Got a great dog that reacts to the command “come,” but is not obeying?

Here’s some information on handling this, from Susan Jenkins, owner of Papp’s Dog Services in Akron, Ohio:

Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest problems most dog owners have, which is why we address this so hard in the puppy kindergarten and beginners’ class.

Plus this is the one exercise that can save a dog’s life.

Problem is we inadvertently set the dog up for failure. We think they understand the exercises and call them when we do not have a way to enforce it.

First of all, coming to me is the best thing in my dogs’ lives.

One should never call the dog to them and then correct them for anything. This happens often when the dog has gotten away and one finally catches the dog and out of frustration, the dog is corrected. You bet the dog is thinking, “You’ll never catch me again!”

To begin to teach a reliable come-when-called, the dog must be on a leash or long line during the training exercise. We give the dogs too much credit for understanding an exercise, when in reality they do not or they would perform it reliably.

You must take away the option to refuse. I will start with an informal game in my house with treats, saying “Fido come!” and if the dog does not come, I calmly get the leash, bringing the dog to me sounding happy, even if the dog does not want to come.

I then put my hand in the collar and give the dog a treat. Getting the collar is an important part since the object is to get control of the dog.

Yes, I am training the dog that whenever he hears “Fido come” he will get a cookie. The day will come when he gets loose and I do not have a cookie but he will still come.

As the dog becomes reliable in the house, I will put him on a long line in the backyard, a park, etc., and repeat the steps.

Dogs need the behavior to carry over to all places, not just home. I often will keep my young Labs on a long line until they have had a year of solid recall training.

That also means that I teach my dogs to sit at a door and not bolt. Again, having a collar and leash on for control is imperative.

This exercise can save a dog. Remember, coming to you is the best thing in your dog’s life.