How to Train Your Dog to Come Using a Safety Word

Updated on May 13, 2017
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian in Brazil. He also trains dogs, mostly large breeds, and those that suffer from aggression problems.

A favorite game for my dog: Fetch the coconut!
A favorite game for my dog: Fetch the coconut! | Source

What Is a Safety Word?

A safety word is a special command you use when recalling your dog. It is not as simple as the “come” command, and not something you use every day, if ever.

A safety command is taught so that your dog will respond to a recall 100% of the time.

I learned the use of a safety word many years ago and have used several in the past. The safety word I currently use is “touch,” with a hand signal that my dog can see and recognize from a distance. I hold my hand at my right side with the fingers out and pointing down. The only other hand signal that is similar is that used for “back up”, and my dog knows I only do this when we are in tight quarters.

The "touch" hand signal.
The "touch" hand signal. | Source

When Should I Use This Command?

The safety word is a very important command. No matter how well you teach “come” it is a command your dog hears everyday and she may not respond 100% of the time. I know that when my dog is digging for crabs, or chasing a bird on the beach, her response to “come” will be less rapid than normal.

(She will pretend to not hear me so she can keep up the chase a little longer.)

In an emergency she needs to respond immediately. Just hold the hand out and call the word loudly enough for your dog to look at you.

“Touch” was developed for use with service dogs. A seeing-eye dog must respond to the touch command so that the owner can harness the dog and perhaps be lead to safety.

I always give my dog a treat when I tell her “touch”. I know this is bribery, not training. My dog does not mind and neither do I. I want her to associate the command “touch” with a good thing, 100% of the time.

Teaching your dog to come when called is important; everyone who gets a new puppy should attend obedience classes and learn the basics.

Teaching your dog to respond to an emergency word is even more important. If you do not choose to use “touch” find something else that you will not normally use in the course of your day with her. Pick a hand signal that she can see from a distance. Practice this command with her several times a day, from varying distances, but do not overdo it. When you are sure she has learned the command you only need to practice it once or twice a week.

Don’t forget to always give a treat with the command.

This always happens after I use the safety command and he comes.
This always happens after I use the safety command and he comes. | Source

Is Teaching A Safety Word Really Important?

It is important, really!

Maybe you will never have to use it. If you do have to, though, her life may depend on her response.

Coming back for another!
Coming back for another! | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Dr Mark


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      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 3 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Paul, you cannot decrease the number of mosquitoes but you can decrease the number of those that are positive for heartworm. If you have a heartworm positive dog that has microfilaria (the immature form of the heartworm) in her blood then any mosquito that bites her might become positive. If you put her on preventative it would not help her much but would help the other two dogs.

        Here is the link to a cheap over the counter heartworm preventative

        I hope this helps. Good luck with them, and let me know how things are going.

      • GR8FULDIVERDOWN profile image

        Paul 3 weeks ago from Raiford, Florida

        Dr. Mark, I wrote you about my 3 dogs (with one I think having heartworms) You emailed me back and I responded witht this note. Please email back if you could, but also explain how to get to your site or how to "continue" with this conversation here....:

        You wrote:

        Paul, at this stage the preventative may not help your Chihuahua. If he already has congestive heart failure secondary to the heartworms the preventative will not help. It might help your other dogs though, by decreasing the number of heartworm carrying mosquitoes in the area. If they were my dogs I would start them on preventative ASAP.

        If you need help on buying cheap heartworm preventative without a prescription, you can look at my profile page

        Dr. Mark at Pethelpful

        Thank you so much for writing me back kind sir!!


        How do I decrease the number of mosquitoes though? I have tried to lessen any standing water, but where I live, there are many ponds....

        Lastly, Is there any dosage (and brand you would recommend for my other dogs (Ridgeback and Papillon)) and how can I made my dear friend more comfortable until she leaves me (crying as I write this....)

        Thank you so much sir. You have the biggest heart of any person I know. To help out strangers as you do....

        God bless you!!


        (904) 263-8386

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        She didn't even know she was modelling, which is the best way to get pictures!

        Thanks for the comment.

      • wetnosedogs profile image

        wetnosedogs 5 years ago from Alabama

        This is good to know.

        I know Jenny will pretend not to hear me when she is on the prowl in the back yard.

        Enjoyed pix of your dog in the water. Lots of fun.