Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Challenges of Teaching Your Dog to Come

The one common thread that I experience each time I begin a series of private lessons is the owners’ frustration at the inability of getting their dog to come to them when they ask for this behavior.  Unfortunately, that is a behavior that can be taught only after your dog has learned to listen to you consistently with no distraction. Once this is accomplished, you gradually increase to higher levels of distraction.  In all forms of training, it is impossible to go straight from A to Z without all the work in between.

The first step in the come command is to see if your dog responds to you each time you say its’ name.  The second your dog looks at you when you say its’ name, you should give the reward. This should begin the minute you bring your dog home. It may not appear to be training but without having your dog respond to your voice, even asking for a simple sit will be an impossible task.

Your next step is to have your dog come to you in the house with no distraction.  Then you move on to the backyard, front yard, to an area that you go to frequently, and then on to more challenging places with greater distractions.

The most effective way to assess if your dog is ready for off leash recall is to ask yourself several questions. They will include; Will my dog sit for me when we are out for a walk? ; Does my dog even know that I exist when we are at the dog park?  When I call my dogs’ name will he/she immediately look at me?  The list is quite long before you can consider that your dog will stop what it is doing and respond to your command to come.

Another aspect of this training involves answering the question; “what do I ask my dog to do each time I ask it  to come to me.”  If it is only for unpleasant experiences, you can be guaranteed that your dog will NEVER come when called!   You want your dog to make the association in its’ mind that coming to you is exciting and rewarding. You can achieve this goal by giving high value rewards, more play time, and lots of praise as your dog comes to you.

Having this really reliable recall opens a whole world to you and your dog.  It makes visits to the park, lake, beach, etc. a purely enjoyable experience with the absence of the stress that occurs when you are constantly worrying that your dog will take off and never to be seen again. It allows you to play frisbee;  soccer; swim etc. etc. with pure abandonment.  What could be a better way to solidify the bond between you and your dog!