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Ask the Trainer with Megan Ventura

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?

AnswerChances are you practiced “Come!” in the backyard, an area where she is very intimately familiar with all the details (sights, sounds, and smells). Thus, she understands what is expected of her with those particular distractions. Moving to a new location means new sights, sounds, and smells for our dogs. Practicing the “Come!” command with your chosen method, in different locations such as parks, hiking trails, and sidewalks, will expose her to a variety of different distractions. In essence, you need to desensitize her, while showing her that no matter where you are or what is going on around you, she is still expected to follow commands. Be sure to break the exercise down into bite-size pieces—if you expect too much too fast, you will get frustrated, and therefore have a very bad experience. Start with your front yard or a local park when there are not a lot of distractions, using just a 6-foot leash. After several successful executions, increase the distance slowly. Once you’re able to have your dog complete the command successfully at 50 feet, change the location to a busier place. Again, start with the 6-foot leash, and increase the distance slowly with success. Never give her the opportunity to ignore you. Make yourself inviting so she wants to come to you (patting your knees while praising her in a higher-pitched, bouncy voice), and provide the reward of your choice. As the top dog in your pack, it is not acceptable to be ignored by your dog!

About the Trainer:

Megan VenturaVentura worked as a veterinary technician for over 11 years. Looking to enhance the pet-guardian relationship, she and a friend started Endless Pawsibilities, LLC. The business started with pet sitting and assisting pet guardians with medical treatments in their home under the supervision of a veterinarian. The dog training was added as a natural expansion of services offered at Endless Pawsibilities.

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