Tuesday, April 13, 2010
By Linda Cole
Getting your dog to come when he's called can be frustrating, especially when he's playing. Your words can seem like they are going in one ear and out the other. There are times, however, when you do need your dog to come when he's called. It could save his life. Teach your dog to come each time he's called, and make sure he knows you expect him to respond every time.
Even well trained dogs can become so preoccupied with a smell or playing that a command to “come” may be ignored. Dogs may not hear you calling if they are engaged in a game of tag with another dog or in hot pursuit of a rabbit flushed from a hiding place. Dogs will be dogs, and chasing and running are two of their favorite things to do.
It can be difficult and time consuming to teach your dog to come, but it's worth the effort to make sure this basic command is something your dog understands well and is eager to respond to. If your dog doesn't come when called, he should never be let off his leash.
Be consistent when teaching your dog or puppy to come when called. If he's off leash, that means you trust him not to run away. However, most dogs can't resist a good chase if they see a rabbit or cat. If he's excited, coming when called may not be what he wants to do, but the dog who fully understands what come means should break off his pursuit when he's called. He knows it's a mandatory command and not one to respond to when he feels like it.
Dogs are great at manipulating us and, like kids, don't always want to spend an afternoon learning what we are trying to teach – especially if it's a command that takes them away from their play time. When you're ready to teach your dog to come, keep it simple, consistent and fun. This command is so important, it's well worth the time and frustration some owners experience when their dog doesn't want to cooperate. If your dog is playing and having fun, he may feel he's being punished when he has to stop playing. But a dog who doesn't come when called could put his owner and himself at risk in the event of an emergency. You have to make it so fun for him to come if you want him to respond every time.
Dogs can sense our anxiety and excitement during emergencies which can upset them. Those of us who have to deal with the prospect of tornadoes and sudden spring storms that could require quickly moving to a safe shelter, need to make sure our dogs come when they are called. Playing a game of you chasing your dog while a siren is sounding a warning is not good. Dogs have no concept of the danger at hand. Teach your dog to come for your piece of mind and safety.
An emergency includes stopping your dog before he runs in front of a car if his ball bounces into the street. He needs to understand you aren't punishing him by calling him back. Come means to stop now and return to you every time you call him no matter what he's doing. So make it fun from the start by giving your dog lots of praise when he follows your command. Make it a game he will love to play, and never punish him for not coming. You want only positive reinforcement associated with him coming to you.
My dogs are good about coming when they are called, but sometimes a squirrel racing up a tree in the backyard is too tempting to leave. Dogs are like us and if their attention is elsewhere, we need to be patient. You do need to get their attention, however, so they can follow your command. My dogs do understand the difference between calling them to come inside verses calling them if we have to move into a safer part of the house. They do understand my tone of voice.
Emergencies like fire, flash floods, out of control grass or forest fires, tornadoes, damaging winds, car accidents, etc. happen and you don't have time to try to persuade your dog to come to you. Some dogs get spooked and their instinct is to run away. If you take the time to teach your dog to come, when he's scared the positive reinforcement you taught him will make him feel safe. Your dog needs to come every time he's called regardless of what he's doing. By making “come” a positive requirement, you have taught him an important lesson he will remember his entire life.
Read more articles by Linda Cole