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My Dog Won't Come

Dear WOOF:


My husband and I have a 9 1/2 month old Chocolate Labrador named Abby. When we go up to our cottage on the weekends Abby doesn't seem to hear us when we call her. She goes down to the other cottages and visits w/the children and plays with the neighborhood dogs, but just doesn't come when we call her. We only think it's problem because she may get hit by a car or may be annoying the neighbors who don't like or enjoy animals.

What can we do to keep her in our immediate area until we let her go over to the other cottages w/us? We know she hears us and she even turns and looks out the corner of her eye, but decides that it's worth going over to play rather than stay when we call her. Should we always have treats to reward her when she comes, so that she knows that it's a better reward on our end if she listens?

I would appreciate any advice that you have to offer. By the way, she always used to listen and was well disciplined until she got a taste of the cottage life.

Thank you!


Remember that dogs don't generalize well, and a different environment that's chock full of distractions that you've not trained her for, creates the need to go back a few steps in your training. You'll need to work some basic recall exercises with her to help her understand that "Abby Come!" means come to me no matter where you happen to be - or whatever else is going on in the environment. Abby does indeed hear you, she simply sees no particular reason to come to you instead of going to visit her buddies down the road!

I don't think it's possible to proof a recall to 100% reliability, so the best we can do is practice (safely on a long line) and prevent mishaps by using leashes and tethers. You must prevent her from continuing to wander down to the neighbors. For one thing it is indeed dangerous, and secondly, each time she does this, she's rewarded for it and learns to do it again!

Since you took intermediate classes with us, refer to your handouts that cover random and distracted recalls and practice, practice, practice! Again, Abby should always be on lead for these exercises.

Use the most rewarding and yummy treats (left over chicken, cheese, lunch meat - you get the idea) that she will only get when you are working the recalls with her. She'll be more excited and motivated to get to you, for she'll never know what yummy surprise awaits!

Be sure to work in different locations on the property, not just in one place - remember that to help her generalize, we'll need to train in multiple places.

Over time and with lots of practice, the recall will become more reliable. Once you're there, and she responds happily and steadily to the recall cue in various places with distractions, you can begin
to reduce the amount of treats that she gets for coming. Perhaps you'll practice 10 recalls, but will only randomly reward 7 of them. Generously reward the quickest, most enthusiastic responses. Be sure
to reduce gradually and randomly and only after she's doing well with coming reliably.

I would advise that you never take her for granted - even when her recall is more reliable. If she wandered off and you didn't know it - the result could be disastrous! Having a good reliable recall can save your dogs life, but it's never a good idea to take unnecessary risks with your companions safety.

I'd also suggest our Advanced level class. It's lots of fun and will provide more training for building a reliable recall.

Wishing you the best of luck!

Lisa Patrona,  Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT

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