Common Mistakes - While Teaching Dogs
03 Mar 2010
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Teaching your dog to reliably come back to you when called is essential. It could save your dog from danger, prevent your dog from upsetting other people and animals (there's nothing more embarrassing than when your dog feigns deafness and nosedives into someone else's picnic or charges after a flock of sheep) and means that you can happily let your dog off the leash and be confident that you'll still be home in time for supper. If you're having problems teaching recall, then it could be that you're making one of three very common mistakes.
The first common mistake is made when owners whose dog doesn't return to them immediately, get angry and punish or scold their dog on its eventual return.
Well, guess what? These owners are giving their dog a very clear message which is 'come back to me when I call you and you'll be punished'.
Not exactly what was intended!
No matter how late your dog comes back to you, you should never scold. On the other hand, unless your dog has returned to you immediately on command, do not give a reward: a quiet 'good dog' will do. Reserve the treats and lavish praise for the times when your dog returns immediately.
The second common mistake people make when their dog does not return to them immediately on recall, is to go sprinting after them.
Very occasionally this is necessary if your dog is in imminent danger but, otherwise, running after your dog (whilst probably very good exercise for you) will be seen by your dog as a great game and merely serve to enforce the message that it's not necessary to come back to you when called because you will always follow after.
If anything, and provided you are confident that your dog is safe and not about to get into trouble, you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction, excitedly calling your dog at the same time. Even hide from your dog if there is a suitable tree or bush to leap behind.
Dogs get worried if they are separated from their pack leader and hopefully this will see your dog chasing after you. Whilst your dog should see this as a game, too, this time it is a game that also ends with lots of praise for coming back to you.
The third most common mistake owners make when teaching their dog recall is that the only time they call their dog back to them is to put it on the leash to go home. The dog therefore builds an association that to come back to you means that walktime or playtime is over and, actually, he'd rather stay in the park for another 10 minutes if you don't mind.
Of course, all walks have to come to an end and it's inevitable that sometimes when your dog comes back to you you'll have to put on the leash. But to overcome the problem of your dog associating coming back to you with being put on the leash, make sure that you practise recall frequently during your walk.
Call your dog to you, give praise and a reward and then say 'go play' and release your dog to continue the walk. This way your dog gets to learn that coming back to you doesn't always signal an end to the fun but, rather, earns lots of praise.
The more times your dog comes back to you and receives praise and a reward, the more reliable the recall command will become.