Earlier this afternoon, Finn was rewarded with a walk and playdate with his neighbour, Jonas. All you have to say to Finn is "let's go play with Jonas" and his ears have perched as far as they go on his head and his eyes will have bulged out of their sockets, as he races towards the front door. Together, with Jonas's mom and sister, we head towards the open field behind our houses. Now, Finn's lady legs give him an impressive amount of speed, considering his small, odd shape, and you can see his puggle smile from across the field as he chases Jonas, who busies himself by properly fetching a ball. It was during this lovely afternoon playdate that Finn drove me to the point of insanity.
As Jonas dropped the ball and waited for it to be thrown again, Finn sniped it off of the ground and ran away with it. For five minutes... Ten minutes... Forty minutes... He damn well ruined our walk, as we chased this small animal in circles, trying to get back the ball. We called his name one hundred times, we told him to 'come' one thousand times, we bribed him with fake cookies, and we showed him his leash as an attempt to distract his focus from sprinting away. Nothing worked. I mean nothing, and he ran away from me all the way to our home, dodging traffic as he pleased.
Not only is it incredibly annoying having a dog that does not listen, but it's embarrassing.
Therefore, I have spent the greater part of my evening googling how to re-train a dog to come, and my findings were quite interesting.
One thing I never really considered was that I have unintentionally been training him to not come when called. If he ever gets into the garbage it’s always "COME HERE" and then disciplined. If he gets muddy paws while outside it’s "COME HERE" and he is thrown into the tub. At the off leash park it’s "COME HERE" and he is put back on his leash. All of these outcomes, in his eyes, are punishments. So why would he continue to listen? Whoops! I happen to have found some great suggestions on how to correct this issue.
Rule of Thumb:
Wait until the dog is super hungry and motivated for food as a reward. If he isn't too responsive to food- then wait an hour before trying again. If the pooch misses a meal completely it is not the end of the world, as you will most likely not allow Sparky to starve to death. Just keep trying until they are ready to obey.
Start off by giving the dog a few pieces of their kibble. Let them get a taste of what they're working for. Quickly back up a few feet and say "come." Praise dog with food every time they obey. Once the dog gets the hang of it, add "sit" after their arrival and briefly hold their collar before giving the food. To advance even farther, tell the dog to "stay" once they are sitting. Repeat this sequence with every nugget of every meal. If at anytime the dog loses interest, stop the training immediately and don't allow the dog to eat anything else until the next meal and training session.
Again, have some assistance with this one. Two of you will begin somehwere in the house, taking turned calling the dog to come, sit, and stay. As the game progresses, slowly drift farther and farther apart from one another. Eventually, one of you may be upstairs while the other is in the basement. This exercise appeals to a dog's natural instincts and associates COME with fun!
Once your dog seems to be responding well to the cues, begin thinning out the
food reward. Save them for the dog’s better responses.
Reward with one third of the dog's meal instead of the entire thing. They
should be responding appropriately nearly 100% of the time.
Start doing different exercises between meals, using treats! When
we originally took Finn to dog training (which we clearly did not follow
through on), we were taught to use real meat as treats, rather than milk
bones. Finn's personal favourite is liver. Apparently, the more delicious
the treat- the quicker the dog learns.
Have a friend come help you out with this one. Stand a few feet apart
from one another, both holding a collection of treats. One of you will
yell for your dog to come, sit, and stay- reward. Then other person will
do the same thing. The dog will run back and forth between the two of
you, learning to obey more than just their owners.
Now, what I can do next time we decide to head to the field!
Off leash guide:
Use playdates as a reward! Show the dog that when he stops playing to respond to your call, he will be rewarded with a treat, and can then resume play time! Perhaps begin with the dog on a long leash or rope. Call the dog to come and do not take no for an answer. If the dog ignores your single call, pull them in. Reward them, and then tell them to play. This may have to be done quite a few times before they understand that simply coming to see you does not mean play time is over. When the dog comes easily and without being forced, try the same routine off lease. If your poock regresses, go back to being on leash.
Well, I guess it is time to put my money where my mouth is! Wish me luck :)