Saturday, September 6, 2014

Repeat After Me: My Dog Coming To Me Is ALWAYS A Good Thing

I can't remember which book I read that in for the very first time.

Your dog coming to you is ALWAYS a good thing.

If you care care about dog training, particularly reliable recall, you get to read or hear this quite often. You'll probably come across the term 'spoiling a cue' as well.

What is the big deal with this?

Let's face it, the only way you can get your dog come to you reliably is when they WANT TO come to you. Ever tried catching a dog who didn't want to get caught? I don't care who you are, you can be 007, you can't run faster than your dog can.

If somebody called you to come over and when you did they'd poke you in the eye, would you respond to their call the next time? 

Perhaps ... by running the other way ...

I still remember our precious granny when she was trying to get us to come home at the end of the day. "If you don't come home right now, I'm going to beat you up."

Firstly, she'd never followed through on her threat. More importantly, "If we didn't come home, how exactly was she going to?"

Dinner on the table usually wasn't a good enough incentive either.

"Get your asses home, the Goodnight Story is coming on," however, worked like a charm.

It was about motivation.

Of course, we'd come home sooner or later, when it got dark or when we got hungry ... But if she wanted us home before that happened, she needed to give us a better reason than getting beaten up if we weren't.

Your dog coming to you needs to ALWAYS be a good thing.  For the dog.

Even when you dog did something bad or took their sweet time coming.

This is where we're most likely to get it wrong.

You call and call and the dog is not responding. When he finally does, either you're already pretty mad or feel that you need to teach him a lesson. Whichever means of educating your dog you like to use, do you think it's going to make your dog come to you faster the next time?

But it seems to be something that comes naturally to us.

"You better come right when I call you or I'm not taking you to the park any more," accompanied by an ugly face, perhaps a raised finger, is about the best case scenario.

We just can't help ourselves, can we? Well, we need to. I have had a hell of a time getting through to my hubby with this and I admit there were times I slipped also. I got better it with practice and keeping the line in my head, "Your dog coming to you is ALWAYS a good thing."

With a dog like Cookie, this is crucial. She does need a good incentive to stick around or come when called. With her prey drive, the competition for her attention is fierce.

Every now and then she 'drops her brain' and won't hear you even when you're standing right next to her. But when she does hear you, she comes flying with a happy look on he face. She WANTS TO come.

Punishment isn't the only punishment you can spoil your recall cue with.

This one is even harder. You're not trying to punish your dog or teach them a lesson, you're trying to get something done, such as brush their teeth, give a bath, trim the nails, or whatever else you dog doesn't like.

The best recipe is to get your do TO LIKE those things. 

Well, at least make them worthy. I don't think I'd ever like somebody else sticking a bristly object into my mouth and rampaging about in there. Like, seriously. For a hundred dollars? Sure, knock yourself out.

If you use your recall word to summon your dog for undesirable procedures, you are also giving him a reason not to respond the next time.

The recommendation is to go and fetch your dog for such things. 

That's all fine and dandy when you have a Pomeranian but what if you have a Rottweiler? You can't exactly fetch them and deliver them I tone bathtub unless you're Hulk.

And the instinct to call your dog is so strong! I know it is.

Cookie loves her life up here, just about everything about it. But she isn't exactly crazy about 'office time,' time when I have to work and hubby has to go somewhere so the guys cannot just stay outside unsupervised, particularly since I don't know for sure whether and how far they're willing to go looking for the missing pack member.

Let's face it, Cookie does not like office time, she wants to be outside. Fort hat reason I should call her in there. But how am I going to get her where I need her then?

Bribes always work.

I will up the Kongs, go to the office and call out "Look what mommy's got!" The incentive of the Kong is strong enough and I'm not contaminating my recall cue. I am also trying to establish the term 'office time' but I'm not sure how well that may or may not fare.

Might not be the correct procedure but it works and keeps my recall cue safe.

How do you keep your dog coming to you to always be a good thing?

Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat 
Observation Skills Of Dogs  
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It  
Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks 
What Constitutes The Perfect Dog?
Are Dog Training Classes Really For The Dogs?  
Look Where You Want To Go: Finding My Reactive Dog Training Zen Zone? 
Dog Training And Emotions 
Dog Training And Emotions: Postscript
Dogs Love Sentences In Question Form?
Not All Dog Trainers Were Created Equal Either 
A Thought On Separation Anxiety
Happy One-Year Adoptoversary, Cookie!
About Freedom, Trust And Responsibility: A "Pilot Study"


  1. It's funny how some dog owners don't get this concept but it can be frustrating when a dog doesn't come when called. I started when Haley was a puppy by either having a treat when I called her or getting her to come by running away from her and playing when she came to me. Even now that she's 7 years old, I still occasionally surprise her with a treat when she comes when called and she listens 99 percent of the time. I cut her a break with the other 1 percent. :)

    1. Yes, it can be frustrating and scary at times. But if coming isn't a good thing for a dog, it's not going to improve things.

      At this stage, Cookie still gets heavily treated for each recall.

  2. I used to get so frustrated when Rodrigo took off; I still do although he rarely roams anymore. But when he returns, I squash those emotions and celebrate. I started doing this 2 years ago and now he returns quickly when I call him. It's astounding.

    1. It does make a difference, doesn't it? It is so important in order to improve the recall or dog generally coming to you. Cookie always gets a lots reward for coming. When she does take of, I am so relieved to see her back that, fortunately, I don't have to manipulate my emotions; I'm just so happy to see her in one piece again :-)

  3. I'm lucky to have a dog that sticks close, but that doesn't mean he always comes running right up to me immediately when I call him. He sometimes takes his time if he is sniffing or marking something off leash outside. And if I call him at home, he often waits until I call him a third time (to see if I'm serious?). So, I know I do need to make a point to make it more rewarding for him to come to me. Treats work well for that!

    1. One thing we always loved about Rotties was that they stick around. But Cookie is a hunter at heart. There are always treats and when she comes from a really big temptation hadfuls of those.

      I can understand a dog sometimes taking their time; we, humans, don't always jump right away when somebody calls or ask for them to wait when we're doing something too.