Life or Death: Does your Dog Come When Called, Every Time?
Does Your Dog Come When Called? Every Time?
Does he come in the house when you call his name?
Does he come in the yard when you call his name?
Does he come when you call him while you are on a walk?
Would he come to you when you called him if he was at the park?
Does he come when you call him away from a group of friends (like at the dog park… but, don’t go to the dog park).
If you can’t answer, unequivocally, “YES!”, in all situations, you need to work on your dog’s recall and get back to understanding just how important it is to both of you.
Unfortunately, dogs get out of yards and get off leash and are hit by cars all the time.
Many times, it happens while their panicked owners are chasing them, yelling “COME”.
I, personally, can’t imagine the horror of watching my own dog getting hit by a car.
It would devastate me.
I’m not sure that my soul would recover.
It is hard enough to lose a dog to old age or disease and know when it is time to put their life to a loving end, but I simply will not imagine how life altering it must be to watch them die in front of you when they should have more time to live.
One of the Most Impressive Obedience Dogs I Have Ever Seen
One of the most impressive and decorated obedience dogs I have ever seen, sadly, was hit by a car at the age of 4.
One of the most highly decorated show dogs and Norwegian Elkhounds ran away, never to be seen again.
People don’t understand how the dogs that they can see showing amazing compliance on the obedience or show dog field can meet such an untimely demise.
Let’s be honest, I have a challenging time understanding it, too.
And, my heart absolutely aches for them, as both owners were people I considered friends.
This is one of my worst nightmares.
So you know what I do?
I become proactive!
The problem is that dogs often listen conditionally.
That means that in order for the dog to understand and listen, the conditions have to be the same all of the time.
The dog understands that when you say “come” at home, he must come or face the consequences.
The Elkhound learned how to function with great ability on the conformation field.
And the obedience dog?
Well he learned how to control himself under very specific conditions and training scenarios.
Even though his owner took him to different fields and trained all over the country, the training always looked basically the same to the dog. The dog learned what certain scenarios and tasks would look like and under what conditions he would be asked, and forced, to do things (he wasn’t what I would call a positive trainer).
On the field he was like watching poetry in motion.
I am still in awe when I pull up his videos.
I aspire for my obedience to one day look as impressive (but a little quieter, as I am not much for yelling! haha).
In loving memory of Rex
Real Life Training
I don’t want to take anything away from either person who lost their dog, or place any kind of blame, that certainly won’t help anyone.
I am only here to try and keep others from the same horrible end.
Ironically, the average dog has less than 10% of that training, yet you can make your puppy training count!
All it Takes…
is to understand that any kind of training that you do is conditional, until you impress to your dog that it is not.
Meaning, we must be teaching them in a neutral environment so that they can learn.
Dogs learn best at home with no distractions.
I mean it would be silly to take your dog to the sheep field and try and convince them to come.
So you begin at home.
You work until it is 90% reliable.
And, you REWARD heavily! Because this command could either extend or cease your dog’s very life.
Don’t work for 3 weeks and then be done with it.
Don’t teach him in a fun manner, and then revert back to using your “angry voice” to try and goad him into listening. That is not the kind of reliability that will save your dog’s life.
You need to be consistent.
You need to be FUN!
The command itself should equal games and fun.
This should literally be the word that makes him beam with excitement. He should leave any kind of distraction: deer, opossum, raccoon, another dog, just to be with you because you have conditioned him that this word means wonderful things are about to happen.
In accordance, he should never think it is a bad thing.
Never call him and reprimand him, or trim his nails, or bathe him.
Only call him when you have a buffet of wonderful items for him! I’m serious!
Imagine I take you to China, and you don’t speak the language.
In the beginning, they use your name and give you a dollar.
After a couple of weeks they use your name then strip your clothes off of you, or shove you in a cage. Would you want to come anymore?
Now imagine if EVERY TIME they use your name, they give you a dollar or $100, or food, or play your favorite game. Would you come when called? You would probably stop everything!
Let’s say they put an electric collar around your neck and after they call you they shock the snot out of you. Would you come?
Probably you would, so that you could avoid the shock. But what happens if they forget to put the collar on you, or the battery runs out? Would you still come? Probably not!!!! Remember that when you use correction as a tool for come!
By using correction, you set your dog up for failure if there is a more powerful stimulus.
In order for your dog to come when called, and do it with happiness, it has to have some kind of reward and pay out program.
Once you stop with the pay outs, or you expect to bully your dog, he loses interest in listening unless you can bully him and then you need to have the control to bully, which dogs quickly learn that you don’t have for long!
Is It Work?
YES, unequivocally yes, yes it is!
You have to positively teach the behavior.
You should add in games like hide and seek.
You should reward profusely!
Then you should begin to add distractions, slowly.
Then you should do this in more and more complicated places.
Then you should take your dog off leash, but in a secured environment, like a baseball field or somewhere where you can test the dog but keep the dog safe.
They you should add other dogs and distractions.
Heck, I was nearly crucified online when I described working on obedience with my dog in a dog park (heaven forbid I make her work) but the truth of the matter is that it taught her to ignore ANYTHING!
I have called her off baby opossums in the middle of the night and deer in the field. I even called her off a baby bunny that sprinted two feet in front of her.
Her default is to listen to me, because we play so many fun games that revolve around “COME”.
And, all it takes is a few short training sessions a day.
I mean, who doesn’t have 4, five minute sessions to play with their dog??
Instead of even weighing her options, she just comes.
That, my friends, is what you want!
That is not to say, that a horrible accident could never happen… it could. But I make it my mission to ensure that it does not!