“Come!”… “Come!”…”Come here!”…”I said COME!”

If you have kids, you know that the possible responses to calling them are:
1) “What?”
2) “Wait a minute”
3) “I’m coming” (yeah right!)
4) Pretend they didn’t hear you.

No matter how many times you explain that if you call them is because you want them to come, you will invariably get one of the responses above.

I have news for you, your dog is your kid.

One of the most common complaints I get from dog owners starting a training program is: “He does not come when I call him”. The expectation is that I will wave my magic trainer wand and install on your dog a
come when called key just like the ones on your TV remote control.
What I hear is owners describing features they want their dog to posses just like they were picking a car. “I want a blue car, with leather interior, power windows, GPS, anti-lock brakes etc.” “I want my dog to come when I call him, even when he is running away from me at 40 miles an hour chasing something.”

I have more news for you. Coming when called is not a built in feature in your dog. You have to TEACH him to come.
Almost everyone’s attempt at teaching their dog to come are: to call him, and then call again, then again and again with the voice level escalating rapidly and then adding in some frustration and anger. Needless to say, if a raging person was yelling for me to come to them, I would seriously wonder if that would be a safe thing to do! Well, your dog is no different. To top it off, the consequence of coming is usually something “bad” from the point of view of the dog. For example, he was out running around having a grand old time sniffing, chasing a squirrel, barking at the neighbors cat, dog, kids and now you spoil all this by having him come in and end the fun!

To teach your dog to LOVE coming to you, you have to convince your dog that coming to you is the best thing that he could think of doing. Some good starting points are: using a pleasant and inviting tone of voice, calling your dog for things he enjoys, like mealtimes, walks, belly rubs and cookies.
If you have to do something “bad” from the
DOG’S point of view, then go and get him, snap the leash on and take him with you as opposed to calling. Yelling “Come” a million times when you know your dog is not going to respond is teaching him that he can ignore you.

I you would like to polish your dog’s recall skills, do the following homework during the next week. Write down how many times you call your dog for pleasant things versus unpleasant things. If the unpleasant outnumber the pleasant, you will know why your dog refuses to come to you in the first place. Remember pleasant is defined by the dog not you.
Carry treats in your pocket and reward your dog with one every time you say his name and he stops what he is doing to LOOK AT YOU, add some lavish praise too. Resist the temptation to call more than once or even better do not call at all if you know your dog is very distracted and the probability of him obeying you is close to zero.

In next weeks post I will give you more homework and additional exercises for you improve your dog’s recall skills. Until then, happy training!

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