Remote Control for Dogs

My dogs running out of the sea

Three of my dogs running back to me out of the sea

Now that would be a money-making invention!

I have a bee in my bonnet about dogs coming when called.

My own dogs aren’t particularly ‘well-trained’ in terms of tricks and cues, but coming to me when I want them and coming away from things I don’t want them to do is what I need.

It always surprises me how many new clients haven’t been making coming to them worthwhile to their dog. They may feel Oscar should simply be obedient and they disapprove of ‘always having to use food’.

They also use a tone of voice that, if I were a dog, would send me the other way.

Shouting ‘Come’ and then giving Oscar nothing when (if) he arrives is like ‘crying wolf’ and he will soon learn to turn a deaf ear.

The best sort of motivation need not always be food of course – it is about being creative and keeping Oscar guessing as to the ‘why’ he has been called and then making it rewarding with either specially tasty food or something else he likes like a ball game or going for a short jog with his person. Variety is the spice of life. The more tempting the competition is by way of fox poo or families with picnics, the more exciting, relevant and rewarding we ourselves must be and that’s not easy!

People tell me how their dogs always come back – unless there is another dog about or a rabbit to chase or a dirty ditch to jump into.  What they mean is Oscar will come when called unless he has something better to do.

Talking with some new clients the other day and a lady with limited mobility, the remote control idea came to me. With a proper dog remote the humans need not be young or agile and all the early work is done at home anyway.

Such a common complaint among people whose dogs ‘don’t like other dogs’ is of walks being ruined by off-lead dogs running up to them. Sadly we will never eliminate people who are irresponsible from the world.  We can, however, have a reliable dog remote for our own dogs to get them away from a situation.

It takes constant work with no opportunity to freelance meanwhile, that’s all. Constant work means making coming when called more or less a conditioned response.

Our remote however isn’t going to be much use if Oscar ignores his own name when he hears it. His name alerts him – ‘Yes? You want me?’. Getting his attention could be likened to our turning the TV on.  Without the TV turned on, the remote is useless.

Once Oscar engages, then comes the cue ‘Come’ (or Stop or Wait or Down for people who want to take things further).

On our TV remote we can press the channel change button and immediately the channel changes. Similarly, we call Oscar followed by Come, and immediately Oscar should change his attention from what it was on and come back.

We do need to pick our battles.

If for instance Oscar is a Lurcher that you know will simply go deaf if he sees a rabbit, then what is the point of devaluing the whole thing and calling him just to be ignored when instinct has taken over? Have you the time and commitment to put in the necessary intensive work on his chase drive or should he only be off lead in certain places where he can safely chase rabbits?

On our TV remote we also have Volume and Pause buttons and with a bit of imagination we could have great fun with our dog remote in the house and in the garden – particularly with the kids’ help. We can hide around the house and use it. We can change the volume – a soft call or whistle or a blast. We can do Waits and Stays. We can change channels with clicker. We can do all sorts of things with it, the rule being interaction with Oscar from a distance.

‘Come’ simply needs constant working on, to be part of daily life, and has to start at home and ideally with puppies. The person wielding the dog remote has to be really motivating to the dog.  It’s unreasonable to expect him to do it simply out of love (or, heaven forbid, because you are the Alpha).

It’s a game because you, his human, are wonderful and irresistible!

For stories of the many dogs I have worked with, go to www.dogidog.co.uk
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About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist (ABTC - AAB) and trainer covering Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks, a 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site: www.dogidog.co.uk
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