Teaching a Dog to Come when Calledby Michelle St Germain on 04/17/12
One of the most frustrating and dangerous behaviors that some dogs have is that they do not come reliablly when called. To be able to run and play off a leash is a wonderful experience for all dogs and their people. There is nothing more satisfying then to watch is a dog running free and having fun. Sadly, lots of dogs never get to enjoy this kind of freedom, the chance to just be a dog and explore new environments!
Teaching a dog to come is not as hard as it sometimes appears to be. What is the secret? This is not rocket science. The secret is making yourself more attractive to your dog than the environment he is in. What does your dog like above all other things? For many dogs treats, meat, food.... for others the chance to play with a favorite toy or a game of tug of war. People sometimes say to me, "I don't want to bribe my dog to come to me". These are the people who still cannot let their dogs off a leash. When the training first starts, "luring" will take place, and it takes place a lot. I let the dog know, that I have something that it wants, and I watch the magic unfold. I practice in a safe, undistractive environment. By practicing in an environment free of major distractions, I am setting my dog up to succeed. I am making myself better than the environment just by going somewhere there is nothing better than me. I am armed to the max with cooked liver, beef, steak, chicken cheese.... If my dog likes toys, her favorite one comes too.
I may also install a 20 foot long line on my dog's collar for easier access to my dog, if she chooses to ignore me. Now I have already written about the first most important rule of teaching the dog to come. Making yourself more attractive to your dog. Rule number 2 is: If I have called my dog to COME to me, my first and formost next move must be to make it happen. Don't just stand there, repeating the command to your dog. Move towards the dog and try to get it's attention with the lure, a squeeky toy, running the opposite direction, stepping on the long line to prevent her from running away from you....Do whatever it takes to get that dog moving towards you. Keep it fun and don't get mad at him. The second the dog senses you are unhappy with it, it will continue to avoid you. Happy, jolly tones work best of all. All dogs, but especially puppies love the sing song voice. As soon as the dog takes a step in your direction, pour on the praise and coax her to continue moving forward. Do this in several different places with different distractions. If you know that your dog will not COME to you for whatever reason. Do not call the dog. Go get her! Don't teach your dog to ignore the RECALL command.
The more you practice, you will see a progression in her response. Once you have established a great recall with LURES, it is now time to start slowly reducing the amount he gets and when he gets them. Don't just decide one day. "No more rewards", it has to be gradual process in order to create a solid patterning of the behavior. Soon your dog will be working harder to earn the reward. Another fiun alternative is varying the types of rewards you are offfering. Make it a guessing game for the dog.
Last important tips for success:
-play hide and seek with your dog at least once a week.
-never call your dog to you and reprimand it for anything. You are going to destroy whatever recall you have very fast. If you are upset with the dog, go to the dog to stop any unwanted behavior.
-never call your dog to come to you and do something to her that she perceives as negative, nail clipping, grooming, bathing, putting it in a crate. Go to the dog and lead it to where you want her to go. Coming to something that they don't like, gives them the chance to ignore you by avoiding you.
-if your dog is playing with another dog and clearly not interested in you at all, go catch the dog and bring it to you, rather than repeating the command or giving up when the dog keeps playing.
-don't play chase games with a dog until your dog has a good reliable recall. Chase games are great when you can control the dog when it is time to end the game.
-use HIGH value rewards...not his regular kibble for training RECALL. Would you go to work everyday for jelly beans? Remember you are competing with things that will make your dog ignore you. Make yourself better than another dog's bum. Sad but true! :)
-Have fun with your dog. Make the dog want to come to you. Don't only call your dog to COME when the fun is about to end. (leaving the dog park, coming in from playing, etc.) Use life rewards as well. Rover comes when called can be rewarded with a thank you and getting to go back and play with her friend for a bit longer.