Something we get asked frequently is Why Doesn’t My Dog Come When he’s Called?
The true answer varies with each situation however it usually a combination of factors that have been compounding since the dog was a puppy.
Below are, in our opinion, the most common reasons why your family pet might ignore you and not come when called.
The most common reason is that your dog may not understand what the “come/here” command means, they simply don’t know what you are asking them to do. This needs to be trained and taught. Your dog does not speak English. It only knows words you have taught them through your actions. Use the exact same command each time. For example, “Dog’s name Here”. not: come, then come here, come here bud, here pup, whistle… come, etc. Ensure that it’s always the same command used so it’s clear what you want. It does not matter what you use, just make it consistent. I prefer using “HERE” as it is easier to call or yell loudly at a distance or in emergency than “come” or a mouth whistle.
Usually the dog has have been allowed to get away with disobeying your command in the past and has figured out that recall was optional. When starting out training it is very important to not give the command if you can’t enforce it. You must always have a plan on how to make the dog come should they refuse or ignore you. Do not repeat the command over and over, your dog probably is not hard of hearing. Repeating it just reinforces
the “optional” idea the dog already has. I start of with pups on a long check cord. Call “here” and gently tug on the lead as I take up slack to encourage them to come in. We then reward, praise and repeat.
Your dog may believe that chasing a squirrel or continuing to play with other dogs at the park is more appealing than coming back to you. You need to teach them that coming to you is, first not optional and second better than whatever else they were doing. Do this through praise, treats, and constant reinforcement without giving them a choice about coming or not, they are on a check cord after all.
Sometimes people accidentally teach the dog not to come when called. This usually happens when in the past the dog was punished after coming when called. This could mean that you called them over then immediately locked them up, scolded them, took away a prize, or whatever else.
I’ve seen people, call their dogs repeatedly and finally after the 12th time the dog does finally come to them, when the dog does come, the owner scolds the dog for not coming the first time, slaps a leash on them and then leaves the park. Guess what, the next time they are at the park, it will take more to get the dog to come back. This will continue until the owner is trained to know better.
Even if you are furious with your dog for whatever reason, if they come when you call them, praise for obeying your command. Take a deep breath and think about what you’re doing. You can tell the dog to sit and then you can go to them if they need a correction, to be put on leash or crated. Do not take out your frustration on the dog. After all, the dog’s behavior is 100% your responsibility. If they behave poorly it’s something you have done or failed to do.
Keep these points in mind and even an old dog can learn a new trick. You just need to change your behavior first.