Here’s the story behind why I think it’s important to learn how to train your dog to come every time. This happened 3 years ago today.
My Dog Recall Training Wake Up Call
I thought our dog was done for.
It was the day when our dog’s behavior went from annoying and embarrassing to dangerous.
We were out on our usual walk in the evening. Our lovable obedience school dropout was pulling like crazy on the leash. As usual, she leading the charge and dragging me along.
That day she was being particularly stubborn and kept pulling back as she was on to the smell of who knows what in a neighbor’s bush.
Then all of a sudden she pulled a Houdini. Somehow she slipped out of her harness and broke free from the leash.
She started sprinting for the busy street two blocks over. I was running after her and yelling her name, but she wasn’t listening.
She just kept running.
A million horrible thoughts flashed through my head because I knew that our dog didn’t have the sense to stop for even a second before running out into the street.
I also knew that there was no chance of her listening to me and stopping.
It was the worst feeling in the world as I watched her run full speed.
I felt absolutely worthless and helpless.
Luckily, there was another dog in a fenced yard that caught her attention long enough for me to catch up.
I was able to grab her while she was distracted. I was beyond relieved! But I also knew that something had to change.
We had tried classes before and they never worked. I started doing some research. Here’s what I learned:
How to Get Your Dog to Come Every Time
Most dogs will come at least some of the time when you call them. The problem is, it seems like they don’t come when you need them to the most.
That was my dog’s problem. There were times when she would not listen.
This can be very frustrating and dangerous because there are times when you absolutely need your dog to come to you.
There are three main parts to teaching your dog to come:
3. Let Go
Let’s look at each one, because they are all important.
Step One: Call Your Dog
It’s easy to yell your dog’s name, right? But I found out that to be effective I had to put a little more thought into it.
I learned that the main reason most dogs don’t come when called is because the consequence is usually negative.
Think about it.
Most of the times you call your dog it’s for bad reasons. Usually your dog is doing something he shouldn’t. If your dog knows your going to yell at him or scold him or put him on a leash or in a kennel, why would he want to come?
How do we fix that? First, we need to think before we call our dog. If you need to correct your dog, go to him. Never call your dog to punish him.
The second part is to listen to how you use your dog’s name. Don’t use your dog’s name as a substitute for no.
Once I started paying attention to when and how I called my dog, I was pretty embarrassed. It was always in a negative context.
The embarrassing part was the tone I used. It was this awful combination of meanness, whining and desperation.
Step Two: Reward Your Dog
The next part is to work on the reward. This isn’t difficult but it’s very important, especially if your training.
You need to reward your dog for coming to you. Not only does it need to be a reward, but it needs to be a reward that your dog thinks is awesome.
Start by using a food treat, but make sure it’s something your dog loves. Eventually, you won’t need to give your dog a treat every time, but it’s the best way to start.
Praise is also very important to a dog. Be sure to give plenty when he comes.
Some people think that when their dog doesn’t come it’s because there is something wrong with their dog.
It’s not that your dog doesn’t hear you. It’s not that your dog is dumb. The fact is that when you call your dog and he just stares at you, he’s actually wearing out his options.
If you reward your dog for coming, you make the math simple for your dog.
Step Three: Let Your Dog Go
This doesn’t sound hard but sometimes it can be. I think we’re all a bit of control freaks when it comes to our lives, especially our dogs.
After all, they are the few creatures in our lives that can’t talk back to us! But, for any of this to work, you have to release your dog after the reward.
This is tied to the above two steps. The reward loses its meaning if you shove your dog in the kennel after giving it.
The release completes the circle and retains the power of the reward.
Is this Pack Leader stuff legit?
Teaching your dog to come doesn’t have to be difficult. That is because recall is in a dogs nature. Dogs by nature social animals. That means that they are biologically driven to respond to the call of a leader.
A lot of people talk about being a pack leader and in some ways it’s kind of controversial. Dogs have been living with people so long it’s hard to imagine a your little Yorkshire Terrier running wild with the pack and roaming the streets looking for bottled water.
Regardless of what you call it, it is undeniable that you need to establish that you are in charge with your dog.
That doesn’t mean you have to be a domineering jerk, it just means your dog should look to you for guidance.
You can call this the pack leader or you can call yourself the head honcho. It really doesn’t matter. The fact is you have to establish some kind of relationship with your dog where you are in charge.
If you disagree with this concept, take a second and think about this. If you’re not the one in charge with your dog, why else would your dog come when you call?
The answer is because they think there’s something in it for them. They are coming because they think they might get food or something else that they want.
Although the bond between humans and dogs is amazing the fact of the matter is is that dogs do not think like people.
Dogs also do not feel like people. This is not to say that dogs don’t love us and that we don’t love them, it’s just comparing apples and oranges.
The Contract with your Dog
At the core of all of this is the relationship you have with your dog. Don’t like that word? Think of it as a contract.
No, you don’t need to hire a lawyer. When I say contract I am talking about the agreement that you and your dog have every time you call your dog to come.
Think about it for a second.
A contract is really just an agreement between two parties. Think about when you call your dog as an agreement that you have with your dog.
Dogs are actually very intelligent and very logical. Therefore when you call your dog, the dog is thinking: “What’s in it for me?”
If you’re like most people, when you were calling your dog it’s usually because you want to stop whatever it is they’re doing. Therefore, your dog is likely thinking if I come then I’m going to bed put on the leash.
Plain and simple you need to sweeten the terms of the contract. When you call your dog you should reward them every time at first. You want your dog to think immediately that something good is going to happen.
When your dog hears his name, he should think that he just hit the lottery. And then he should come sprinting towards you to find out what it is.
Hopefully this article will save you the hours I spent after our dogs brush with danger. There’s so much information on the internet it’s easy to get overwhelmed or waste hours looking.
A lot of this information I learned through pro dog trainers that have courses set up online. One that I would recommend is The Online Dog Trainer.
It’s a pay site, but it’s a good value. Tons of videos, plus there is an active forum where pros will actually answer your questions. You can click here for a special trial offer.
Alright, dog lovers, hope that helps! As always, we love to hear what has worked for you!