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Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called

Training Exercises for Dogs of Any Age continued...

The Restrained Recall

This exercise takes advantage of your dog’s desire to chase. Few dogs can resist chasing someone running away from them. The desire to chase can be made even stronger by having someone hold your dog back until she becomes desperate to chase you. You’ll need two people to play this game effectively. Play in an enclosed area so that your dog can be safely off leash. Have your assistant hold your dog by the collar (a buckle collar, not a choke chain or prongcollar), by a harness or by hugging her loosely around her chest. Jump up and down in front of your dog to get her really excited. Wave a favorite toy in her face or tease her with a yummy treat. When you’re sure she’s paying attention to you, say “Are you ready?” and take off running. Call your dog’s name and encourage her to come: “Sasha, come! C’mon, let’s go, let’s go!” Keep calling her as you run as fast as you can, without looking back at your dog. Resist the urge to run backwards to look at your dog—she should be looking at your back as you run away.

Ideally your dog will pull and struggle to follow you while your assistant restrains her. Your assistant should also egg her on: “Are you ready? Ready, set, go!” After a few seconds, the assistant should release your dog. If she chases you, reward her with praise, play and treats when she catches up with you. Some dogs don’t understand this game right away. They might seem frightened by all the excitement, they might want to stay with the assistant, or they might run off to explore the environment. Don’t worry too much if this happens a few times. Go get your dog and try again, but don’t run away quite as far this time. She should start to enjoy the game after three to five repetitions. If she doesn’t, try again another day in a more familiar area. If your dog isn’t inclined to chase you, try dragging a plush toy along the ground behind you as you run.

After a few repetitions, most dogs simply need to hear “Are you ready?” and they come running in anticipation of a chase game. Eventually, the game can function as a “back-up recall.” If you call your dog and she doesn’t come, say “Are you ready?” Then turn and run a few strides. Your dog will be with you in a flash!

Instilling Insecurity

Dogs are more likely to come when called if they feel insecure when separated from you. Young puppies are naturally dependent, but once they reach their adolescence at five or six months of age, like human teenagers they develop confidence and want to go off on their own. You can diminish this tendency by planning exercises to purposefully get your dog lost and arouse her anxiety about becoming separated from you. The objective is to teach her that you can disappear at any moment, so she’d better keep a close eye on you at all times.

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