Ask the Trainer with Jonathan Klein

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?

AnswerFirst, it’s great you’re a believer in positive reinforcement, which is all about teaching your dog what you want her to do instead of punishing her when she does wrong. What we don’t want to do in this situation is freak out! Running, screaming, chasing after her, and trying to grab her, even though you’re trying to keep her safe, will reinforce the idea that “coming home” is a bad experience. The better choice is to remain calm if she escapes and make sure that her returning home IS a pleasant experience.

What I would recommend is teaching her to wait at the door so she doesn’t try and sneak out front, but yes—you’ll also want to teach her to come. During the training process, use a light leash or a long line for safety’s sake so she doesn’t run off. Start at the step or on the front walk and call her to the landing. When she comes, make sure to heap on the praise and then gradually increase the distance between the two of you. The goal for each repetition is for her to get to you and enjoy a great play and fun reward session. Then it’s a matter of doing it over and over until she comes happily every time you call her, even out front. Happy Training!

About the Trainer:

Jonathan KleinJonathan is the founder of the West Los Angeles-based, personalized dog-training center I Said Sit!, voted the 2009 #1 Dog Training School in Los Angeles by KTTV-myFOXLA Hotlist. A frequent expert source of commentary to the media, Jonathan holds numerous professional association memberships and is an active member of several trainers groups including Truly Dog Friendly and the Southern California Dog Trainers Forum. He visits schools and service clubs all over Southern California to teach basic dog training and has led hundreds of presentations on dog training and responsible guardianship, all from a place of praise-based training methods.

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