Do you have a dog training or behavior question? Every month, I will select one question to answer from a local reader. Post your questions to me below, or e-mail them to AskDrWan@westportdogs.com. Here is this month's question:
Q: How do I get my dog to come inside when called? – Dog Mom, Westport, CT
A: Put simply, dogs do what works for them. He ignores you when you call him, because he prefers to stay outside where he can chase the squirrels, roll in the smelly spots in the grass, and do other fun doggie things. In order to get your dog to come inside, first think about what interests your dog more than squirrels and sticks. Usually, soft, meaty treats do the trick, but some dogs will do anything for a ball or stuffed toy.
Once you’ve identified what your dog likes, practice the “come” command with him while you are both outside. Say his name in an excited voice, followed by “come,” and encourage him to chase after you. When he gets to you, hold his collar, and praise and reward him. (The purpose of holding his collar is to get him used to being handled as part of coming when called. The last thing you want is for him to develop a habit of staying just out of reach when he approaches you.)
Practice in different locations in your yard, including near the door, until he is responding to you at least 80-90% of the time. Then, proceed to the next step by running inside the house after you give the “come” command. Remember to be very animated, and encourage your dog to follow you inside the house. Once he is reliably following you inside, try giving the “come” command while you are inside and he is outside. Be sure to treat and praise him heavily every time you proceed to a new step of the exercise, and switch your location frequently to maintain your dog’s interest.
If your dog makes a mistake during training and doesn’t come inside when you call him, close the door, walk away, and try again in a couple minutes, assuming he is safely contained in your yard. Also, think about how you can make the exercise easier (e.g. fewer distractions), and make sure your dog is reliably responding at the easier level before trying the more difficult steps again. In addition, dogs who have a long history of tuning out their owners or who are easily distracted may need to start out working on the “come” command inside the house, as well as working outside on a long leash.