Won't come when called
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Thread: Won't come when called

  1. #1
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    Won't come when called

    I have an interesting problem. I adopted a shepherd mix about six months ago and I CANNOT get this dog to come to me when called outside. He is the most perfect angel when he is indoors or even out on a walk yet when I take him out to the dog park (off a leash) or god forbid he get lose (it's happened a couple times) he acts like he has NO idea who I am.

    It's a little embarrassing when I am at the dog park with him and he will greet every single person yet when I call him to me he won't even LOOK at me. I've practiced the "come" command with him in a large indoor area and outside on a long leash and he comes no problem.

    He does get outside more than once daily and gets walks almost everyday but I'm always scared to take him out places because when he gets loose he is GONE he doesn't even look back. I've chased this dog for miles and he won't even look at me, it's like he's a completely different dog.

    Has anyone else had an issue like this and is there any hope to fix it? I'm so paranoid about him getting loose someway that I don't take him alot of places that I'd like to.

    Oh and i forgot to add, i've tried using treats and he ignores them.
    Last edited by mellowstar; 01-12-2008 at 12:48 AM.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Aussiefan's Avatar
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    Re: Won't come when called

    Lots of on leash work. With the dog on leash, let him get distracted, then call him, if you don't instantly get the "ear snap" as i call it meaning he isn't turning his head and coming towards you, give a leash correction and repeat the come command until he starts coming towards you, as soon as he does...LOTS of praise and i even like to run backwards a bit to let the dog chase you. Make it a TON of fun, you need to be more exciting then the distraction. Work on it a lot, several times a day, every day but not too much at one time. Don't be in a hurry to take the leash off and try it. I always work on distraction before off leash distance. If he is off leash, and doesn't know the come command, don't say it. If you say come, and he ignores you, your just reinforcing it. Also say your dog has your favorite pair of shoes or something that he is ripping up, and you say COME, if he were to come to you...TONS of praise! Come is a 100% maga positive thing every single time. IF not, you won't get a good recall. Don't use the recall if your planning on giving the dog a bath unless they love baths, or anything else that isn't a positive thing. You don't want to say "doggy come" and then throw them in the bath tub. Just go and get the dog, then throw them in the tub, LOL! "Doggy Come is never a negitive thing...ever if you want an awesome recall.

    Another thing you can do while your at the dog park or back yard is everytime the dog comes up to you while you are just sitting or not trying to get the dogs attention, give him a treat and praise, then let him play again. Its called a checking in behavior and works well. Dog needs to learn that its a very good thing to come up to you. After a little while of working on the recall, you can get a 20' or longer long line, that lets the dog get away from you and really distracted, but you still have the control of the leash for the correction if you need it. Good luck and let us know how it goes! As a quick side note, i did only on leash recalls with all my dogs for almost a year before having them come off leash, i wanted a perfect 100% recall, its my most important command, because it could possibly save there lives if they were say chasing after a squirrel right towards a road, it could be deadly if i didn't have a perfect recall. It takes time, and remember...you need to be more exciting then that squirrel

    I should say, if he isn't food motivated, use a favorite toy as a reward to coming to you. Its also the only time my dogs are allowed to jump on me as i want them SOOO excited to come they sometimes jump up, fine with me as long as they come. You can teach them to sit in front of you by luring them in front of you, and just moving the toy or treat upwards they will usually sit, then they get it. Right now though i would just worry about getting the dog excited and to you...on leash!
    Last edited by Aussiefan; 01-12-2008 at 01:48 AM.

  4. #3
    Super Moderator RonE's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Won't come when called

    Nice job, Aussiefan.

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  6. #4
    Super Moderator Curbside Prophet's Avatar
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    Re: Won't come when called

    It sounds like you also need to teach the dog come in a safe outdoor enclosure. If you can do that without using a long line or leash, it's one less thing you'll have to phase out. I've had tremendous success using Leslie Nelson's protocol in her DVD Really Reliable Recall.

  7. #5
    Senior Member Annamarie's Avatar
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    Re: Won't come when called

    also make sure that when the dog does finally come to you you don't punish the dog because it took so long to come. come should only ever mean good things

  8. #6
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    Re: Recalls (sorry.. long...)

    I would suggest first and foremost to get this dog charged on a clicker. Use a food that he really cannot get enough of (tho as, mentioned before me, he may be more toy oriented so you can use a toy and a very short game of tug and the clicker instead).

    Teach him something NOT "come here." (Fact is, I would not even use that word when you get to 'come here' since he has learned not to pay any attention to it when he is distracted). Teach him to look at your face.. and pay attention.. but do not start with a command. Instead, while in the house, every time he looks at you clcik and treat with various treats. Click and treat for just hanging out with you.

    YOU have to be ther "best game in town" and that is easy at home or in the house where you are the ONLY game in town. Next, on leash, start adding distractions. If he starts to pay attention to other things and not want to hang out with you, go back the the earlier threshold and stay there for awhile before upping the distractions again.

    The trick here is to BECOME the best game in Town no matter WHAT the distraction is. Would I use the snap or tug on his collar? I think, for this dog, it might prove to be counterproductive. Fact is, I am learning (and have learned) that aversives don't generally work. He understand that coming when called is what to do when he cannot get away but the minute he no longer HAS to come when called, he simply does NOT, which is often one of the signs that aversives have been used in training...

    The dog thinks, "well, I will do it because I have no other choice and so I HAVE to" when he is in an place where he cannot run off. However, the minute he CAN run off he does because he no longer HAS to come when called and running off is self rewarding to the dog.. and a lot more fun than coming back on a recall.

    The better way to get the dog to think is , "I am going to come to this person no matter what because I WANT to.." Getting him to WANT to be with you is the trick. You need to make coming to you the best thing he can do.. way better than running off.

    I think that you need to teach this dog to respond to the clicker and then you need to try to put a Really Reliable Recall on him. I will tell you how I did that with my dog and you can try it with yours.

    First of all, I used the clicker and my dog knew that EVERY time I clicked she would get a reward. Getting 'em clicker charged is essential. the reward was high end treats.. cooked liver and cut up hot dogs do it for my dog..

    When I was out in the yard, if the dog looked at me I would click and she would come to me for the reward (no command is in this yet). It did not matter if she was 3 feet away or 30 feet away and she had no leash on her. I used a High End Treat (not a biscuit, but small, the half of a dime size, bits of cooked liver or hot dog or tiny pieces of cheese.. you know.. the stuff they would kill to get to eat!). I did not go to the dog. She was charged and she knew that the click meant I had a reward and it was really good. Only click once and timing is critical. If you clcik when she is looking away or moving away you have just indicated that is the desired behavior.

    When, no matter where you are in a safe, fenced, place (b4 adding distractions), when that dog looks at you and reliably comes for the treat, add a word. I use the word "NOW!" but you can use anything.. "SOCKS!" will work too. Use the word after you click and before you treat. Pretty soon.. and it may take awhile, your dog will come for the word.. what ever it is. Don't forget to reward every time. NEVER ask the dog to come and then do anything but reward and praise. Never follow coming when called by anything unpleasant to the dog.

    Next, choose another word and three times a day, at random intervals, using the clicker and reward method, use THAT word instead. It can be any word but I recommend it NOT be the word you are using right now.. you know.. the one that doesn't work. I would use the word "HEY!" or something that is used for no other behavior the dog does.

    When the dog looks at you , click and say the NEW word as she is coming to you. When she gets to you, no matter what the circumstances, spend at least 30 seconds praising her and feeding her little pieces of the very highest end food you have.. I mean.. really praise her and pet her and tell her what a wonderful dog she is no matter how silly it makes YOU look. This is your really reliable recall word.

    Three times a day you replace the standard come here command of NOW! with the other word HEY! and give her this really super dooper special reward. The clicker folks call it a "jack pot." I call it a gold mine for dogs. LOL The dog ought to eventually come running at your when you say this word (mine does.. I think she would go thru a wall of fire when I say her RRR word!).

    Do this for three weeks.. again.. three times a day randomly every day for three weeks. This is a special word and is different than the standard come here word (NOW!) and you should see a different response. the Really Realiable Recall (RRR) should be really fast by this time and should get her attention NO MATTER WHAT.

    All you are going to work on is the dog coming to you, and wanting to hang out with you. You are going to become the BEST GAME IN TOWN. Your dog ought to be looking at you and HOPING you will click that thing and/or say one of those words by the end of this time.

    NOW add distractions (still in a safe enviromnment) and see what happens. If the dog still runs off, then go back and continue the work. Do the work on a long line where the distractions exist. Do not reel the dog in.. let coming to you be the dog's idea and then click, feed and praise. Clcik and feed and praise any time the dog looks at you.. and every time when in a distracting environment. Stick with the jack pots for the "Hey!" word and stick with the three times randomly (not all of those times need be at the distracting place). Also use the other word for recall that is still rewarded but not with a jack pot.

    Eventually, you should be able to cut the Really Reliable Recall word down to three times a week (and you do it three times a week with a jack pot EVERY TIME for the rest of the dog's life). You may have to intermittently food or toy reward this dog for coming when called for the other word the rest of his life as well, since he has learned a behavior that is undesirable. Behavior is not static. Once learned it still need occaisional reinforcement.

    Come back here and let us know how it goes with you.

    If you need better instructions than the ones I have offered, put Karen Pryor or Clicker training or Really Reliabel Recall for dogs in a search engine and read about it there. Jean Donaldson has books that are excellent as well, and I would look at her book "Dogs are from Neptune" or her newer book, "The Culture Clash."

  9. #7

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    Re: Won't come when called

    Great advice here for anyone!'

  10. #8
    Senior Member Lonewolfblue's Avatar
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    Re: Won't come when called

    Another thing you can do is an e-collar. And you don't necessarily need to use the shock part, but if it has a beeper, you can use that like you would a clicker. Then, if the dog bolts and doesn't turn back, you can give a correction. Just remember that an e-collar is something that needs to be used correctly, so if this is used, make sure you have someone teach you the proper usage, or get info on the proper use of an e-collar.


    Shelter dogs aren't broken, they've simply experienced more life then others. Don't pity them...HELP them!

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