On a recent meet-up hike, there were four small dogs with 15 or more people. One person was saying how hard it was to get his one-year-old dog to come to him.
I remembered back to one of the many dog training sessions I’ve attended in my life – training Tess, the spaniel/heeler, Penny, the greyhound/something, Wiener, the wiener dog, Pepper, the lab/border collie/pit, and Daisy, the Jack Russell/crazy-out-of-her-mind-with squirrel-obsession, three-time rescue dog.
Here is what I learned. If you want your dog to come to you, then you need to sound happy when you call him/her. You need to reward him/her with praise/treats/not hitting them.
Yes, my ex-husband would hit a dog for running away. But the dog was thinking, “I just came to you when you called me, and now you’re hitting me. I’m not falling for THAT again!”
A person should never hit a dog for any reason, especially when it does what you ask of it/her/him.
One trainer, somewhere along the way said, “Make it sound like you’re having a party!”
That means use a higher-pitched happy voice, not a low, growly, commanding voice.
The dog is the guest of honor at your imaginary party. Make him/her/it want to come to you to start the festivities.
Let’s talk about Daisy. The other dogs came to me pretty well, except the greyhound, who would escape often because a greyhound needs to run. If you don’t exercise her, she will do it herself. My young kids would chase her, and it became a game. Once they all ended up in the creek a mile from our house. I had to go get them and wash their muddy feet/socks/shoes.
After that, we learned never to chase a dog. Dogs have free will, and they have to decide what they want to do.
I’m just too dang old to chase a dog anyway. When Daisy came into my life, bolting every time a door was opened or a teensy bit ajar, she would push that door open and take off. She hurled herself against gates until the latch popped open. She dug under other gates and fences in order to be free.
I learned to keep a handful of treats in my pocket and would reward her whenever she came back.
My son said, “It seems like you are rewarding her for her bad behavior.”
I was rewarding her for returning. Forget the running away part. Daisy had forgotten. All she saw was a treat for coming back into the house. I would often leave the door cracked so that she could push her way in.
“Daisy, how was your run? Did you have a good time?” I’d say in a happy voice, giving her praise and an ear rub.
I don’t have to give her treats anymore. She still bolts from time to time (see “a greyhound needs to run” above), but she always comes back.
There’s a party going on, and she doesn’t want to miss it.