As a dog owner, you want to keep your dog safe. While you can’t always control their environment, one tool you can use is an emergency command—a highly charged “come” command.
As a regular everyday command, “come” sometimes loses its charge or importance to your dog. We’ve all been there when Fido decides he’d rather explore a bush or chase a squirrel than listen to his patient, loving owner. “Come” isn’t a fun command for your dog. It usually means they have to stop what they’re doing to go inside, go to the vet, or take medicine. Because it isn’t always rewarding for your dog to come, they may not always obey that command.
To combat this resistance, it’s good to have an emergency command for your dog. This command should only be used when it is absolutely imperative that your dog comes, such as if you encounter danger on a hike, if your dog makes a run for the street, or for other any other perilous situation.
Here’s how to teach your emergency command:
Choose A Special Word
Choose a word that is easy to remember. Some dog owners use “Now”. We like “Pronto” (wink, wink). Whatever you choose, make sure that you feel comfortable saying it in public places. Your word should not be a word that’s part of your regular vocabulary.
Choose A Special Treat
An extra-special treat charges your emergency command. Instead of a regular, everyday treat, try giving them a small piece of freshly-cooked meat with a strong aroma, a small piece of cheese, or a little bit of peanut butter. Only give this extra special treat to your pet when you are training for your emergency command.
Begin training in a small, indoor area. Allow your dog to do whatever they like, and then use your emergency command. Make sure to use an enthusiastic voice, pat your leg, and show your dog the special treat. Generate as much excitement for this command as you can. Allow your dog to enjoy the treat for 20-30 seconds, and be sure to hold their collar as they munch. When a real emergency arises, you’ll want to be able to grab their collar and get them to safety. Afterward, allow your dog to go back to doing what they were before the emergency command.
Keep The Command Charged
All of these training steps help your dog associate the emergency command with purely good things. They get an amazing treat, and then they get to get right back to playing. The emergency command becomes a win-win command for them, and ultimately for you. It’s important to keep your emergency command charged. Never use it except during training or true emergencies. Don’t use it when you’re trying to get Spot into the car to see the vet, or when you really need to leave for work and she won’t come inside. It needs to be charged for emergency situations only.
Practice your emergency command once a day, and begin to use it in different spaces. Go to the park, go on hikes, go out in public spaces, and go to places where there are other dogs. Train in all sorts of situations so that your dog will come whenever and wherever you need them to. When your dog has successfully learned the command, make sure to keep it fresh! Regularly remind your dog of the command and continue to them train on it.
With an emergency command, you can have peace of mind that your dog will come when you absolutely need them to. If you have more questions or need help training, talk to a veterinarian or a dog trainer to get more information.