We try our best to keep our dogs on a leash and safely managed. This is to protect them from distractions in the environment and we work on training to get our dogs attention in fun places with lots of stimuli (especially around other dogs).
Unfortunately, management at some point will always fail. Something your dog may have never seen will pop into the picture that will be too enticing to simply call him by name to ask him or her to come back.
Ignoring your request for attention and to come back can happen to the best of us.
Today I am going to offer you a solution to help when this happens.
Why we might struggle to get our dogs attention
#1 You haven’t taken your dogs out enough recently
I take my dogs out frequently but since we have had a series of rainy days my dogs have been mostly inside away from their normal schedule of getting to sniff around the neighborhood. After a few days of being stuck inside, they may be more inclined to rush out the door (door dash) sooner or ignore you more once outside.
#2 The environment is too distracting
Again, I’ll use the rain example. After the rain comes all the smells. I’m sure you’ve noticed how much your dog spends with his nose to the ground when the ground is wet.
This is a rarity in Southern California and our dogs take advantage of the opportunity to get as much sniffing as possible. This same lack of attention can happen when there are too many dogs around, you’re at a new park or with a group friends visiting.
#3 The word “come” has been poisoned
This is actually a pretty common issue to some extent and it happens for different reasons. This happens each time we have called our dogs and followed the request by inserting something they perceive as punishing to some degree. For example, calling your dog followed by putting his leash on and taking him home from the park/dog park. Saying come followed by a nail trim, bath, trip to the vet, putting in a crate or pen, removing from outside immediately after pottying, or when they are smelling outside. Often I see owners call their dogs after misbehaving only to scold or punish them. This is a sure-fire way to ruin the “come” cue.
#4 You keep calling them over and over even if they ignore you
When their name and the word come stops working people often start repeating the cues and raising our voices. This may work for a time but a discerning pet will soon learn they can extend their play or smell time until you have really made yourself clear. That could be after the 10th time you call and only after they feel threatened. This may lead to chase as to avoid leaving the distraction you’re calling them from. At a minimum, they learned to ignore the previous 9 times you called them making their name or the cue “come” irrelevant.
The “Emergency Recall”
Here is an easy and fun solution that you can use to condition a “whiplash-like” response similar to how your dog responds to the doorbell.
It’s called an Emergency Recall and it goes like this:
#1 Choose a new word you will condition.
Make sure it’s an easy word to remember in an emergency.
Avoid using a word your dog commonly hears.
#2 Choose a reward and treat
Choose a highly reinforcing treat that your dog will only get after this word is spoken.
Good examples include bacon, lunch meat, pieces of string cheese, or cooked steak.
#3 Repeat for three weeks
For the next 3 weeks, you are simply to say the new easy to remember, unique word, followed by the giving your dog a piece of super yummy food.
Do this 7-10 times a day! Just say the word followed by food. Do not say your dogs’ name or ask anything of them.
After 2 weeks, start by testing the response. Say the word from another room in the house while your dog is occupied with something else.
Say the word loudly and see if you get a quick response. If not, no problem, more conditioning is needed.
After the 3 weeks, if you have a good response, practice the behavior a few times a week to maintain it. At this point, you can try using other dog treats. Still use the good stuff you started with from time to time.
This should come in handy the next time you lose your dogs’ attention for whatever reason.
Be careful not to overuse this cue. Use it only after you’re normal come-when-called has failed.
“Be well and wag tail”