American Working Farmcollie Association


Teaching the Pup to Come


“A farm collie gets lots of your time just being with you wherever you go. However, most small farmers don’t have time to dedicate to specialized training, which takes hours of doing that and nothing else. In fact, many farmers and ranchers who use specialized herding dogs don’t have time to train them either–they buy them already trained. The advantage of a farm collie is that they learn just by following you around and learning to read you, learning your routines, and learning what you want and don’t want. “Training” happens while you work. A dog like that is a real working partner. “

Sandra Niedrauer


There is usually not a lot of formal training that is necessary to develop your farmcollie into a useful farm dog…but the one command that is essential to this development and is especially useful in a farm collie pup is teaching the pup to “Come!” no matter what the circumstances are…

Here is some advice from Claire Apple:

There are lots of games to teach pups to come:

1 Always, anytime you reward them for ANYTHING or hand them a toy, take two or three steps backward, so that they have to approach you to take the treat. Always feed the treat with the back of your hand in contact with your legs or torso, or between your legs – so that the dog has to come right into your personal space to get it. Always touch and play with the collar while feeding the treat. This makes the default come towards mom, close to mom, and mom make touch my collar. A come is not a come if the dog sits 2 feet away, or you can’t get a hold of their collar – just for safety reasons. It is so easy for the dog to turn around and take off again if you don’t train a close, hands on come – and I see this a lot in my clients.

2 DO NOT play tag with the dog, where you chase the dog. Tag should always be one way – the dog chasing you. Kids really need to know this.

3 I usually teach tracking in my obedience and puppy classes – a hide and seek game. Throw a low value treat down, or toy, and go hide while they are distracted. Call their name, say come once…and wait. Start easy, work up to hiding behind closed doors, etc. Feed a high value treat when they get to you, and make a big fuss. Great fun for the whole family! Pups start paying more attention to you and the command when they realize that all they have is two words to hone in on when they can’t see you. I tend to think tracking/air scenting is important safety issue – more of a chance of your dog in a strange environment finding you, its home, or its car if it knows to use scenting. Not all dogs have good spatial mapping!

4 Always make sure the dog can come and be successful. In other words – look at the dog and environment carefully before asking them to come while training it (the whole first year pretty much, if you want it solid). Do not call the dog when they are distracted by something better than what you have, when there is something distracting between you and the dog, when there are other dogs or animals that will prevent the dog from coming to you, when something distracting is likely to happen during the come, etc. I made it a whole year with my Pow, with not once every putting him in a situation in which he could not quickly and happily come – always gauging the distractions properly according to his training level. He is totally solid. Always say the dog’s name before asking them to do anything – which is just plain polite, and lets you know what the dog’s level of distraction is. If you say their name and they don’t look at you, don’t ask for anything – you aren’t going to get it!! Walk closer, be more interesting, call their name again and see if their reaction is better and more focused.

5 Do not call the dog to end a fun activity, take them to the vet, or punish them. Always give a treat or toy when asking the dog to leave a rewarding environment or activity and to do a less rewarding one – ie…coming inside instead of playing with the kitten outside, leaving stock herding, etc. Walk out with a treat, walk up to the dog, get their attention with their name and the treat, lure them inside. Do not use come for this until it is trained.

6 Use peer pressure if you have multiple dogs. Whoever gets there first, gets the treat. They catch on really quick that it is a competitive event!

7 Always encourage speed and force. I never mind if Pow hits me in the chest or hips when coming – I know he enjoys coming in at that speed, and I want him at that speed. If a 6 mo old Sheltie can knock his owner over when he comes – which he did, twice, that’s a good forceful come! Running away from the dog works well, as does throwing the treat between your legs as the dog comes, so it has to shoot through your legs and after the treat – solving both speed and the private space problems.

8 In an emergency – make a lot of noise – clapping, shouting, etc, and run away from the dog. Not towards – AWAY from them. If you can get their attention, fall down – most of the dogs wonder what you are up to , or if you are injured and will come check on you. Never chase a loose dog.

9 Never pull the dog towards you when asking it to come or to retrieve. By pulling, you are training the dog to shift its weight to its hindquarters and pull against you (opposition reflex) – which will then become part of the come command. Never correct the dog to start them coming to you (don’t pop them with the leash to get them coming towards you) – why in the hell would they want to come to you when they don’t know what you want and why you are suddenly rude and upset with them? Humans are inconsistent and rude enough already…….

Hope that gets you off to a good start! I’m a certified pet dog trainer (CPDT), so I work with this stuff a lot. If you email me, I can send you clicker instructions, step by step.


This is excellent but I would amend #7 the forceful come. I know that is the way obedience trainers like to teach it but I am not interested in a 55 pound dog hitting me full force! 🙂

I like a nice fast recall but our dogs are not to ever come in hard body contact with us. Nor do I want them to knock down any of the kids. Fortunately it is usually easy to teach ES, collies, aussies to not hit you. When I walk the dogs together I don’t want them to hit me as they race around with each other. I have been taken out by a sheep hitting me from behind-my husband wished he had a video,said it was just like a great football play,I went flat out on my back- and don’t wish to do it again! It is amazingly easy for a dog to hit you behind the knees and do the same thing. Also my dogs are very gentle with people which I don’t believe a forceful come would encourage.


Wonderful post, Claire, and great information! I am not fond of the hitting in the chest part but all the rest is too good. My dogs come flying to me when I call but as soon as they get to my hand it is all stop.

I really like the search part. I had a farmcollie years ago as a child and the family went on vacation. We camped at the beach in tents. I got up early one morning put Lad in the van and went for a swim in the ocean. I then went on the other side of the campground to take a shower. The rest of the family got up and someone let Lad out of the van and he tracked me to the showers. A lady opened the door and asked if anyone owned a black collie looking dog. He pranced right in and waited on me.


I am in agreement about the hitting in the chest part, I start early and teach my dogs never to jump on people as a part of their socialization training, shelties are lap dogs, so that part is liable to be dependent upon your dog and circumstances.

As a breeder I begin with my puppies as soon as they are ready to start solid food, calling, whistling, getting that “Pavlov’s dog” thing going. I particularly train this way when outside with a new pup- always try to take high value treat- Easy cheese in a can is handy, weenees in a baggie… then I listen for a motor, and when I hear one, I call the pup, treat, and then I have the pup sit for a petting session until the car passes (scratching under the collar is good). I think this is important to do consistently to avoid troubles with car chasing in herding breeds later on.


The one thing that I would add is that recall skills need to be maintained after they are trained. I have seen so many people train an AWESOME recall on their dog, and then have it slowly disappear after a few months because they forget to randomly reward a recall. A good attitude to have is, every time you get a chance, use your recall and reward it. Even if you don’t “need” the dog to come, call it and reward it a few times each day…the reward can vary, but that reinforcement history needs to be maintained.

It’s kinda like my own job. If they paid me well in the beginning, and then slowly the pay got lower and lower or stopped, my job performance would probably suffer. The same is true of recalls. People often think that “once it’s trained, it’s always there.” The facts are that if the dog starts to perceive that the likelihood of a reward is slim to none, the dog is going to start re-evaluating if they should come at all.


On number 7 – if you have a sit, simply ask for that about 5 feet away so the dog has time to start sitting – I do this with Pow and he ends up at my feet, with his front paws on my feet, sitting, without having hit me.

#7: I try to describe this one because many people don’t want their dogs to jump on them. So they fuss and nag at their dogs, and their dogs learn that being up close and personal isn’t good. But when these same people want to put a leash on the dog, they can’t get the dog close enough. As long as the dog learns that not only is the goal to come to you, but also to come close enough to you to get a hold of without them being wary. The force/speed come is one way of solving this problem – self rewarding to some extent. Remember – my guy is a bit smaller than most of yours more than likely – having him with his front paws on me is a wonderful way of putting the leash on without leaning over 🙂


What I do for an official obedience recall is start quickly backing up as they approach (not so fast that I would fall over) ,with my hands out low with the treat but drawing it up close to the body in an arc getting higher and higher to about waist high until they are automatically sitting in front of me just barely touching. I don’t even say sit as it is automatic from body cues. I want them focused on come and that is just part of the recall. After you practice a couple times it can be very smooth.

On the other hand the dogs learn that if I run into the house after calling while they are still coming, they are to run after me and they will find me at the fridge with the treat. It probably isn’t the greatest for training but it seems to work well. Combines running away with food reward. Needs to be done later on not in the very beginning. Some trainers think you can’t have time lapses but sometimes I think they have better memories than me. I guess they have learned from the beginning that if I say I have a cookie they may have to wait a minute for me to grab it but I do come through with it. Actually that may be a good thing to train-delayed gratification within doggy limits. Everyone has t see what works for them.

Perfect way of doing it. And as long as you have a word for impending cookie, and you are consistent enough to be trusted to remember that you owe them a cookie, delayed gratification is actually part of the training process.


What I did to get a lightning fast recall & a front sit with eye contact without touching me, was to have the treats in my mouth. I would spit the treat to the dog when they were sitting with good eye contact. This was for my previous dogs, for their obedience test. If they touched me, we’d lose points, so during training if they bumped me or weren’t straight, they wouldn’t get the treat.


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