Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called
Training Exercises for Dogs of Any Age continued...
This sounds risky, but it doesn’t have to be if you can identify a place that’s fenced or otherwise contained, such as a narrow strip of land extending out into the water (a cape or peninsula). The place, however, should be unfamiliar to your dog and it should have trees or other structures that you can hide behind. To minimize distractions, take your dog at a time when people or dogs aren’t likely to be in the area. Let her off leash and let the leash drag on the ground. (If you’re concerned that you might not catch her again, attach her to a long line (a lightweight leash or rope that’s at least 20 feet long). Walk along and wait for your dog to get distracted by something. When she’s not looking at you, silently duck behind a tree or large rock. Don’t say anything to her. Wait for her to notice your absence. This can take just a few seconds for some dogs. For others, it can take minutes. Most dogs will eventually look for their pet parents.
You’ll need to sneak peeks at your dog from your hiding place to keep tabs on her whereabouts. Before your dog has a chance to go far from you, call her name. Call just once and then wait. Hopefully, she’ll search for you. If she doesn’t, wait another minute or two and call again. If she starts to go in the wrong direction, call again, this time a bit louder so that she’s better able to locate you. Don’t move out from your hiding place until your dog finds you. Only call her if she’s searching in the wrong direction or if she’s close but can’t seem to locate you. When she finds you, reassure her with plenty of hugs and kisses. Again, your goal is to teach her that you might disappear at any moment, so she’d better keep a close eye on you at all times.
Some dogs only need this experience once, and they never stray far from their pet parents again. Others need a few experiences like this before they get the message. If you do have to repeat the exercise, wait at least a week in between. You want the experiences to have a strong impact on your dog, so it’s best to spread them out. If your dog never seems to get upset at your disappearances, this type of training isn’t appropriate for her. Try it a few times, but if it still doesn’t work, focus on the other exercises outlined in this article.