Come & Attention

By admin Posted in Basics /

Puppies and untrained dogs:

Aim: To teach your dog: 1) to pay attention and look at you. 2) To come when called. 

Equipment: Clicker / treat / tug toy. Code: C/T = Click and Treat (See article “Clicker”)

1) Getting Attention:

Getting a dog’s full attention on command can be very difficult. If a dog does not pay attention to you, you cannot teach it anything. Start by selecting a distraction free area at home such as a spare room, a passage, the stoep, garage or a quiet area in the back yard. I prefer the kitchen where I have started the training of all my puppies. Young dogs are easily distracted and if you train in an area where the dog gets distracted and it becomes necessary to repeatedly correct the dog for lack of attention, it soon begins to associate training with “pops” on the leash, becomes stressed and starts giving calming signals such as yawning, smelling or licking of the lips.

We start off by teaching the dog that his name means “pay attention.” When I call, “Juno” or “Quanto,” they must look at me and make eye contact. With a tasty treat in your hand you call your dog’s name and when you see those brown eyes looking up at you, you say, “Yes” or Click and give him the treat, holding it near your face so that the dog looks up at your face. Repeat often!  If the dog is easily distracted it is better, in the beginning, to wait patiently until the dog decides to look at you and then reward him immediately for doing so. He will then often begin to look at your face in case there is a reward for doing so. You could also “fetch” the nose by passing a tasty treat past his nose and then “draw” it up to your face. Or you can clap your hands and say, “Hey I’m calling you!” and reward him when he pays attention. Never use the dog’s name or “come” with something that will be unpleasant for the dog.

“Baby talk” your dog in a happy voice and “Yes” or C/T him for looking at your face and making eye contact. “What a good dog!” “You are so clever!” etc. Then treat or play “Tuggy.” This must be done with lots and lots of repetition during the first weeks.

The “Tuggy” game is the reward for making eye contact or coming to you. Later it gradually replaces the food reward. “Tuggy” lasts only for 5 – 6 seconds when the dog hangs on to the tug and you try to shake him off with sideways movements.(Up and down movements can damage the neck of a puppy).


  1. The dog must know that there is a great reward for coming to you i.e. a treat and/or to play, “Tuggy.”
  2. The dog must play “tug” on command e.g. “Get it.” or “Paken” (German). The tug is held between the fists and the dog must take hold of the tug between your hands and try hard to take it away. Remember that you are in command. Without you there is no game! The tug is your toy and you allow the dog to play with it as a reward for paying attention. Since it is not one of the dog’s toys, it is never left with the dog and he must look forward to being rewarded with it.
  3. A release command: “Thank you”, “Leave it”, “Give” or “Aus”(German) etc. must be given to stop the game. The dog must continue to maintain eye contact and await the next command.
  4. To end a session, the command “Free”, “OK”, “Off you go”, “Take a break” etc. is used and the dog is free to do what it wants to do.

Continue to play this game until you can’t shake the dog off and he continues to make eye contact.

Now, when you have taken the tug away from the dog, turn away from him and become a “statue.” When the dog comes round to your front, say, “Yes” or C/T and play “tug-tug-tug”.

Gradually make it a bit harder for the dog by continuing to turn left or right.

Initially reward him for coming to your front even if he is not straight. Gradually the demands can be upgraded and the C/T or Tug is only given if his approach is from straight in front of you.

Aim: When the dog hears its name it must race back to you and make eye contact.


2) Come: Start training in a quiet, distraction free area like a garden lawn.

 Ask a helper to hold your dog because he does not yet know the stay command.
Let your dog smell the food/treat in your hand and then run away a short distance, sit down and call your dog by his name. Your puppy/dog is by now straining against the leash in order to get to you. When he hears his name and “come” and is released, he happily rushes to you and is rewarded with plenty of food and enthusiastic hugs. Don’t be stingy! Reward your dog well for coming to you and he will soon come whenever he is called no matter the distraction.

 This exercise is repeated a number of times during the following weeks over gradually increasing distances until the dog willingly runs to you at fast speed whenever he hears his name being called. This exercise tells the dog, “What you have done is good, so do it again.”

My own dogs come running to me on walks when they see me sitting down.

Remember not to feed the dog before training so that he is suitably hungry. Vienna sausages broken into tiny bit usually works well for even the most fastidious.

If the dog is easily distracted or is inclined to run away, attach a long line to the dog. Do NOT call the dog unless you have the end of the line in your hands! Now call the dog’s name, “Juno, Come” and immediately afterwards tug him/her gently towards you with repeated “pops” in your direction, if necessary. The dog needs to understand that when you call he is going to have to come to you willingly or by force whether he wants to or not.

Beginner trainers often make the mistake of letting the dog off the line too soon. You should not let a dog go free outside your property until it listens to your voice! Make the reward for coming to you worth while!!!!!

Allow the dog to become distracted while dragging the long line. Get hold of the end of the line before calling him so that you are ready, when he hesitates, to convince him that he has to come to you when called. Do not call the dog in the beginning when he is busy scratching or relieving himself and is not likely to respond to you.

When out walking with my dogs I hide from them as soon as they are distracted by something. I hide behind the nearest tree or rock or behind a wall and they come searching for me. As a result the dogs will not let me out of their sight. They are constantly checking to see what I am doing and it is now fun and a pleasure to go walking with them.

When using food to get attention, there are three phases to go through. Firstly, the food is held in the hand in line with the dog’s face and yours. The dog can see the treat and hears you talking excitedly, “Yes, you are such a clever dog” etc. Move about left and right while he continues paying attention. Gradually “stretch” has attention span by counting 10 – 15 – 20 before giving the treat. In the Second phase the food is hidden in the fist and the dog must still pay attention although it cannot actually see the food while the exercise is being repeated. Thirdly the food is seen for a short while, then it disappears in the hand and after that it stays in the pocket or carry bag. It is important that the dog learns that it will always be rewarded for paying attention and will do so willingly.

The above exercises form the basis of all dog training:
Response to name – attitude – motivation – attention

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