“Come!” (also known as the recall command) is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog, both for his safety and your peace of mind. With that in mind, is there anything more frustrating than a dog who won’t come when he’s called?
It’s a basic command but it’s not always easy to teach and, there are a variety of reasons why your dog won’t comply. Understanding the reasons why he may not be coming to you can help you better reinforce his training and have him obeying your recall cue in no time.
Your Dog Doesn’t Know His Name
It’s possible that your pet doesn’t know his name and is just hearing sounds. It might surprise you, but it’s not uncommon. If you suspect this is the case, you may need to go back to some basics and review teaching your dog his name.
You Haven’t Practiced Enough with Your Dog
“Come is the command people practice the least,” says Dog trainer Sarah Wilson, in an interview with Mother Nature Network. Wilson recommends using the “come” command before each meal, for example. She emphasizes that your dog needs ongoing reinforcement to understand that coming when called leads to good things! “Just be sure to practice inside as well as outside,” recommends Wilson.
You’ve Taught Your Dog to Ignore Your Calls
An obvious reason your dog doesn’t come when told to is that she doesn’t know what the word means. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS, explains that a basic problem in training is the assumption that a pet knows what a word means and then muddling the command by repeating it again and again and mixing in other words in the face of disobedience. While the command you want to teach is “come,” you might be saying, “Come. Come. Come! Spot, come here now! Now! Get over here! Come!”
After you’ve called him and he hasn’t complied, patiently go to him and put him on the leash. Don’t get angry with him or you may make him afraid of you.
“Come” Means Something Unpleasant
Don’t call your dog to come for something he doesn’t enjoy or so you can scold or punish him. This will simply teach him to avoid your calls at all costs. “When your dog comes to you, be nice to him,” advises Jack and Wendy Volhard, dog training experts and authors of the book Dog Training for Dummies (Wiley, 2010). “One of the quickest ways to teach your dog not to come to you is to call him to punish him or do so something the dog perceives as unpleasant.” Instead, the authors say, you should physically go to your dog when you need him for something he’s not going to enjoy.
“Come” Means the Fun is Over
Jack and Wendy Volhard also point out that your dog may learn that when you call him at the park, for example, it’s time to go home. “Soon he may become reluctant to returne to you when called because he isn’t ready to end the fun,” they say. Dog trainer and expert Mikkel Becker agrees. “A good rule of thumb is that for every five times you call your dog to your side, only one of those times should end in something your dog might not find enjoyable, like leaving the dog park or going inside the house. The rest of the time, reward your dog for coming and then release him to play again,” she says in her article, “How Can I Get My Dog to Come When Called?”;
While it may be frustrating if your dog isn’t complying with your recall cue, it’s well worth the time and effort to train him. Teaching your dog to come may save his life one day. For tips on how to teach your dog to come explore our Dog Training articles.