People often complain to their veterinarian, pet-groom, kennel owner, dog trainer or personal friend that they cannot understand why their pet will not respond to their call by using a command or the name. Come when it is called.
Often a pet dog becomes desensitized to its name due to over-usage without effective responses. The animal may not listen because the call or its name may have negative connotations such as being used to put it outside or in cases of inappropriate punishment meted out by uneducated owners.
A dog does not know it has a name. The name of the pet is purely for human benefits. The sound and tone of the animal’s name is purely a conditioned auditory mechanism to call the dog when required. Once the name is used positively and repetitively for beneficial purposes the dog then becomes conditioned to willing respond to its owner – its name becomes familiar, pleasant and a rewarding habit.
One of the most important aspects of the human-animal bond is to teach your dog to come when called. If the dog does not want to be with you, any teaching will be difficult. This usually occurs if you are punishing your pet for reasons you believe it is supposed to understand such as toileting indoors.
Coming to you must always be a pleasant experience – you have to be more attractive than any other distraction in its environment. Teach the dog to want to come to you. This has to be repeated in many situations, in different areas within the home and outdoors and at different times of the day. Once good responses are received then the dog can be tested outside the property in a safe park and off-lead.
You must ensure that its name will make the dog look at you in all different circumstances.
You must call the dog using the same command and tone every time. The name is used to obtain its attention and the call is to bring the dog willingly towards you. You may use “come”, “here, boy!” or any other short, effective word I any language as long as you are consistent.
You may attract attention by luring the pup or dog with a tidbit or a toy depending on its motivation for such items. You have to sound enthusiastic and even move backwards so that you can make the animal want to come to you over increasing distances while you possess the attractions of a frisson using voice, food or an accessory.
When the pet gets to you, you have to make an incredible fuss, give it the treat and have a short duration game with the toy. This interaction can be so thrilling that it will want to keep repeating the exercise. It has to be fun. Once this calling is effective you can get someone to hold on to your dog while you run and hide. Then, call the dog so that it can search, be stimulated and achieve the objective of finding you and being rewarded.
Whether a pup or an adult dog you must never let it off lead until the call to you is totally reliable, without diversions.
If the dog is expected to learn by using treats it is imperative that the animal is fairly hungry at the time of training. Training a pup just before its next meal usually gets its undivided attention whereas an adult dog may have to have meals withdrawn for a full day in order to find a treat to be a real treat!
When the pup or dog responds to the call, besides showing your pleasure, without being hyper-neurotic, you must grab its collar, bring the pet closer to you, give it a hug, rewarding it softly verbally then let it free to continue with another exciting activity such as a walk on-lead or a fetch game. There must never be a direct association between your call to you and the cessation of activities or going home as this can become negatively construed by the animal and will eventually prefer not to respond to your call in case the fun stops.
Coming to you must not be the end of the walk or the end of its fun.
Also, do not call him every time it finds something interesting to sniff at. This will create an emotional and mental dilemma and the pup or dog will find that what it is scenting is far more pleasant than you – that is when your call will start becoming less attractive and less effective.
When you have the dog’s attention, call him to you, run away and let him know how exciting it is to come after you and respond to you. If he does not look at you, go up to your pet, show him the treat then back away while calling him to you.
Never chase your dog. This will make him want to run away. One of the more effective techniques of a recall is to drop to your haunches when welcoming the dog into your arms instead of remaining standing and daunting.
Never chastise your dog or punish it in any way when he comes to you particularly when he has done something wrong or has taken a long time to come. A common human error in this regard occurs when a dog runs into the road and then gets beaten up. The only understandings the dog has are that you are threatening and should be avoided at all costs and when I do return I get punished for coming home. The dog must be rewarded for coming home however difficult it is for you to do.
Never do anything unpleasant after he has responded to your call.
This may sound all logical as people will also respond identically so why is it that so many pet owners never apply basic common sense when interacting with an animal that does not speak human language?! Pet owners still believe that their dog knows it has done something wrong. As the song goes, “….when will they ever learn?….”
There was a dog owner who named his dog “Twice”. When asked why he chose this unusual name, his reply was that when he called the dog once it never came.
Then there was this owner of three Rottweilers – all named Tiger. I was curious as to whether all his children had the same name. When asked why he gave all his dogs the same name his rationale was that when he called “Tiger!” all three would come at the same time!