“My dog won’t come when called” is a common complaint from dog owners. Dogs do NOT have a COME! app installed. They actually need to be taught what you expect of them.
But before you do that here are some things about come! you never heard of.
When training, if you call your dog and he/she doesn’t come, you have actually taught him come! means just the opposite, “you don’t have to come”.
Also, by continuously calling your dog, he/she uses that as a kind of sonar and knows where you are by the sound of your voice, but you don’t know where your dog is.
If you run after your dog, you have turned come! into a game of chase. Dogs love being chased.
If you punish your dog for finally coming back or always take him right inside, why should your dog come?
Everything in a dog’s life is connected. That’s one of the reasons I hate retractable leashes. Besides teaching dogs to pull, when you release them, they run. I think of as a broken rubber band; when a rubber band breaks it sends things flying…think about it.
And last but not least it should be your dog’s responsibility to keep track of you (once again a trained behavior) rather than you keeping track of your dog.
Everyone wants a perfect recall. It involves consistency and time. Here are six exercises for you to try with a clicker. If you don’t have a clicker you can click with your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
I. The NAME GAME – Very often a dog’s name or the word to signify a dog should come back (come, here, Fido, etc.) have been ruined. They have come to mean something bad to the dog. We call them POISONED CUES. Choose a new word. Puppies do not come already knowing their name. We want them to associate good things with their name so they look at us.
- Arm yourself with a clicker and some easy-to- chew but delicious treats.
- Take your puppy into a quiet room
- Say your puppy’s name, then click and treat. So it would sound like “ZUKI, click” and Zuki would get a treat.
- No matter what your puppy does, if you have clicked she gets the treat.
- Try not to click while your puppy is doing something you don’t like. For instance, don’t click while your puppy is jumping or barking.
- Repeat this between 5-20 times in a training session. Train several times a day.
- Do NOT yell at your dog using his name. REMEMBER: Puppies do not come programmed to know their name. We want them to associate good things with their name so they look at us.
II. DIRECT CONNECT – – One of the most important things is to develop a “connection” with your puppy. Your puppy should “check in” with you.
Think of this as your garage door safety beam. The garage door won’t close if the beam is broken. Your dog won’t come back if the beam to you is broken.
A. LOOK INTO MY EYES
- Arm yourself with a clicker and some easy-to-chew but delicious treats.
- Take your puppy into a quiet room.
- Outstretch your arm to your side so the treat is at shoulder level.
- WAIT! The “human” in us wants to tell the puppy what to do. Resist this urge.
- As soon as your dog GLANCES away from the treat, CLICK and treat.
- At first this will probably be by accident. In fact, it may be just an eye movement or tilt of the head. Make sure not to miss this opportunity to click.
- Now try to wait until your dog GLANCES away from the treat to look into your eyes (as if to say “didn’t I earn that treat?”), CLICK and treat.
- Repeat steps 1- 7 at least 10 times.
- Make the time your dog needs to look into your eyes a tad longer from time to time.
- It should not take long for your puppy to understand that looking at the treat gets nothing. It is looking at you that matters! Practice this several times a day.
B. ADDING A CUE WORD: Watch me
You are going to “build quality in, before you put the name on”. Once your dog knows when you “assume the position” that he should look in your eye to get you to CLICK and treat him, you may now say a cue. Cues may be “Watch me”, “Look” or even “Pay attention”. You may pick any word(s) you want, just be consistent and say it just as you start to do the exercise.
III. Come/Go GAME – an easy (can be done in the house type) exercise you can work on is the come/go game shown to me by Brenda Buja.
A. THE PURPOSE OF THIS CORNY GAME? The dog learns to come and thinks it is fun.
B. THE BENEFITS are the dog learns to follow the direction your hand to know which way to GO AWAY from you to find the treat. (this is extremely helpful in dog agility) and the dog learns not to sniff the ground.
C. HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
- First find an open area in the house or an area in your yard and load your bait bag with treats that will be visible when thrown on the ground. Charlie Bears and cheese work well.
- Have your dog at your side to start and throw ONE treat (using a bowling motion) and say “go”.
- As soon as the dog gets the treat do an about turn (while looking at away your dog). The dog should head for you since you have a treat in your hand.
- As the dog approaches you and throw as if bowling ONE treat while saying “go”. Make sure to throw the treat with the hand closest to the dog. This can be repeated several times. The dogs really get into gobbling the treat and trying to see where you throw the next one
IV. CHASE – This is as simple as it sounds. Just run away from your puppy carrying a treat or a toy. Can your puppy catch you? The purpose is to have fun for your puppy, so let her catch you and give her the toy or the treat. At times, instead of running, just back up and say “hey pup-pup”. Once again, she gets the treat when she reaches you.
V. RESTRAINED RECALLS/PING PONG –Basically, two people calling the dog back and forth. One person holds the dog with just one or two fingers in the collar. When the other person calls the dog, your fingers should not be able to hold your dog back. Your dog should be pulling to get to the person calling him/her because they have a treat!!!! Then the people reverse roles.
VI. HIDE AND SEEK- Play this favorite game in the house. You can even hide in the same room and see if you can hide while in possession of a delicious treat or favorite toy.