How to Train Your Dog to Come Using a Safety Word
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.
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.
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.
© 2012 Dr Mark