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Teaching the recall or come command

What we aim for is that when you say come to your dog it has a very good reason to want to come straight back to you without any hesitation. So just for fun call your dog now and remember what happens. Do this as a sort of before and after test.

The come command is the most important social control that is needed by a dog handler. This command is where control is at a distance and one of the ultimate tests of your authority. This command has more undertones than are at the first obvious but I would like you to consider now how you think you would train this exercise aware that giving pain or showing anger are not an option. How often we say come and there is no response. The next command is a bit deeper in tone and with undertones of anger. Eventually you have to shout the command in a very deep tone with verbal threats of what will happen to your dog when you eventually get hold of it. Eventually you chase after your dog when it will run away until it knows the game is up and will come to you possibly expecting a titbit (it did come eventually) and you chastised the dog. Fine so much for coming it will remember this next time ok. Have we all been there? I think we all have seen oure dogs doing this so where were we going wrong.

Dogs use language to a degree that is more in pitch and tone. Their bark or growl is in different pitches the same as us. Happy then the pitch is higher and angry the pitch is lower. Dogs do not recognise size as a disadvantage but the deeper the growl dictates the greater the leader. In the wolf pack, the leader only needs to growl to a challenger and if it is deeper than its own the challenger will submit to its leadership. Say come in a lower pitch is the same as saying no. The second part is how firm are you as a leader and how much respect is shown to you by your dog. Titbits are fine but when a dog comes across a smell that is probably sexually, stimulating then which do you think the dog will choose. We all know the no command but we have not taught chastisement in the form the dog understands. Here we have to return to the wolf pack and see how the lead wolf controls the other dogs. Subordinate dogs do not have the opportunity for sex this is the prerogative of the strongest male and leader. This is evolution working for the breed to survive. Dogs are aware of this so if they think they can challenge you then thinking of sex will be under consideration. Having a wee up trees and lampposts is a sign that your leadership is in doubt. What we need is to establish the handler as the leader and that the come command leads to rewards and pleasure distributed by the leader but not if the leader is displeased.

The worst that can happen to a challenger wolf is eviction from the pack. Being a pack animal being a loaner is not an option. How does the wolf achieve this? Firstly it growls with displeasure and ignores the challenger it then starts pacing between the pack and the challenger keeping itself sideways on and not looking at it but gives deep growls to show no way do you come back in. The challenger either takes up the challenge or attempts to come back to the leader in a submissive stance and will try to lick the face of the leader and gain its attention. This can go on for some time until the leader is satisfied the challenger has learnt his lesson and it will leave an opening back into the pack, which it will accept and be very much relieved and very well conditioned. No, you do not have to do this but apply it into your training.

How do you show eviction to your dog as a sign of your displeasure at its challenge to your leadership? If you have a gate and a safe road area near your house just walk the dogs outside and close the gate as you come back in. Eviction of your dogs from the family home especially at mealtime really will endorse you as leader. Do I hear someone say it simply jumps over the wall or gate. This will not work either if your dog lives in a kennel in your garden. Eviction is from the pack so even if you cannot shut your dog out from the home or garden it still means that all the family ignores the dog. Turn sideways on and ignore its pleads (they do this very well) for anyone’s attention. After a time the dog will go away and sulk which they can do beautifully. Then when you are ready repeat the command that it previously ignored and you should see an immediate improvement and all the family can make friends once again. Remember this type of training is simply playing by their rules and some will try to do the same thing to you.

One tip if you find your dog refused to come when you called try running away in the opposite direction. This is too a form of eviction and your dog should soon follow. Just give it a trial when you find a safe area. You can also accomplish this with the car. If it is safe to drive off a short way your dog should soon follow but when you stop do not show interest in your dog until he wanders off a short way then say come. You should then have an instant response and let it back into the car.

I have already given you some leadership roll play in the other exercises but these are where the dog is close to you. These say do not forget I am boss. One major leadership sign is the pecking order of eating. The leader always eats first so when you feed your dog have something ready for yourself to eat in front of your dog as if to show them you are eating their food. Pay attention to your dogs face at this time and see puzzlement. Most dogs with no leadership problems will not even care but it still helps and you may need this bit of reinforcement sometime later. Involve all the family in doing this even the children. As pups sometime just remove the dogs food just to add something like the biscuit just to teach your dog you control the meals and you will return the bowl in a moment. Do not leave food about for them to eat when they feel hungry. For older dogs new to your home, it is a simple test to see if you may have some problems in the future. Whilst the dog is eating just quickly walk up, take the meal away, put it in a cupboard out of the dogs reach, and walk away. Watch your dogs face and see how it reacts to that. None challengers will simply sit and wait quite patiently in the hope food returns. Challengers will seek you out and try to gain your attention as to what have they done wrong to warrant such action. Do not pay any attention to this request but just ignore it until the dog goes away and settles down. If your dog growls at you and even places a paw into the bowl then there is a dangerous leadership problem.

After half an hour go to the cupboard and replace the food and walk away after giving the come command. If you have a slow eater or one that leaves it to come back later just as soon as it has left, take the food away completely and bin it. After a few days, your dog will gulp the food down leaving a nice shinny dish for you. Always remember when you take your dogs food to the eating point it should always follow you and not be in front of you. If you carry the bowl in your left hand and by your side, this should stop your dog moving in front of you. If it is still in front of you then turn towards another point or do not feed the dog until it walks behind you. Saves on dog food but they soon catch on to this.

Whilst your dog is a puppy the come command will have been taught in the house with its food and titbits. Again, have all the family involved in this. As the dog gets older then do the same from the garden or yard. What you are looking for is instant response and you as leader give rewards and much praise. Any sign of hesitation the game is over. If the come was for its dinner then let your dog see you put the food away. It may then come running in but sorry too late. Again ignore the dog’s requests and wait until the dog has settled down when you get the food out again and say come when you should get an instant response.

The come command is a way of life not an exercise. From the very start when a puppy enters your family, have your rules set out with all of the family and stick to them. Do not change your mind when the dog does the, I am so cute, routine because they have a full library of different approaches that can bring you to tears just to get what they want.

Next week I will look back at a summary of commands to date with a few readers’ problems.

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