An exchange today on Facebook about a dog that wouldn’t come back when called got me thinking.
Not coming when called is not usually only about ‘training’ as such. Boris knows very well what ‘Come’ means but chooses to do something else instead – something more fulfilling.
Mostly when he hears ‘Boris COME’ called over and over, he ignores it. It is ‘not coming back when called’ that he’s rehearsing and perfecting.
The human who is calling is simply not sufficiently important to him – worth coming back to – until he’s ready.
I go to many cases where the dog comes back reliably for one person but not for another. This backs up my belief that recall is every bit as much to do with the relationship between dog and person as with training.
It’s a big ask for Boris to turn around and come running back when he has spied a muntjack deer. To have this happen, his human needs to be very relevant to him indeed – or not waste their breath. In truth they should not let him free in the first place until returning can be guaranteed.
Treats and games brought out of the bag at the time may well be ignored – and that’s because people are expecting Boris to come back simply for food or for a game.
He should be coming back for them…
…and I certainly don’t mean by that ‘because they are boss and the dog should do as he’s told’. I mean because they have proved themselves worth listening to. The game or food is a vital ‘thank you’ – payment.
With most dogs that ignore being called, the human needs to be more relevant in all areas of the dog’s life – at home.
If Boris won’t come in from the garden when he knows they want to go to bed, then he sure won’t come back when he’s found fox poo to roll in.
If Boris gets everything he wants upon demand from a human who behaves like his lackey, then ……..well……would Prince Charles come running when his butler called? !
If Molly has food constantly available to eat when she likes – a basic requirement for survival after all – then aren’t her humans missing a trick by giving her control over it so far as their own relevance is concerned?
When one of my dogs wants something, he actually enjoys it on those occasions I ask him to do something in return. You can tell. It’s fun.
It takes effort on my part.
So, he wants to go out? He can sit and look at me first. He wants me to throw the ball? He can drop it at my feet not several yards away. He wants me to fuss him? He can sometimes wait, I may ask him to lie down, he could maybe give a paw (I don’t really like ‘paw’ because it encourages a dog to be pain, pawing for attention). He can do anything else I have taught him or just sit calmly and wait.
Being relevant involves effort and respect (nothing to do with ‘being boss’) as well as love. We have to be meaningful to our dog.
On a human level we can all think of friends, colleagues, bosses or teachers for whom we would have done anything and others for whom it would have been a chore. Could this be because we find it most rewarding to give the most to those who care sufficiently and put in the effort to expect the most?
I don’t go along with NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) training, but certainly not EILIF (everything in life is free)! The dog can at least sometimes ‘Say Please’. Here is a short summary from Quick and Dirty Tips.com
Building a more solid relationship at home means Molly will come back when called. Doing as you ask becomes a default because you ask nicely, gently, in a tone of voice that expects it to happen – and then you make it rewarding to her in some way.
If Molly has a history of ignoring when called, possibly you need a fresh start – maybe train her to a whistle. Treat it like a battery. Every time the whistle is blown and Molly comes to you, a little bit of juice goes into the battery.
HOWEVER, any time she hears the whistle and ignores it, the battery discharges. It discharges a whole lot faster than it charges up – but that’s life.
Whistling needs to be done over and over and over, hundreds of times, either when Molly is coming anyway or when she’s sure to come – and perhaps also as a game – always using high value rewards whether it’s food, a toy or play.
People tell me that giving their dog a fuss should be enough. I wonder how many dogs actually find a fuss salient and rewarding when they are out in the middle of a field with a festival of smells, sights and sounds?
If someone calls you and when you get to them they just say “Nothing” and shrug their shoulders, you’re not so likely to come when they call you another time, are you.
After a sufficient length of time, responding when called or whistled should be automatic for ex-freelancers Molly and Boris. (Make allowances and cut them some slack – be extra patient – if they have hit adolescence).
But – it’s not actually the whistle, the food, the toy or the tug game that Boris or Molly are coming back for.
For my main website and ‘stories’ of many dogs I have been to, please go to www.dogidog.co.uk