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PETS’ CORNER Teaching a dog to come back

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RETURN’S POLICY?Owners can take a few simple training steps to ensure their dogs will always return to them when called.


Ask the vet
Esther Van Luipen

Every dog needs a good run off the lead once a day, to get rid of some excess energy and to keep him fit. Because it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure that the dog doesn’t get into any mischief, it is important that the dog listens to you and comes back when he’s called.
Let’s take you through a a few basic training steps that will make your dog listen to you and come back to you when he’s called.

Rewards
The first step is teaching him that coming to you is a good thing! Feed your dog normally, preferably twice daily. Never let your dog train on an empty stomach, because he will be distracted too quickly.
Pop some treats in your pocket, and at random times when you are in the same room together, call him to you in a happy voice and give him a treat. After he has finished his treat, say something like ‘good dog’. Try this a few times during the day, for a few days, until he is coming to you quickly every time.
If you have been using come as a command and he didn’t listen to you try to change it to something else like ‘here!’, or a whistle. Make sure that if you have chosen a command you stick with it all the time, so it won’t be confusing to your dog.
If your dog is already happy to come when you call him in the home, you still need to do this initial bit of training and turn it into a great game for your dog. Skipping a stage may affect the rest of the training.
Now, walk your dog on a long or extending lead. If you punish him in any way for not coming to you on a walk during this early training time, it will undo all the good work. Don’t get angry or frustrated. Would you come to somebody that is angry or peed off with you? If someone asks you nicely, it is much more tempting to do as you’re told.

Out of sight
The second stage is coming when he can’t see you. This is more challenging, but also more fun for your dog. Do exactly the same as in stage one, but start calling him from another room or part of the house. When he is coming every time, start calling him from the garden. Your dog will have great fun trying to find you when you call him.
Do this for a week and if he is coming every time as soon as you call, you can move onto the next stage.

Keep him guessing
If you keep your dog guessing, he’ll try even harder! Change the type of treat from time to time and sometimes give him a larger amount than usual as a big ‘jackpot’. You can also play a game with his favourite toy when he reaches you or just give him lots and lots of praise and cuddles. You change the reward every time that you call him, this will actually make him try harder to get it right – just in case he hits the ‘jackpot’ (i.e. the treat, game or fuss that he wants the most). Apparently this has the same effect as gambling has on humans. When your dog understands exactly what the recall command means, he should respond to it at speed, every time you use it. Now you can try it outside in public places.
So these are the steps that need to be followed if you want your dog to come back to you when he’s called. Who knows, perhaps these methods could work on your significant other (one can dream!). Happy training!

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at living@mayonews.ie.

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