One of the biggest problems pet owners face is getting their dogs to come to them when called. What many people don’t realize is how quickly dogs become conditioned to ignoring us or turning an opportunity into a game. For instance, your dog grabs your shoes and you call them and they run away as you chase them. The game is on! You race to catch him, he’s faster and there’s teeth marks and dog spit on everything. What is an owner to do?
Here are some ways to get things under control. First, you want to condition your dog to associate returning to you with something of value and certainly NOT punishment. I mean would YOU approach someone who is going to scream at you? I think not. I like to play hide and go seek in the home with my dog. I use the simple word COME and reward with praise first and then a cookie. I do this several times. To this I add the GOTCHA, which is a gentle grasp of the collar and a treat simultaneously. This way my dog will let me get closer and actually grasp them. I do this slowly and gradually. I also like adding a partner and playing the Rebound Recall where the dog is in the middle and takes turns coming to each family member when called. We praise from the very moment they look at the person who called them. Don’t forget moving away from your dog and clapping your hands urges the prey drive and gets them excited to return to you. Finally we practice this outside in a fenced yard or on a leash. Every family member should be consistent. In some cases the word COME has been so overused and has lost meaning that we need to change the word to something else. Another way to get your dog to return to you is to add a sound like a whistle. When the dog pays attention encourage him to come then praise and treat. Be careful not to lure the dog by showing the food otherwise if you don’t have food the dog will hesitate and often not come without it. In general dogs respond better when they are put on a “learn to earn” program where all good things are only given when the dog does something the owner asks. Finally, with a partner you can get a dog more excited about coming by having one hold him back while the other person races to the other side of the room and encourages him to come. Remember to praise for racing toward you and do not ask the dog to sit. We are praising and rewarding for coming when called.
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