The Top 5 & 1/2 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Come When Called
My Dog Won’t Come When Called, Unless He Wants To.
My Dog Never Comes When Called.
These are two of the biggest complaints I hear.
This is one of the scariest problems, because it often means dogs are running around wild, neighborhoods and are at risk for being hit by a car. Dogs don’t know they are in danger, they just think they are FREE and enjoy running around with no boundaries.
#5. You Do Something Bad When He Comes
How often do people call their dogs and then trim their nails, or shove them into a crate or into the bath tub?
Dog’s don’t understand that these things need to be done.
And even if you don’t do it often, it is what he remembers!
The dog associates his name or the word COME with negative things; and so he therefore begins to think that he would rather NOT come than get his nails trimmed! If you need to do something to him that he isn’t going to like, don’t call him; go and get him!
#4. He Gets in Trouble When He Finally Listens or Comes Home
People get furious when their dog’s don’t listen.
At first, when he charges out the door, you yell for him to “Come”; then you get frustrated when he doesn’t listen and yell again “Come”.
Next you’re really starting to get mad, or you are scared (which he doesn’t understand either).
He can hear the tone of your voice change and he realizes that coming to you isn’t going to be something GOOD; so he prefers running through the neighborhood and rewarding himself!
When he finally makes it home, or comes to you those last few feet, he often gets in trouble!
This reaffirms the fact that coming to you is sometimes bad, but running the neighborhood was FUN!
Remember that your dog is a dog, and he thinks like a DOG not a human, so he doesn’t associate the running through the neighborhood and ignoring you with getting beaten or in trouble when he gets home, he associates COMING to you with getting beaten or in trouble!
#3. You Don’t Mean it Most of the Time
How often do you give this command without meaning it?
I often go to people’s homes for in-home training and hear owners say “Come, come, come” to their dogs either while they are in their in their homes or in their yards; and sometimes the owners don’t even realize their dog is not coming.
It becomes such a part of their normal lives for their dogs to ignore this command and other basic obedience commands!
But then it is as if it is some HUGE problem that they didn’t know they had when their dog finally gets a chance to be off leash.
After a period of time, you desensitize your dog to a command and it begins to mean nothing at all.
If you say “Come” and your dog doesn’t do it over and over again, eventually the command means nothing at all.
Consistency is the key, and for some people they need to realize they should not give the command if they have no control and their dog is unlikely to listen.
½. You Aren’t Consistent
(This kind of goes with the previous problem).
Sometimes you give your dog a treat, sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes you mean it, sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes your dog gets in trouble when he comes, sometimes he doesn’t.
But either way, he doesn’t know what to expect.
The bad things or the negative things are often at the forefront of his mind. If you give him a goodie 5 times but on the 6th time he gets his nails trimmed, goes in his crate, or gets yelled at; this is what he is liable to remember the next time he gets out.
#2. You Don’t Work on Regular Obedience Often Enough
If you are not working on having him
- “Come” (use a leash or a long line and work outside if you need to!)
- “Watch Me”
On a regular (I mean daily) basis then he is not use to listening to you and obeying you even in a normal not stimulating environment!
How do you expect him to listen to you when there are all kinds of distractions if you are not making him listen to you in the house when its only you?
Some people will say that their dogs listen in the house but don’t come when called… but I bet they are not consciously working on dog obedience skills daily or even weekly in their house.
In order to expect your dog to be successful and listen to you when you give a command, you MUST work regularly on giving him commands and reinforcing them.
Even if he was once the star of dog obedience class, he still needs work! Dog obedience is never over or done, it doesn’t matter how old your dog is his obedience needs to be polished.
If you don’t use it, YOU’LL LOSE IT!
#1. You, Simply, Aren’t Rewarding Enough
You have to be more exciting than everything else he is giving up.
- Is he chasing a squirrel?
- Is he running after a group of kids?
- Is he chasing a car?
- Is he running toward the neighbor’s dog?
- Or is he just running (if you’re not giving him exercise THIS is rewarding too)?
Are YOU… regular old boring mom or dad more exciting than all those things he would give up in order to come back to you and listen?
Chances are if he is not listening, you are not!
You HAVE to be the most exciting thing on earth to him, YOU (mom or dad) need to = Play and Fun in order for him to stop engaging his environment!
I almost ALWAYS reward my dog for coming. I’d say 98-99% of the time (the other 1% is when I am in the shower ;).
You know how when you rattle the cookie jar or say “cookie” your dog comes running to you, no matter what he is doing?
This is what I want my “Come” command to mean.
I had a person disagree with me once, saying that intermittent reinforcement is a greater reward, than almost constant reinforcement (and of course jackpots) for something.
And, in some ways I agree; intermittent reinforcement is crucial to a dog’s learning and continuing certain skills, but we often don’t reinforce enough to make it worth it to our dogs to listen when we say come.
I want you to come and work for me. I am going to pay you sometimes but not others. So some days you will make $1,000 a day, and other days you will work for free. Its up to me how often I want to reward you or pay you. And, to make it interesting, some days I will double your pay ($2,000) but you won’t know which days are which.
At first, you might be really excited to come and work for me, if you think this is going to work out in your favor. And in the beginning I really treat you well, and pay you for most days, and double your pay often.
But maybe a week or two goes by with me “expecting you to just do your job”, and you get paid fewer and fewer days and I may expect you to come in more or work longer hours.
Pretty soon, what seemed like a good deal is instead, not such a great deal. You are actually getting taken advantage of instead.
I want you to come and work for me.
I am going to PAY you for EVERYDAY you work for me $20.00 an hour. We agree on a schedule and hours.
Now, to keep you happy I give you a random BONUS every once and a while for coming to work.
I also give you the option to get bonuses and increase your pay if you do your job and learn how to do more things for me.
The more you learn the more I pay you. But I also give you a bonus occasionally just for showing up to work (how about $5,000) but you never know what day will be $5,000 day.
I might even give you a paid day off here and there for no reason.
My guess is you will never, or rarely ever, miss a day of work and you will be extremely loyal. You will do your work and probably never quit, if I treat you well!
This is What Your Dog Needs
You need to figure out what the equivalent of a $5,000 bonus is for your dog.
He needs to KNOW he is not going to get in trouble, he needs to know you aren’t going to trim his nails, you need to be consistent and give him a treat EVERY TIME he listens to you when you tell him to come, you need to train and work with him so that he gets use to listening to you, and you need to jack pot him often (that $5,000 bonus).
If he thinks he might get a piece of chicken breast or you might play ball with him when you call his name or you call him to come; he might actually leave the squirrel.
If he thinks you’re mad, you’re going to crate him, you aren’t going to give him anything, and he is not use to listening to you anyway, he is never going to listen.
Do your dog a favor and start teaching him by playing hide and seek with him now that coming means great things and fun from you and that you are a good boss! For more ideas on training your dog to come as well as on playing hide and seek and teaching him to come click here.
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.