Does this frustrating behavior sound familiar? “My dog always comes when called…. except at the park.”
Not only is this frustrating for owners, but it can be dangerous if your dog won’t come to you when danger is present. Fortunately there are steps you can take to teach your dog that coming to you is actually the best part of his outing, not the end of the fun.
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Why Do Dogs Have Selective Hearing?
The reason your dog doesn’t come to you is because he’s learned that it doesn’t pay. When he responds to your “come” cue in the park, it means you’re going to put on his leash and make him leave his friends behind. Can you blame him for blowing you off?
The idea that your dog should listen to you simply because he’s a dog and you’re the “master” is completely outdated. In many ways, dogs and other mammals aren’t so different from humans. When a dog’s action is followed by a positive outcome, he is motivated to do it again; likewise, when his action leads to an unpleasant outcome, he’s in no hurry to repeat that action.
Humans abide by similar principles. This is why many people delay dentist appointments for months or years. They remember that the last time they made an appointment, they were “punished” with novocaine and a drill. What’s the key to getting your dog to do something he doesn’t really want to do? Make the consequence pleasant. If the dentist gave you a $100 gift card every time you went there, you’d probably be getting professional cleanings every month, and the drilling would sound like music to you.
Recipe for Recall
In the case of recall (meaning “come”), the goal is to make the outcome enjoyable for your dog when he returns to you. What does your dog really love? Treats? Toys? Balls? Choose something he adores as a reward for coming to you. Bring that item to the park with you, and practice this sequence:
By making recall part of the fun, rather than the end of it, your dog will happily come to you when called.
This article originally ran here on petguide.com.
Kate is a certified dog behavior consultant and certified dog trainer in Brooklyn, NY with Doggie Academy and in Southbury, CT.