When it comes to getting our dogs to come to us, some of us have some pretty funny ideas. Over the years, I’ve worked with a multitude of dog owners who are bewildered that their rendition of “come” — ranging from harsh to downright terrifying — has the opposite effect of driving their dogs away.
Listening to these folks try to get their dogs to come to them reminds me of the rhyme from “101 Dalmatians”:
Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil. If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will...
But what often happens next borders on the absurd.
Frustrated by their failed efforts to get their own dog to come anywhere near them, they go after him. That’s right — the chase is on! Through the house, over the couch, ’round and ’round the coffee table and then the mad dash under the bed where the dog, exhausted, collapses just out of reach.
There are a couple of things going on here that you might not realize and you probably don’t want.
1) Your dog is afraid to come to you because of the tone of voice you’re using.
2) Your dog then learns that if he doesn’t come to you, you’ll chase him, and what dog doesn’t love a good game of chase?
There are a few easy changes you can make to get out of this cycle, should this scene sound a little too familiar.
First, pay attention to the tone you use whenever you say your dog’s name. Use a happy, positive, loving tone of voice every time you utter his blessed name.
Second, it’s time to issue the “come” command in the manner most likely to yield results. Some trainers use the word “come.” Some prefer the word “here.” Still others prefer the German words “Hier” or “Komm,” which sound pretty much the same as their English equivalents. What matters isn’t so much the word, but the tone. For the most part, you’ll want to use a bright tone of voice, one that commands attention in a positive way.
When practicing the “come” command initially, you’ll want to use a long lead. The goal is to get your dog to come to you at the first issuance of the command. When you’re starting out, you’ll need the help of the lead to get that to happen. It’s counterproductive to say “come” over and over. The dog gets the idea that he doesn’t need to respond to the first command; he can mosey on over whenever he’s ready.
When your dog is learning the “come” command, it’s important to basically throw him a party with your voice the instant he responds to your command. That initial response could be turning his head to look at you, perking his ears while staring at you, wagging his tail while looking in your direction or a full-on run straight for you. You want him to want to come to you. You want him to believe you are the greatest place in the world to be.
Finally, if you brighten your tone and practice issuing the command and rewarding the response, but you still aren’t getting the complete behavior, consult a training book, buy a training video or call a professional. Don’t chase your dog. It’s essentially teaching your dog to run away from you, which is a dangerous habit to foster.
For more details on teaching your dog to come to you, visit unclematty.com.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.
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