Ask the Trainer with Bette Yip

QuestionMy dog will listen to almost any other command I give, save for one: “Come.” She’s great in the backyard, but if she gets out in front, where it is more dangerous, she pretty much ignores me. I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement, so what would be the best techniques to fix this?

AnswerSometimes we humans don’t think to call our dogs unless we intend to put them back on leash or take them inside. From a dog’s point of view, this means an end to their fun. Pretty soon, our dog starts to learn that when we say, “come,” it’s much more fun to stay away!

The solution to your specific problem: go back to kindergarten. I like to use a 30-foot light line as “training wheels,” so that the dog doesn’t have the option of not listening and can’t run into danger as you go back to the steps you initially used to teach “come.” Practice often in your front yard, calling your dog back to your front door, rewarding generously, and letting her return to investigating the front yard. Show her that listening to you in the front yard is also great fun.

You might also consider choosing a new word or phrase for “come” in this situation; perhaps “over here.” If your dog has already learned to run the other way when she hears “come” in a certain situation, teaching a brand new cue may work much better than trying to fix her response to the old one.

Always keep your training sessions light and fun regardless of which training method you’ll use. Nobody wants to come to a cranky person! Be fun, be successful.

About the Trainer:

Bette YipBette Yip is the owner of Picture Perfect Pets in Arlington, MA, and the Beantown Tails Readers’ Choice Award Winner for Best Trainer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Bette fell in love with positive reinforcement-based dog training after a very naughty Borzoi stole her heart while she was working as an English teacher in Japan. Upon returning to the states in 2001, Bette made it her life’s work to share her love of animals and positive training with as many humans as she could.

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