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Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called

Training Exercises for Dogs of Any Age continued...

Trail Walking or Cycling

If your dog regularly hikes along trails with you, she can learn an important lesson to help her come closer to you and follow when you call her name. She can learn that when you call, you’re going to change direction. Dogs seem to have a natural inclination to follow trails, probably because prey animals like rabbits and deer often move along well-established trails. Dogs also like to run out in front of their pet parents. This is an ideal occasion to teach your dog that when you call her name, she’d better pay attention because you’re taking a different path. Walk along the trail with your dog off leash. (If your dog isn’t already reliable with coming when called, make sure you’re in an enclosed area.) As long as you’re continuing along the same path, don’t speak to your dog. When you come to a fork in the path, choose the one your dog has not taken. Call her name and walk along the new trail. Keep an eye out for her, as it may take her a few moments to notice that you’re no longer following her.

She may dash back the way you came, so if you see her running in the wrong direction, call her in a loud, clear voice. If she can see you, wave at her as you call her. Praise her when she gets to you.

After a few experiences like this, your dog will respond immediately when you call her so she doesn’t get left behind. This lesson has even more impact on your dog if you ride a bike or rollerblades and can move more quickly. Your dog will hesitate to get very far away from you because, as far as she knows, you might disappear in another direction and she may have a hard time keeping up.

What If You Call Your Dog and She Doesn’t Come Right Away?

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and animal trainer Kathy Sdao, MSc, ACAAB, uses the parable of The Prodigal Son to teach the importance of always rewarding your dog for coming to you. The story is about a father with two sons. He divides their inheritance between them and the youngest son squanders his wealth on wild living, while the eldest son stays home and tends the farm. Eventually, the young son runs out of money and returns home. The father, rather than being angry and turning him away, greets him with open arms and calls for a celebratory feast, proclaiming “My son was lost but now is found,” Remember this story the next time your dog comes to you, regardless of how furious you feel. She was lost but now has come. The only way your dog will continue to come to you when you call is if you always greet her with open arms, a big smile and a celebration.

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