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Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called

What If You Call Your Dog and She Doesn’t Come at All?

Refrain from repeating your recall cue. If you repeat “Come, come, COME!” over and over again and your dog doesn’t come, you’re teaching her to ignore your calls. Call her once in a clear voice. If she doesn’t come, call once more in a stern tone of voice, turn and run a few strides away from your dog. If she still doesn’t come, don’t say anything further. Just go and get her if you know you can grab her. If she’s inclined to dodge away and not let you take hold of her, don’t play her game of “catch me if you can!” We can’t win when “playing” this game against our dogs—they’re faster than we are. Instead, if your dog is good at sitting or lying down when you ask her to, try that. If she does, tell her to stay and then take hold of her collar when you get to her. If she won’t stay, just walk away and ignore her. If she’s loose and you need to catch her, walk into an enclosed area and hope that she follows you. Never chase your dog after you’ve called her. She’ll quickly learn that she has the upper hand and will continue to run away from you.

If All Else Fails

Sometimes, no matter how hard you work at it, your dog will fail to reliably come when she’s called. It could be because she’s learned to tune out your recall cue. You can try going through all the exercises outlined here again, but change the word that you use to call her. So, for instance, instead of calling “Sasha, come!” you could change to “Sasha, here!” This new word may be enough to grab your dog’s attention and help her associate the word with good things when she comes to you. An even more dramatic effect can come from changing her name. If you’ve been trying to get your dog to come when she’s called for months or even years with no success, she might have learned to ignore her own name. Changing her name and consistently working through all these exercises could help.

In rare instances, it may be warranted to consider remote collar training, such as with an electronic shock collar. The ASPCA does not condone the use of electronic training collars except in highly exceptional cases, such as a working with dog who has to be off leash in order to perform her duties. Most dogs who fail to reliably come when called can simply be kept on leash or in confined areas for exercise. If your dog performs a duty that demands she be reliable off leash, such as scent detection or search-and-rescue, consult with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) experienced in the use of electronic collars. We do not recommend that you attempt this training on your own.

Training the recall with an electronic collar is a complex procedure that can easily be misapplied and cause damage to your dog. Only an experienced trainer can know what intensity of shock your dog should be subjected to and precisely when a shock should be applied to teach a dog to come. In addition, only an experienced trainer can foresee and avoid common problems. For instance, a frightened dog experiencing a shock is more likely to run away than to come to her pet parent, further worsening the problem. An experienced trainer can take measures to prevent this from happening. For these and many other reasons, we strongly advise you to work with an experienced professional if you decide to resort to an electronic collar for your dog’s training. For more information about finding a behaviorist or trainer in your area, please read our article, Finding Professional Help.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

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