Friday, October 11, 2013
My little buddy does not come when I call... what can I do?
This is what us dog trainers, just to sound cool, sometimes call "recall".
There are positive reinforcement techniques that can be used to teach the come command. They work very well. However, I am going to share a secret with you here. The most important thing when teaching recall is that coming when called can never be optional! If the dog does not come to us, we have to go to the dog.
Like almost everything in Dog Training, recall can be taught. It takes patience, consistency and routine to get results. You have to start in a almost distraction free environment and then slowly add distractions. But, it can be done! There is hope for any dog here, regardless of age!
There is something that is really important to remember here: You may be fighting against instinct in some cases so, you may need to adjust your expectations accordingly. What I mean is this: In the case of scent hounds (Beagles, Bassets, Bloodhound, Dachshunds, etc) an interesting scent may capture these dogs' attentions to the point that no amount of recall training can get them to come when they are on a good trail. This is why it is important to not let these breeds run free they are very much ruled by their sense of smell. Sight hounds (Labradors, Pointers, etc) can be similarly disctracted by the sight of interesting critters like squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, birds, etc. It is very difficult to achieve 100% off leash recall because of these factors. So, please keep that in mind and do not set a goal that your little buddy is not capable of reaching.
Keeping instinctual challenges in mind, with practice you can achieve vast improvement in recall in most cases! Your dog should come to you when you call. This is a very important thing upon which most other behaviors that you will teach your dog rely.
All the dogs in our pack will come when called. However, there are limitations. Just yesterday, The Lovely Shane and I let the pack out in the back yard while we were in the house. A few minutes later we heard barking and howling coming from the backyard. It turns out Copper had breached the fence and was on the trail to Grandma and Grandpa's house (they live next door and love to give Copper treats). Well, Copper was literally on the trail of dog treats. This is a very high motivation for Copper Whopper.
Luckily the rest of the pack alerted the Lovely Shane and me to this situation. Both the Lovely Shane and I called Copper. We were walking toward Grandma's place and sighted Copper. We both called again. He looked at us to acknowledge that he heard us but kept following the trail. I had to physically catch him and snap the leash to his collar and pull him off the trail!
Copper is my demo dog. He knows all the commands that I teach and does them very well most of the time. But, you see, his natural instinct to follow the trail was overriding the training. This is very difficult to overcome. Copper did acknowledge us and slow down. Had he not had the training he may not have even slowed down. But , even with Copper Whopper, a trained dog that I work with every day, I can not say that he has 100% recall and he probably never will but, that is the way God wired him. His breed was bred to hunt not to come when called so he is doing precisely what his breed was bred to do!
This is why it is so important with Beagles and all scent hounds that you have a proper fence if you let them run free. You also need to supervise them in the fence. Do not leave them unattended anymore than you absolutely have to. See my previous blog entry for more details.
Teaching the come command (recall) is one of the most import things you can do in your effort to teach your dog to be polite. Please contact me for help with this! There a techniques that I can teach you that will be very helpful. There is even a fun little game that I can teach you to play with your dog that will help tremendously in this effort!
Remember, regardless of how bad your dog's recall ability is now, there is hope! Please contact me for help!
Till next time
William Moore Canine Training
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