Leash and learn
By JOHN WADE, QMI Agency
Dear John Wade: I adopted a dog a year ago. She is about six years old, and I'm having trouble training her to come when I call her around distractions. She is fine when she is in the house. How do I get her to come when we are outside? — JEN
Dear Jen: The words "sometimes" or "unless" or "except when" should not be qualifiers if someone asks a dog owner if their dog responds when called.
If they are going to live the happiest and healthiest of lives, dogs need to run and those who don't come, can't be let loose to do so.
Dog parks and doggie daycares can fill that void, but aren't always an option for many people either because they aren't available, aren't affordable or their dog's temperament doesn't suit.
I suggest you try teaching your dog to come like it's a job instead of a trick.
It opens up tons more running opportunities. You can play fetch in large open areas or while hiking and you'll also be having fun and reinforcing the bond between the two of you.
I teach informally, going to the areas that I want to hike or throw the ball and put a long 30-foot leash (or two) on the dog and just do those activities.
I never call them to come unless the leash is in hand and when I say it, I start hauling the leash in until the dog's at my feet. At that point, I wait a short period before sending the dog off again.
The time length needed to train the dog depends on the breed and personality.
The way most trainers teach come is so structured and sterile that the dogs never really learn it outside of the trick level.
The answer is to raise your dog from pup to adulthood (around two years) dragging a leash whenever you're outside. That way you'll run into pretty much every distraction possible and end up with a dog that understands what to do when you call.
It's not the only way, but it's the best way for most dog owners because it's the easiest way to get reliable results.
It may seem an inordinate amount of time to have a dog dragging a long leash, but for me it's worth it to be thorough and feel secure around distractions and end up with a dog that does it like a job and doesn't need a leash for the rest of its life.
When my Jack Russell chased a skunk and I said, come, he did. Not because I could catch him if he didn't but because he believed I could. That didn't happen overnight.
The real value might be that one day when your dog takes off towards the road without warning after one thing or another and you yell, come and the dog does.
John Wade helps dog owners through his books, workshops and telephone consultations. If you have a question email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.