Many dog owners fail to recognize the importance of having a dog that comes when called until there is a problem, such as the collar or lead breaking, or the dog tearing free to chase a person or another animal. These situations can be dangerous for the dog, the owner and other members of the community. In areas where there is a lot of vehicular traffic, the situation could even prove fatal to the dog.
Unfortunately, many well meaning owners sabotage this important part of their dog’s training by allowing it to run off lead and unattended. Whether the dog is allowed to run in the park, on the beach, or just play with other dogs, this teaches the dog that there are many fun things that do not involve its owner. In fact, from the dog’s perspective at least, these fun times are often ruined by the appearance of the owner.
Look at things from the dog’s perspective for a moment. You – the dog – are having a ton of fun running on the beach with all your doggy friends and suddenly here comes this human to take you away from the fun. When you see the dog’s point of view it is easy to see how the appearance of the owner and the lead can be seen as a negative.
This negative perception causes many dogs to delay this outcome by refusing to come when they are called. From the dog’s point of view, this makes perfect sense, since every minute of delay means another minute of romping on the beach or in the park. In other words, the dog has learned that the most rewarding thing to do is to ignore the calls of its owner. While this may seem like a good idea to the dog, it is definitely not a good thing from the owner’s perspective.
For dogs who have not yet learned this type of avoidance behavior, it is best to prevent it from happening by supervising the dog at play and making the time you spend with your dog as much, or more, fun, as the time it spends alone or with other dogs.
For dogs that have already learned the value of ignoring their owner, some retraining is definitely in order. It is vital that every dog respond to the “come here” command, for the safety of both humans and dogs alike.
One thing to avoid is following the “come here” command with unpleasant activities. Calling the dog and then immediately giving him a bath, clipping his nails, taking him to the vet, etc. will quickly teach the dog that coming to the owner has negative consequences. It is best to ask the dog to come and then play with him, feed him, walk him or engage in other fun activities. If you do need to take your dog to the vet, bathe him, etc. make sure that you to allow some time to pass so the dog does not associate the “come here” command with the bad experience.
It is important to remember that dogs are constantly learning, whether a formal training session is in process or not. Your dog is always learning something from you, whether good or bad. It is therefore important to make every interaction with your dog a positive one.
When teaching the dog to come on command, it is vital that the dog be consistently rewarded every single time he does as the owner wants. A reward can be as simple as a pat on the head, a “good boy” or a scratch behind the ears. Of course, treat based rewards are appreciated as well, and many dogs are highly food motivated and respond quickly to this type of training. The key is to be consistent. The dog should get some kind of reward, whether it be praise, a toy, or a treat, every time he appears at the owners side when called.