Does your dog slip out the front door and run away, even when you call him? Here’s how to end the madness now!
A while ago I was on a walk with my dogs and we saw a little white dog running around in the road. We stopped, because we weren’t sure what was happening and because I was training my dogs to ignore other dogs running around. So I had my dogs sit and we watched. And watched. The little dog’s parents were both out in the yard calling him as was their daughter. A neighbor joined in as well. So four people were running around, trying to catch this dog and calling his name. The dog was having the time of his life! Running around and avoiding all these people who were clearly getting very irritated with him. Finally we moved on and I have no idea how long it took to catch the joyful little white dog who probably got in big trouble when he finally was caught. I felt bad for the people and the dog. A little bit of training could have avoided the whole situation.
Coming when he is called can save your dog’s life. It is a critical skill and not really very hard to train. Here are the steps:
1. Begin carrying around treats in your pocket or keep little stashes of treats in several rooms in your house. For the first couple of days, every time you think of it, call your dog’s name (don’t say “come,” just say his/her name) and give him a treat. Do this 20 – 30 times a day for two or three days.
Now your dog should look at you immediately when you call his name. He’s expecting a treat!
2. Now spend two or three days adding the word “come” to the game. So try to find a time when your dog is in another room from you and say “Fido, Come!” Then give Fido a treat or two when he responds. Do this 20 – 30 times a day for two or three days.
3. Take it outside to a fenced area. If you don’t have a fenced area, put your dog on a long leash or tie a clothes line to his collar. The key now, is to never have him ignore your command to “come.” So you don’t want to give him a chance to ignore you! Get several feet away from you dog (hopefully he is sniffing around and ignoring you) and call “Come!” and start running AWAY from your dog. If you’ve been doing this in the house, he knows he might get a treat so hopefully he will come running. If he doesn’t, take it back in the house for a few more days. When he reaches you, grab his collar (so he gets used to you doing this) with your left hand and give him a treat with your right hand. Use REALLY good treats outside – like cut up hot dogs or bits of meat. Then release him and do it again. Wait for him to get interested in something else then shout “Come!” and start running away. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Do this every day for 5-10 minutes for a couple of weeks. You want the word “come” to get ingrained in his brain so his feet start moving before he even thinks when he hears this word.
If you are unable to run away, jump up and down, wave your arms, or do something exciting while moving away from your dog when you call. That’s it! Your dog should be trained to come when called!
You need to practice this though whenever you get a chance. This is a skill that can erode over time and you want it to work when you need it.
I have a fenced in yard and I was having trouble with my dogs coming when they were outside barking at something outside the fence. Coming and getting a treat wasn’t as rewarding as barking at a jogger or another dog so they weren’t doing it. The way I corrected this was to not call them when they were barking. I would walk out there so I was only a few feet from them and then I would call their name and say “come.” They would look at me and I would give them a treat. They only had to turn their head to get the treat and then I let them continue barking at whatever it was. I gradually put myself at a further distance when I called them so they would come and get their treat and go right back to barking. This is establishing in their mind that they can get a double reward if they come – they can get a treat AND they can get the reward of barking (which for dogs is fun). It took several weeks, but now I can call them from the door when they are barking at something and they will come. They get the treat and most of the time I let them go back and bark more if they want to. But, now, they rarely want to go back. They want to stay by me in case I get the urge to give them another treat. Problem solved!
I practice this skill with my dogs at least a couple of times a week. I call them to come to me at the dog park, and anywhere there are a lot of distractions to ingrain in their minds that coming when called is the most important thing to do no matter what is going on around them.