GETTING YOUR DOG TO COME WHEN CALLED
By Pete Eromenok
I talk to a lot of people about dog training and dog behavior. One very common question is “how do I get my dog to stop jumping on people when they come over to visit?” They tell me that their dog is very obedient but they can’t stop this one behavior. My next response is to tell them to call their dog away from the door and tell it to lie down. And their response is “my dog won’t listen”. OK, you’ve guessed my next response. So the dog listens well when there are no distractions.
To solve this problem you must take the time to train the dog with all kinds of distractions in all kinds of places. Obedience can be achieved, and for many dogs, it is imperative they obey the first time. I suppose everyone has different needs for their pets. Some are content if their dogs don’t pee on the carpet, others don’t want them on the couch. As long as this requirement is met everyone is happy. Obedience can actually save your dogs life.
A few years back my dog slipped away while following his nose. His master was engrossed in yard work and made the error of not keeping an eye on his pooch. So when I realized he had taken a scenic tour of the neighborhood I grabbed my whistle and went looking for him. I wandered up to the front of the property blowing the come whistle. I heard a car coming and saw the dog heading toward me and running wide open. He would have centered himself on the front of the car if not for his obedience at my sit whistle. The car missed him by 6 inches. When he heard the sit whistle he skidded into a sit. Many dogs are injured and killed each year because they fail to obey in critical situations.
When a dog is in an excitable state its mind tends to run wild and they loose control. They can not hear you calling them shouting “come, treats, come, treats.” Actually they can hear you, only you and your treats are not enticing enough to refocus the dog. You must be able to control the dog, thus controlling what’s between his ears. This means having him on a 30 foot leash anytime he is outside. The leash gives you 100% control. Next choose a recall command. Pick one and stay with it. “Come” or “Here” are commonly used.
The first thing you want to accomplish is teaching the dog what the word means. This is done without pressure. You can use a goody if you like. Start without distractions. If the dog is distracted it will be a circus. Command the dog to come while slightly bending over and backing up. Also your arms can be at your side and slightly elevated. This posture naturally pulls a dog toward you. You can do this in the kitchen or any where in the house where there is quiet. After he has that down, and responds confidently, you can move on.
Usually by five or six months they are ready for some type of structure. The next step is to clip the 30 foot leash on to the dog’s training collar. It is not necessary to be 30 feet away from the dog, anywhere along the line is fine; then say “here”, then tug the leash and praise as the dog begins to move toward you. Praise with touch when the dog reaches you. If the dog stops half way repeat “here” and tug. Whenever the dog takes its focus off of you, repeat the command and tug. The tug should be gentle but sharp. You should always praise verbally when the dog is in the learning and correction phase. If this is done properly he will be coming or following you around within minutes. The biggest mistake people make is they take the leash off too soon. Just because your dog obeys with a leash on doesn’t mean he will obey with it off. The dog perceives the leash as the controlling factor. The dog must be weaned off the leash, but during basics your dog always has a leash on. Don’t give commands if you are not set up to enforce them. When you constantly repeat “Come” and your dog does not respond, you are teaching the dog not to come on the come command. They become idle words with no meaning.
It is always easier to learn something when you can see it done and ask lots of questions. That’s why there are hundreds of dog training books and videos on the market but still many people get frustrated with their pet’s behavior. Dog training is a blend of science and art and it’s a vast field where learning never stops. Much could be written on common mistakes which are made while training or interacting with dogs. I may do another article about counterproductive training habits, if you have to chase your dog to catch him, or repeat and repeat commands, you will retard the progress of the dog. No one buys a dog with the expectation of having problems- such as the dog running in the opposite direction when you call it, but using common dog sense will usually alleviate most problems. I usually don’t write articles specifically on how to train a behavior because there is so much already written on it. Many techniques are easier to watch in a setting where you can ask questions. You can then perform the technique with instruction. Happy training!