My dog will listen to almost any command I give, save for one: “Come.” She’s great in the backyard, but if she gets out in front, where it’s more dangerous, she pretty much ignores me. I’m a firm believer in positive reinforcement, so what technique would you recommend to fix this?
I consider recall or “Come!” a safety command, something every dog owner should have at hand. It’s the first thing I teach in my obedience courses, and can be vitally important in dangerous situations, such as when a dogfight breaks out at the local park, when your pup slips out of his collar, or when the front door is left open and Fido takes off straight toward the FDR.
The central idea behind instilling consistent recall is to make it a 100 percent positive, i.e. happy, command. This starts from the very tone you use: Don’t shout, “Come!” in anger, with tension, or stress (even if you’re feeling stressed—which you very often will be)! Instead, still say it loudly and firmly, but with a happy, upbeat vibe—as if you’re saying, “Hey Fido! I’ve got an AWESOME idea! Get the heck on over here and see what’s delicious!” And the most positive thing happens when he actually does come: A loud, happy, “Good boy!” followed by an immediate delicious treat. Just make sure that before you treat Fido, grab his collar in order to simulate an actual emergency situation. You call him not just to get somewhat near to you, but also to actually grab hold of him, to be able to control him and leash him up if necessary.
Anthony Newman is a New York–based CPDT-KA and Canine Behavior Counselor specializing in problem behaviors and helping new adoptees settle in to city life. Also an experienced university professor, Newman believes in the motto “Train humans, rehabilitate dogs.” He offers in-home behavior consults and private training sessions, leads citywide pack walks, and teaches group obedience classes. Learn more and contact Newman at CalmEnergyDogTraining.com.