When your dog won’t come back when called

A really common problem I get asked about regularly is, “my dog runs off and won’t come back when called,” or “my dog only comes back when he feels like it.”

My question back to the owner would be, “have you spent time training your dog to come back when called?”

Most the time, the owner has not done any formal training on the recall but will tell me that the dog does know it and is choosing to ignore it. Often the dog comes when called in the house or backyard only and that’s the extent of how they know it.

But the most crucial times you’ll need your dog to listen to a recall is outside of the home around distractions and this needs to be trained.

A dog doesn’t generalize something they know well at home to all other situations and locations. A dog that comes when called at home is most likely doing it because the backyard is familiar and boring and they crave the owner’s attention so it’s easy for them to come running when they hear your voice. That’s why it can seem like the dog knows the recall without much training actually put into it.

But add distractions and new environments to explore? You’re no longer the most exciting thing to your dog and they have no training experience to help them realize that they can’t just run off to do what they want whenever something interesting and new is present.

When it comes to training the recall, there’s a couple of important rules. The first is to always make the recall rewarding and never punish your dog if you just called them and they came to you.

The other very important rule is to never allow a situation where the dog can learn that coming when called is optional. So when someone tells me their dog runs off and won’t come when called, or until he feels like it, I have to ask, why is the dog able to run off and make that choice?

If you haven’t practiced recall training to prepare for these situations, it’s really unfair to expect the dog to just know what to do.

Set your dog up to win – practice recall training in many environments on a long line, so that you can control the outcome.

Remember, practice makes permanent. Make sure that what is being practiced is what you want the end result to look like. Are you practicing a perfect recall because you are the one in charge, or are you allowing your dog to practice ignoring you? What you allow is what you’ll get.

If you need help with recall training, visit dogmatters.com and fill in the contact form to arrange a one on one training session.

Tenille Williams
Dog Matters