how it goes! Do you have any experiences with whistle training come?




Feelings Matter: Successfully Teach Come

Okay, so for all you men that read my blog title, you may or may not have rolled your eyes, but hear me out. Today discussing feelings matters for your dog and I promise this won’t be a painful conversation. 😉 For us ladies, I know we are all about this topic. 


The way that you respond to your dog’s behavior creates an emotional response for him. Let’s think about this for a minute. Let’s say that you are in the beginning stages of falling in love with someone. Your emotions are strong. You have this yearning to be with that person. You can’t wait to be with that person. It’s intense. There are butterflies, roses, and rainbows when you think of this person or hear this person’s name. You cannot wait to spend time together.

On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’ve been fighting with someone for months. Everything now that he/she says and does annoys you. You even hate the way he or she holds the fork, chews food, or says certain words. You cannot even stand the idea of being in the same room with that person.

Emotional associations matter for us, and emotions matter for dogs as well. Your response, positive or negative, to your dog coming to you will make all the difference in the world.

Has your dog ever run away from you? What did you do? If your dog does run away from youc never, ever, ever (Did I say that enough times??) punish, yell, spank, or act annoyed with your dog. Please. Never. The way that you respond to your dog, especially with the cue come, will determine his response. It’s important to be appear unfazed even if you are upset. You want him to want to want to come to you, not the opposite.

But It’s a Negative

For a moment let’s think about things from the dog’s perspective. You have a coworker that starts off saying something positive, but you know she will end with a negative. “You did a good job, BUT…” “I like your shirt, but gosh, it’s probably too tight for the office.” You will begin to dread any sort of positive thing that comes out of her mouth because you know that there is a negative “but” that follows.

Similarly, when working on the come cue, you must always think about things from the dog’s perspective. In other words, what is negative for him? And whatever is negative for him, do not pair it with the cue come.  What does this mean? A very good example would be illustrated in my group class for basic manners where we work on recalls. The dog comes running in hard to the owner and performs what is actually quite a beautiful come. When the dog gets close to the owner to get his yummy treat, the owner gives it to him and then starts petting him like crazy. Typically what I see at this point is the dog backing up. He is backing up because at that moment he did not want to petted. He wanted a treat. Now, because of this first association, on the second recall that we do, the dog doesn’t run as fast to the owner.

What are some things that are your dog may perceive as a negative?

  • When he is at the dog park, and owner cues come, leashes the dog and then leaves the park.
  • Before you leave for work, you cue come, and put the dog in the kennel for 7 hours.
  • Owner cues come. The dog runs up to the owner, and the owner pets the dog.  The dog backs up because he doesn’t enjoy someone petting his face.

A negative doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of you yelling at your dog. A negative is anything that he finds unpleasant or he just doesn’t like. You want the cue come to mean rainbows and butterflies, a day without rain or flies, because feelings really do matter.

Hear the cue “come” –> Feel happy –> Run to owner

Eww, Yuck!

So one of the most rewarding things that I have going on in my life is being a mother. I have beautiful identical twin boys that rock my world. They will soon be 5 years old as I write this. Sometimes the things they say crack me up.

A few mornings ago I was making my green drink (yes, a health nut too). I mix carrot juice with my green drink. Anthony saw the carrot juice and wanted some. I poured a little bit into his cup and handed it to him. After he tasted it, I asked, “You like it, Anthony?” “No!” he said as he placed the cup back on the counter. “YUCK!” As a result of this negative experience, he won’t even touch an orange-colored juice again. Why? Because the first orange-colored drink he tried was gross to him, and that was that.

There are times that the cue come has become like carrot juice to Anthony. He sees it, and he is not interested. Your dog hears come and he runs. The scientific term for this is a “poisoned cue,” a result that occurs from calling come and doing something your dog doesn’t like (putting him into a kennel, leaving him for the day, petting him in a way he doesn’t appreciate, or putting him into the tub for a bath, etc.), but it can also be caused by punishing your dog. Let’s just say your dog runs away, and you finally catch him and then spank him. If I were your dog, I wouldn’t ever want to come to you again either!

When I had my training facility in Iowa, I had a couple working with me on come with their dog. They said their dog knew come, so I had them say their recall cue and then watched their dog literally run as fast as he could to the opposite end of the facility. They obviously had poisoned the cue somewhere along the line.

If your cue has been poisoned, you will need to start from scratch. In other words, you will need to create a new come cue as if you have never taught come before. It is back to the basics for you and your dog.




Training tip from my book “Come, Boy!”
Michelle Huntting
Building the bridge of communication between dog and canine guardian 

12 Days of Christmas: Day 10

10 Solid Recalls

Come. It’s the most important cue for a dog to know because it could save his life.. Please put the time, training, and effort into making this the most solid cue in your dog’s command repertoire.

Training “come” doesn’t have to be boring either. The following game still is one of my favorites:

2 Man Game

  • Leash your dog. 
  • One person holds the leash. The other person (I will refer to as “the runner”) will take a handful of treats and make a fist around the treats. 
  • The runner places the treats in front of the dog’s nose to let him smell. 
  • The runner  jogs several steps away from the dog (dog is still being held on the leash). 
  • As the runner moves he will say something in a high pitch voice like “puppy, puppy, puppy.” 
  • After several steps the runner stops, squats down and says dog’s name and “come.” 
  • The person holding the leash lets go.
  • The runner will deliver his handful of treats, one at a time. With each treat, the runner will praise the dog, telling him how handsome he is, what a great job that was, and how smart he is.

Caution: During the game do not say his name or the cue “come” as you are running. Also do not say “come” multiple times. Come is a treasured cue that needs a response on the first time it’s cued for a matter of safety.

Remember, dogs do not generalize easily so work on this exercise through the front door, in the front yard, and the side gates where bolting could potentially happen. If you want to read more about generalization you can check out my blog: Your Dog Really Doesn’t Know.

Make a choice to commit to working on the “come”cue with your furry bestie, so you have your 10 solid recalls.



Blog written by  Michelle Huntting
Building bridges between dogs and pet guardians



Check out Michelle’s other 12 Days of Dog Training Tips or the Pet Holiday Zen Tips!
IMG_7675   12299154_913435238742111_2751962506709179343_n-2


Training Come Made Easy


“Come” is the most important cue to teach your dog because it can save his/her life. The number one cue known to a dog? Take a guess. Seriously, think about it. Not that I statistically based this, but going on an educated guess, it’s “sit.” Why? What do we do when we pull a treat out of the jar? We cue “sit” so typically “sit” is daily reinforced.

Next time you pull the treat out of the jar instead of cueing “sit,” cue “come.” Reinforce this behavior as much as possible! Below is one of my favorite training exercise of all times. This exercise is from my book, Come Boy! Train Your Dog to Come Every Time.

Ping Pong Puppy

Ping Pong Puppy is similar to the egg toss game, an “oldy goldy” game that we played every 4th of July when I was a kid in Iowa. You and a partner face each other in close proximity. Each takes a turn tossing the egg. Once the egg is successfully passed, then each person takes a step back to repeat. The goal of the game is to be the last pair without a broken egg. We are going to play this game with your dog, but instead of tossing an egg, we will call your dog to “come.”

Two people stand six feet apart from each other with the dog in the middle. Each person takes a turn to call the dog, “Name, come!” As soon as he looks at you say, “good” and treat when he gets to you. After each person has called him/her, take one step back. If your dog doesn’t understand, then decrease the distance, and be sure to make the sessions short initially.

Continue adding more distance if your dog is successfully coming every time. As your dog is successful in the exercise, add more distractions. Head outdoors and try it with the lead on, of course. The lead is not for pulling; it’s there in case your pup decides that the rabbit would be more fun than the hotdog treat. You do not want to get into the habit of relying on a leash to get your dog to come. If you do, you will be forever using the leash for recalls. I want you to have success with come whether your dog is on or off the leash.

Example of Ping Pong Puppy

This summer focus on getting a strong “come” behavior by working on the ping pong puppy exercise through your front door, out of your car, and fence gateway. Be sure to set your dog up for success and know that you have done all you can to keep him/her safe. Happy Training!


Blog written by Michelle Huntting