As this concerned dog lover and I chat, her dog, rescued off the streets as an older puppy, is trotting in and out of view barking at me without a hint of threat. He’s upset and concerned. After a few minutes he climbs the stairs and all quiets.
One of the issues we’re facing is, outside, he can’t manage to come all the way back to her if he’s off leash. He comes almost within reach, hesitates, then retreats again only to circle back. This approach/retreat cycle can go on for hours.
The last advice she got was to work this dog on a longline and correct him when he didn’t come. If he still didn’t “respond”, she was to pull him to her. That wasn’t working as hoped. Why?
Because this dog’s brain already has doubts about coming to humans; add in correction and his doubts are confirmed. Pulling him to her? That just hauls a brain forward that wants to be farther away. Such an approach will actually make this dog’s off leash response worse.
When you train, ask yourself: How do I set things up so the dog wants to do what I want him to do.
So here, I ponder: How do I set it up so he wants to go to his person.
What can I use to create that situation? That’s easy: Me.
On leash, this dog is unsure around me. Not panicked. Not cowering, just unsure. He’d rather be elsewhere. Fine. We will use that.
So, we all walk along together with him on a 10′ long line. I take a hold of the long line about 3 feet from his collar so I can prevent him from following her. She then continues on to the end of the leash while I simply stand with the dog, completely neutral; a living fence post.
He wants to follow. His brain is thinking: Follow, I’d rather be following, PLEASE let me go to my person! PLEASE!
Our plan is working.
She then calls him. I release my hold and off he goes , arrow-like and without a doubt in his mind, all the way to her.
I grin. I love my job.
She grins. She loves her dog.
He almost grins. He’s with “his” person.
Not only will this exercise help “Come” but it will also increase his bond as his brain counts down the seconds until he will be allowed to go to her.
Start viewing training as an exercise in figuring out ways so your dogs wants to do what you want him to be do and the whole process becomes easier for everyone and a lot of fun for all!
For more fun ways to teach “Come!” purchase my most recent book: How to Train Your Dog to Come.