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It’s a Saturday morning and you’re enjoying a peaceful stroll across the fields. With you is your full-of-life Boston Terrier. He’s intelligent, lively and as friendly as they come. But while it is his nature to be friendly, it doesn’t half cause problems on occasion. One minute you’re looking at rolling fields stretched out ahead, the next you’re calling after him as he charges into the distance to say hello to another canine on the horizon. The only problem is there’s a road in-between him and his new friend. Fortunately, there’s no traffic this time. Next time though, you might not be so lucky.
You need to re-assert your control and ensure you can call him over in moments like these. Training him to come when called could save him from serious injury one day.
Training any dog to return to you when there are distractions around is challenging. What makes it challenging in Boston Terriers is their need to say hello to any human and dog they come across. The trick is finding the right incentive. Like most dogs, they do love their food. If you can lure him away enough times you can build a habit where he comes every time when called. You’ll need to use consistent obedience commands to get to that stage.
If he’s a puppy he should be eager to please and a fast learner. You could see results in just a few days. If he’s older and stubborn you may need a little while longer. You could need up to three weeks before you reach your end goal. Get this training right and you’ll never have to worry when you take him off the leash again.
Before you start training you’ll need to gather a few things. You’ll need a clicker and a long leash for one of the methods. A friend will also be required for one method.
You should stock up on treats or break his favorite food into small pieces. Cheese is often a wise choice. You’ll need to set aside 10 minutes each day for training. Training can take place in a large yard or when you’re on your daily walk.
Once you have the above, just bring patience and a proactive attitude and work can begin!
The Backwards Method
Secure him to a leash
Head outside with your Boston Terrier on a leash. All you’ll need is a pocketful of treats. Try not to get him excited at this point. Remain calm so he will stay relatively focused.
Issue a ‘come’ command in a clear voice with an upbeat tone. Move backwards quickly as you give the command.
Keep moving backwards until he catches up to you. By moving away he’ll naturally want to rush to you. Keep eye contact and encourage him to catch up with you the whole time.
As soon as he catches up with you, say "yes" in an animated voice. Then hand over a treat and give him some attention for a minute. Really show him he’s behaved correctly. The happier he feels when he reaches you the more likely he’ll be to return to you next time.
Practice this for 10 minutes each day. Once he gets the hang of it you can let him off the leash and gradually increase the distance you start calling him over from. You can then also slowly lose the treats.
The Assistant Method
Attach a long training leash to his collar. Then head out into the yard with a friend. Also, make sure you have a pocket full of treats. Have your friend stand behind him and hold him by lacing their hands across his chest.
Get his attention
Capture his attention by holding a tasty treat in front of his face. Then start talking in animated voice to get him worked up. You want to get him itching to run to you. The fact he’s being held back will only want to make him run to you more.
Start running away from him. Then after a few feet give a ‘come’ command. Give it in a playful voice. You can encourage him by clapping your hands and making noises. Then when he starts pulling, have your friend let go of him so he can run to you.
As soon as he’s caught up with you, give him the treat and lots of praise. Make sure he gets it within three seconds of catching you, otherwise he won’t associate the reward with the behavior.
Lose the friend
Practice with the friend for the first few days. At this point he should associate coming to you with tasty food so the friend will no longer be needed. Keep practicing until you can call him to you when you’re in a variety of situations. At that point you can slowly phase out the treats.
The Click & Reward Method
Start at home
Get him used to the clicker at home. Whenever he performs a behavior correctly, click before you give him a treat. This is an effective way to communicate with him. The signal will help him learn quickly.
Hold his toy
Start in a room at home. Then call his name in a high pitched and playful voice. You can hold his toy up for him to see. Keep eye contact and really be as animated as you can. The happier he sees you are the more he’ll want to come over.
Click & reward
As soon as he gets to you, click and play with the toy as a reward. Keep the playing to just a minute. You can play tug of war and just generally roll around. The greater the reward the more he’ll associate coming to you with positive consequences.
After a couple of days of practicing at home you can head outside. Start by calling him when he’s still close. Then each day practice when there are new distractions around, such as other pets and people. Remember to click each time he gets to your feet. Keep practicing until you can call him over in all situations.
Never punish him
For this method to succeed, it’s vital you don’t shout at or scare him. If he’s terrified of you then he won’t want to run to you when you call him. That’s why you also shouldn’t say his name followed by a ‘NO’ command. His name should only be said in an upbeat voice that will make him feel safe and want to come to you.
Written by James Barra
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 12/19/2017, edited: 01/08/2021