We all know that greyhounds must be kept on leash. They run much faster and see much further than we do. So, an off-leash greyhound could make it to New Jersey while chasing that squirrel you never saw faster than you could drive that distance. So, knowing that, should you even bother teaching your grey to come? The answer is a resounding “yes” for emergencies as well as to help you live peacefully with your grey. If your grey gets loose from you accidentally, you want your grey to come to you when called. And, no one wants to have to chase their grey down during a midnight potty break just to get the dog back in the house.

My preference for teaching a dog to come is off leash. How do you do that if you are not able to let your dog off leash? There are many safe ways to teach a dog to come off leash. The reason I prefer to teach come off-leash is because many dogs learn that the only time they have to come is when mom or dad has them on a leash. Years ago we taught come by saying “Grey, come” and then by tugging on the leash. This sometimes turns something potentially fun into something the dog begrudgingly must do. It also adds a cue – the tug on the leash – and many dogs trained this way will not come without that cue.

To teach this cue, it is best to start inside where there are no distractions and where you do not need a leash because it is safe. How many people out there have greys who follow them into the kitchen? That is the perfect time to work on this cue. Call your dog to come as you walk to the kitchen. Call your dog as you walk to the refrigerator. Call your dog as you walk to the cookie jar. In doing this, you are simply setting your dog up for success. Call your grey from room to room. Make it a game. Have fun.

The other thing I like to do when teaching a dog to come is to teach it not as a “command” but rather as an emotional state. I know that sounds weird, but if you teach “come” as a command, then your grey has to make the choice to come or not to come. Many times if your grey is interested in something more attractive than you, he won’t come. This is a cue that can save your grey’s life. I do not want anyone to have a dog who weighs coming or not coming when called. I want dogs to think “if I don’t come to my mom or dad, I’ll miss the party!” That’s what I mean when I say I like teaching this as if you are trying to create an emotional response in your grey. You want your grey to drop everything and run to you when called verses to think about whether or not he is motivated to come to you when called.

How do you do that then? Easy. When you call your grey and your grey comesto you, simply reward him for 20 seconds. When he comes to you, have a party with him: give him treats, love him up, play with him, etc. Have a party with your grey for 20 seconds when the dog comes to you. Be careful in loving your grey up that you only do things to the dog that the dog likes. Don’t pat him on the head if he does not like it. Don’t hug him if he does not like it.

You are ready start teaching this cue outside when you are willing to bet your spouse or friends that your grey will come when called inside your house. Once you reach that point, then seek out safe spots to teach an off leash come to your grey. If you have a fenced in back yard, start there. If not, then look for an unused tennis court or basketball court. In the city we have deck hockey rinks that, if securely fenced are great for this purpose. Baseball fields are great, but many are not securely fenced. Make sure you scope the fence out first before letting your grey off and make sure that there are no openings and that the doors securely. You can try using dog parks at off peak hours, but you will also be dealing with the distractions of other dogs which might be too much for your dog at this point in his training.

If you do not have access to a safe fenced in area, then you can try using a long line attached to a harness with your grey. You can buy long lines or you can make your own from rope and a clasp that you can get at any hardware store. And, a harness is a good piece of equipment to have for any dog. They are chiropractically good for dogs as they attach to the dog’s body rather than his neck. Do not drop the long line, simply keep it in your hands to ensure he can’t get away if he tries. Remember,there is a danger in tying a long line to a grey’s collar – always use a harness with this technique. If a grey picks up enough speed and then hits the end of the long line in your hand or tied to something, the grey could end up with major injuries to his neck. That is why I recommend attaching it to a harness rather than a collar. The long line is not used to tug the dog into you, but rather as a safety line if he tries to run for it.

Some tips for motivating your grey to come to you: run away from him as greys love chasing moving objects, use a high pitched voice as that is more exciting to greys, and in general try to be exciting and fun with your grey. The whole key with getting your grey to come when called is convincing the dog that coming to you is more exciting than doing what he’s currently doing. Do not call your grey for bad things: just go and get him. If your grey hates baths or car rides, just go get him – don’t ask him to voluntarily come. You will be reducing the value of the positively trained cue if you do this. And, please please please, if your grey gets away from you, when you get him back be happy – do not punish him no matter how angry you are.  Remember dogs live in the moment and if you punish your dog from running from you, they will probably associate coming to you with the punishment rather than with the fact that they had you out canvassing the neighborhood for 4 hours.

What do you do if you have an existing grey who has learned to ignore the word “come?” Easy – just change the word and start over from the beginning. Some people use “front” or “here” or “now.” It doesn’t matter what word you use, what matters is that you condition this new word to mean when you call your grey, you will throw him a party when he gets there. Just be careful not to use the new word outside in real life until you know your grey will respond to it.

If you have not done it yet, go out and safely teach your grey to come to you and have fun doing it. Training a cue this important should be fun and rewarding for all.

Lilian Akin, CPDT

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