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One of the most vital, if not the most important, commands in your dog’s repertoire is coming when called.
Training your dog consistently to come when called is the best way to keep your dog safe.
Just last week, Mira saw a rabbit out front, and when I went to grab the mail, she darted out the door before I could stop her.
My heart jumped into my throat, but instead of panicking, I turned on my happiest fun voice and called her back to me.
Though it took a second, she made a U-turn and headed back to more before she reached the street. I was over happy, grateful, and relieved that our training efforts had paid off.
But what if she hadn’t come back?
Having your dog ignore you at the dog park is maddening but having your dog run into traffic is down right deadly, which is why it is critical to train your dog to reliably come when called.
Why Doesn’t My Dog Come When Called?
I used to wonder if my dogs knew that I had to be somewhere, and they were just messing with me when they wouldn’t come inside.
However, the truth is they had no idea I was running late, nor do I think that my dogs would do something to upset me intentionally.
Dogs aren’t built that way, but they are built with excellent hearing, and they can hear my frazzled tone, which can make them hesitant to come when called.
And the tone of voice isn’t the only reason your dog may not respond to you when called.
Here are a few more reasons and some easy solutions to fix the problem.
Your Dog Isn’t Fully Trained
But you’re thinking they come when we practice in class, so they have to know the command. Well, the truth is it takes time, patience, and practice for your dog to fully grasp recall.
According to Mardi Richmond, CPDT-KA, CC1, a certified trainer, if you practice daily, it will take about three to six months for your dog to reliably come when called.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to training your dog, but it does not happen overnight.
It is not uncommon for dog parents to think that their dog is further along in its training than they are, which results in moving forward too fast before a solid foundation is formed.
Be patient; your dog is learning, and the more distractions there are, the harder it is for your dog to be focused.
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Continue with positive reinforcement training, and be sure to use your most fun and happy voice when calling your dog.
You need to be more exciting than whatever is distracting them.
And it is vital you use what motivates your dog, whether it’s a favorite squeaky toy or a hotdog.
Don’t worry; you won’t have to carry hot dogs around forever, just a few months.
Your Dog is Afraid of Getting Scolded or Punished
Have you ever been so upset with your dog that when they finally did get around to coming to you that you scolded or, worse, punished them?
Unfortunately, it is a fairly typical response.
But punishing a dog who comes to you after you called your dog a hundred times is sure to make it more challenging to get them to come the next time.
If your dog perceives coming to you as a negative thing, they are less likely to want to do it.
How long would it take you to stop responding to someone who always scolded you when you showed up.
I get how infuriating it is to call your dog and be ignored, but always make it the best, most positive experience ever when your dog does get to you.
You can even call your dog a little stinker or tell them you are angry, but you must do so in the happiest, cheeriest voice possible.
Remember, it takes a while for a dog to learn to come when called, and patience and consistency will pay off.
If you have an issue with recall, practice calling your dog indoors where there are fewer distractions.
Also, if you need to be somewhere and don’t want to be late, give you and your dog extra time so that you don’t get mad.
Your dog picks more on your tone than words2, and if you sound upset, they are less likely to come when called.
Your Dog is Distracted
Have you ever called your dog when they are playing with another dog? Chances are you might not even get a head-tilt when they hear your voice.
Don’t worry; you aren’t alone.
Dogs are not that much different than little kids.
If a child is on the playground with friends and you call them over to go home, it is a good bet you will get some resistance before you can get them into the car.
Dogs, especially young ones, get distracted easily.
When Mira was younger, I would call her, and she would start heading my way, only to turn and dart off after a grasshopper or even a tumbling leaf.
We often think that our dog is ready to practice recall with distractions and take their training to a dog park.
Unfortunately, when training your dog around distractions, it is all about baby steps.
Until your dog is well trained to come when called, you may need to go over and leash your dog instead of calling them.
If you call your dog and they ignore you, but you stand there and keep calling, the command will eventually lose value.
So you need to either be more fun than the distraction, have the tastiest treat ever, or just walk over to where your dog is and collect them.
Going to fetch your dog and carrying around cheeseburgers is temporary, but it is 100% necessary during the learning process.
Your Dog Weighed Things Out and You Lost
I have called Mira and seen her look at me, then back at what she was doing, and decide that what she had going on seemed to be more fun than me.
I have lost my dog’s attention to grasshoppers, bunnies, and even the occasional stick.
And yes, it can be a bit hard on the ego when you lose to a stick.
Your dog debating on whether to listen to you or not is part of the learning process and is far from unusual.
It isn’t personal, even when it feels like it is, but the decision process is part of learning.
Every time you call your dog, you need to be so fun and exciting that a squirrel on the fence isn’t near as fun as you.
You may feel a bit embarrassed by calling in a happy voice and clapping and carrying on, but your dog will love it.
I have jumped up and down and made funny noises to get my dogs to come in when they are learning recall, and it works.
And when your dog does come to you, be sure to praise them just as enthusiastically as you did when you called them.
The Command Has Lost Value
Have you ever called your pup, and they ignored you, so you walked away and let it be instead of fighting with them to come to you?
Unfortunately, the more often that happens, the less likely they will come to you in the future.
Each time your dog ignores the recall command, the word “come” loses value.
When your dog is learning recall, it is vital to follow through, or your dog will take your commands more like suggestions.
If you have a dog that has decided your commands are optional, you must start back at the beginning, with constant positive reinforcement.
You must go back to square one to recalibrate the command.
You’ve Been Sent to Voicemail
Do you only call your dog to go in the kennel or come inside when they are playing?
Well, if you do, there’s a good chance your dog will start ignoring your command.
Dogs are sweet and kind, but they also want to know what’s in it for them, and if the answer is nothing fun, well, can you blame them for not listening anymore?
I know it wouldn’t take me long to start sending a friend to voicemail if they only ever called to borrow money.
When it comes to recall, I randomly call my dogs, reward them, then let them go on their way.
By calling them for no particular reason, they won’t know whether I am calling them inside because I have to leave or just to give them positive feedback.
Training can be challenging, but with diligence and daily practice, even just a few minutes each day, your dog can learn to reliably come when called.
I always have training treats on me when my dogs are learning to practice throughout the day.
Blocking off time during the day for training is good, but working with your dog for a second or two throughout the day helps reinforce their training.
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