Q: In the book Clicking with Your Dog, and on this website, the method to train a good "come" is discussed. In both places, you start out using the "come" command as the cue. Why is this training strategy different than others, where you add the cue after the dog knows the behavior?
Blue Springs, MO
A: Excellent question, Al.
In general, most dogs already have the behavior of coming to you when they want to. Teaching them a word for coming (over very short distances, i.e., around the house) when YOU want them to is OK because you already have the behavior, you are just adding a cue. In the "old days" (the '90s) we thought you needed to completely develop the shaped behavior before adding the cue, but now we know you can continue to shape for duration, distance, and distractions, even though you have named the behavior.
A refinement that is not available in Clicking with Your Dog, Step by Step in Pictures, or on the website discussion of "come," is this: Get a good "come" behavior; add the "come" cue; shape for distance, speed of arrival, and coming with distractions (squirrels in the park being the Graduate School Level); and then replace the "training" come cue with a "performance-level" come cue, such as a whistle or other sound...you'll then have a bomb-proof long-distance recall.
You might want to shape itty-bitty recalls in class, as you begin to build your "come" cues.In our PetCo curriculum we have three-foot, dog-to-owner on-leash recalls to start with, with the instructor following the dog, holding the leash, and preventing bolting if necessary. But we do use the cue from the start, as well; we just try to make each "come" successful, clicked right on time (instructor does the clicking at first) and well reinforced with high-value treats, not just praise.