By Melissa Viera, Proprietor, MJ’s Pet Training Academy
When you call your dog, do they run and leap towards you, or turn away from you and sprint in the other direction? Do they turn and stare blankly at you as if they are deciding if they should obey and maybe even take a few very slow steps in your direction or do they trot to you without a debate?
We can all agree that training your dog to come when called is a skill that should not be overlooked. Not only is the skill useful around the yard,but it can be life-saving. If your dog is off leash or gets out of the yard, can you guarantee that, at the sound of your voice, your dog will eagerly run back to you no matter what types of distractions are around?
Why Some Dogs Will Not Come When Called And What to do About It
While some breeds are bred to work closely with their handlers off leash like hunting dogs, other breeds can be a little more challenging. A Basset Hound could easily get sidetracked by a scent trail and block out everything else (even their owner’s calls) or a sight hound could catch something in the distance. Every dog needs to learn to come, even if it is not easy for them, but safety and realistic expectations must come first.
Before we go any further let’s get one thing clear — dogs are dogs. They are incredibly smart animals and they want to please us, but that does not mean they should be expected to act like robots, or reason like people. If your dog does not come when called, they are not being stubborn. They have either been taught not to come (For example, if you have been bribing your dog with treats before you call them, you have taught them to listen only when you have a treat held in the air. Or, if you only call your dog when it is time to end play, they have learned that “come,” means get very far away.), they have not practiced coming when called enough and the behavior has not been proofed, or they are interested in something else that is more reinforcing in that moment (you have not built a reinforcement history with ‘come’).
While some dogs can learn to come when called after just a few tries, others need a lot of practice and a huge reinforcement history.
What Can You Do?
The following tips are meant to get you inspired and give you ideas and not intended as a complete training guide. Train, practice, play and have fun training your dog to come!
Build a great working relationship with your dog.
So many people say, “I just want my dog to come. I don’t care about the rest of it.” If you do not have a good working relationship with your dog, they are going to be less likely to listen. Your dog should listen whether you are calling them or asking them to ‘stay.’ Train and play more right away!
Stop calling your dog if the result of them coming to you is negative.
It is important that your dog does not receive either negative punishment or positive punishment when they come when called. If you call them away from something fun, let them return to it after they check-in with you. Never use come as a way to take your dog away from good things, or get them close enough to scold. Coming to you should always be fun!
Use better rewards
Throw a party when your dog comes!
Condition your recall word
You should be able to stand straight, hands relaxed at your side and say your dog’s recall word without holding a treat out, bending forward, or jumping up and down, and your dog should come. Train and condition your recall word. Remember not to overuse it. The reward comes after your dog listens not before.
Use a long line
If your dog does not come when called, you should not let them off leash until they are reliable. Use a long line and take away the opportunity for your dog to learn that ignoring you is fun. It only takes one time of your dog choosing to chase a bird instead of come when called for them to realize that you can not catch them and it was way more fun to chase the bird. Before the training is done, do not give your dog that chance.
Be safe and honest.
Always put your dog’s safety and well-being first no matter what you are training. Know your dog and know their limits. Have realistic expectations and do the work. As always, have fun with you dog!
Shout Outs To The Pets We Saw This Week at MJ’s
We hope you enjoyed these tips. We also want to thank all of the pets and their parents that came to MJ’s Pet Training Academy this week.
Chase the lab who loved his scrub in the tub
Skye the cocker-tzu for being such a sweet girl during her first grooming visit to MJ’s
Ollie and Abbie the Corgis for getting fitted and sporting their new harnesses from MJ’s
Tedy the doodle for being such a good boy for grooming and for giving the groomers some fun scissor work to do
Sammy the Beagle for keeping it cool
Murph the lab for making everyone laugh
Dax for being awesome and silly
Manners students and their skateboarding dogs for giving me a good laugh (I look forward to classes and lessons all day)
And to all the other pets we saw, we hope to see you again soon. Your trainers and groomers at MJ’s love each and every one of you!
We hope that your weekend is filled with wagging tails and puppy kisses. See you soon!