Responding to the call of his handler is certainly one of the most important rules of conduct for any dog and one of the exercises that he must learn first, both for his own safety and for the cordial coexistence of both parties.
Its importance is vital and it is advisable to get down to work as soon as possible, if possible from puppyhood, to train him in this task that should be prioritized even to learn to sit, to lie down or not to pull the leash. The fundamental thing, as always, is to practice it with constancy, dedication and to follow some basic guidelines, the innate intelligence of the dog will do the rest.
But before getting down to work with the learning exercises, it is important to know the reasons why a dog may ignore its owner’s call. It can happen due to factors related to the dog’s own education as well as external factors. Among the most common are:
– That the dog has not yet learned to recognize its name properly. It is essential that they do this learning before.
– That the dog associates its name with a negative stimulus. If we use his name to scold him when he does not behave properly, he will associate that name with a punishment or anger from his handler. Therefore, it is vital not to use his name when he misbehaves. It is best to use terms such as “no” or “bad”.
– That the dog comes to the call at home but not outside the house because of the stimuli that surround him: other dogs, people, places…. This reflects a poor socialization of the dog that needs to be improved.
– Nervous, hyperactive or over-excitable dogs will also find it more difficult to concentrate on responding to their caregivers’ calls.
– It may also happen that the dog responds to the call as usual but is distracted by a very new environment.
How to educate the dog to respond to the call?
– To begin with, it is essential to always use the name of the dog when making the call and to choose a word (which must always be the same) to make the call. The best are short terms like ‘come’ or ‘here’.
– It is also important to associate that call with positive stimuli and reward him with something every time he responds successfully. Of course, it does not need to be a treat. This reinforcement can also be done through caresses, words or a toy. We should also try to present the exercise in a playful way, as if it were a game, so that the dog finds it more attractive.
– The exercises for this learning process should be started at home, away from stimuli that may distract the dog’s attention. At least one or two weeks should pass before putting them into practice outside the home.
– Never associate his name or the call with a negative stimulus. As we have already mentioned above, calling the dog by name and then scolding him is not a good idea since it will break the call-name-reward association we want to work on. Nor is it advisable to scold him if he comes after several attempts. This anger can provoke stress and fear in the dog and will also cause him to associate his name with negative feelings that will make it difficult for him to come to the call.
Many times, when the animal is with other dogs, sniffing something or entertained with any stimulus, it tends to be overlooked that it is likely that it will not come to the first call. Experts recommend to always keep in mind what is the ideal time to call him and not to make the mistake of punishing or scolding him if he does not respond immediately.
– Another thing to keep in mind is that dogs learn by association. If the dog comes to our call when we are outdoors and we regularly take him by the collar or harness and take him home, he will interpret the call as withdrawing him from play and stimuli. The call will eventually turn into something he does not like. What is the solution? Call him several times before we leave and reinforce him in a positive way so that he does not associate that “come” with “I’ll tie you up and the fun is over”.
Of course, if you notice that despite following this routine the dog continues to ignore us or shows behavioral problems, it is recommended to seek the help of an expert in ethology or a canine educator.