Coming When Called – The Most Difficult Case Study I Have Encountered
Coming When Called – The Most Difficult Case Study I Have Encountered
One of the main concerns I hear from owners is having a dog that won’t come when called.
And, I think we can all admit that this could be a very deadly habit, if we aren’t careful.
Sure, it is infuriating when your dog is safely tucked in the back yard and he won’t come to you; or he is playing keep away with you in the house.
But if he is off leash, he could literally die a horrific death.
A tragic death, that you in fact may have to witness, while being powerless to change it.
The good news is with work, training and determination you can keep it from happening. (especially if you avoid the 5 biggest pitfalls that prevent your dog from coming every time you call.
One of My Best Friends
One of my best friends is the worst culprit I have encountered since I started training.
He got a very high drive puppy, and his “fix” for the naughty behavior was to take the puppy for an off leash walk.
I suppose this was cute for about 2 weeks.
You know those 2 weeks where your puppy follows you everywhere and never wanders more than 4 feet away.
But eventually the puppy wants to become more independent, he wants to explore and learn.
And, pretty soon he has no desire to stop chasing butterflies and come back to his owner.
Add to this conundrum that my friend has another dog that has also always had a problem with coming when called.
The two dogs would trot off (the older leading the younger probably farther than he would have gone on his own) and they explored the magical world of dog smells, chasing, digging and putting anything and everything in their mouths.
Sounds fun right?
To a dog, this is probably like living in the Garden of Eden.
Fun, joy, no responsibility and no consequences
Eternal puppy-ness achieved!
How Can You Compete with This??
How can anyone compete with this?
The only possibility I can come up with is a seriously hungry or thirsty dog; but odds are low that that would even stop this behavior.
The problem is simple, he taught his puppy (and I am sure his older dog when it was a puppy) straight out of the gate that running free was the best thing in the world.
There is no way he could compete with the fun that chasing bunnies, stomping crickets, swimming, digging, and eating goodness knows what could ever be as fun as being with him.
Like taking a toddler to Chuck E Cheese and then trying to call them back. Nope usually you have to chase them down and take them out screaming.
The difference is that toddlers are a lot easier to catch, and eventually you can reason with a toddler. Toddlers learn to come because they don’t want to get in trouble.
Dogs aren’t like that.
If a dog can continue to run and avoid you then he things he can keep from getting in trouble.
AND, adding pain, correction, spanking, yelling etc. only makes his desire to come back EVEN LESS.
That is Problem #2
He is often LIVID when the dogs come back.
Personally, if he was livid at me, I would buy a ticket and move to another country.
Nor is he know for rational thought at this time or his ability to switch gears and suddenly become kind.
As you can imagine the beatings are swift and hard.
He considered getting a shock collar, but the pain from the shock would only send the dog running in the opposite direction and he already mentioned that he would want to shock the dog has hard as he could if he was mad.
I Have Tried
I have tried explaining why this doesn’t work.
I have tried explaining what a better way would be.
I have tried broaching the abuse conversation and that they don’t deserve it.
It is funny everyone wants their friend “the lawyer” “the doctor” “the dog trainer’s” advice until they actually are faced to make a considerable change.
And, quite honestly that is what it is going to require!
Because the habit of running and finding joy is not going to be an easy one to break.
NO MORE OFF LEASH
His dogs are no longer allowed to be off leash unless they are on a long line in a contained space; such as a baseball park or a dog park.
Never, ever allow this habit to start!!!!
NO MORE TEMPER
Be the person your dog WANTS to come to!
Listen to yourself, if a 2 year old wouldn’t want to come to you then you are probably approaching the cue wrong.
ARE YOU FUN
This goes hand in hand with the former sentence.
If you are not fun, and you are not encouraging there is no reason to come to you, life somewhere else doing something else is more fun.
If your dog thinks you are having a party without him… he is much more likely to come racing your way.
MAKE IT A GAME
Who doesn’t like games?
If I went to work this afternoon and my boss met me at the door and announced that today would be GAME day I would be thrilled!
You mean instead of doing something tedious I get to play, and my play if successful may be rewarded with $1,000 of money or gift cards? And, the games are achievable to everyone if they try! Sign me up!
That is what your dog should think about all obedience but especially COME.
I play hide and seek; I chirp and coo and clap my hands as I call my dog to come and when he gets to me I give him a wonderful treat and play a game with him.
I don’t say “FURY, COME!” in a stern tone… who wants to come to that?
I say “Fury, COME!!!!!! Good Girl, good girl, good girl come! YIPPIEEE!!!!” Which way would you rather be called?
In the first example is Fury in trouble? Who knows?
In the second sentence it is clear she is not and she is a good girl and I am happy!
A recall should always be a good thing. Even if you are scared or the dog has gotten in trouble, it is up to you to diffuse the situation and trick the dog into thinking everything is good. And, it is up to you as a thinking human NOT TO CORRECT THE DOG no matter what when he comes to you.
If you correct a dog that comes, you are telling the dog that coming is not always rewarding and he has to weigh the odd of getting in trouble, getting beaten, getting nothing, or being rewarded.
I want my dog to KNOW he will be rewarded.
It Should Never Be Bad
Coming should never be bad!
I don’t care if you are livid.
I don’t care if he spent the past 2 hours playing keep away with you.
I don’t care if he jumped over a rattle snake or ran across a street and it scared you to death that he would die.
If he came, he did the right thing.
Reward him doing the right thing!!!!! NO MATTER WHAT
Never Call Him When He is in Trouble
As mentioned don’t call your dog so you can yell at or correct him… this is the opposite of what you want.
If you want to bathe him and he hates it.
If you want to crate him
If you want to trim his nails
Go to him and get him.
AND MOST OF ALL?
NEVER, EVER, EVER ALLOW HIM TO RUN OFF LEASH UNTIL HE IS OBEDIENT AND HE THINKS THE WORLD REVOLVES AROUND YOU AND YOUR FUN GAMES!
This way he will never figure out that life could be more fun without you!
It has been a long hard road for the subjects in this article, because the bad behavior was such a habit. A lot of time is still spent on long lines, playing games and trying to control tempers, but the good news is they are all still alive and moving in the right direction.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.