Your dog knows how to come. You’re sure of it. You’ve spent hours working on it in the house and backyard, along with all the other basics like 'sit', 'down' and 'heel'. Every time you call, your dog comes running, hoping for a good treat or toy, but happy to accept an ear scratch and an “atta boy”. You have no concerns as you bring your dog to the dog park. Surely she will behave herself. Several hours later when you are ready to go home, you are humiliated to find that you are the one chasing your dog all over the park, calling until you’re hoarse. Anyone would think your dog had never heard her name before! All those longs hours of training--wasted.
Your training wasn’t wasted, and although it seems like your dog has forgotten it all, she really hasn’t. It’s just that when we introduce distractions, it becomes much more difficult for our dogs to obey. This may be because your dog hasn’t developed the self-control to overcome the desires inspired in her by all the new distractions, or it may be because your dog doesn’t understand your command to come in this new context of a dog park, or it could be because your dog is testing the limits of your authority. Most likely it is a combination of all three.
Dogs that are bred to follow their nose or chase down game may have a harder time overcoming distractions and coming when called than retrievers or general purpose work dogs. Dogs that track or chase have been bred to be independent of their owner and focused on their quarry. In the field, such dogs have typically been followed by their owner until the prey was treed or taken down, depending on the breed. Because of these predispositions, such dogs may have a harder time coming when called, even if you work very hard.
Successfully training your dog to come with distractions depends on a good deal of patience. Having your dog run off on you can be extremely frustrating, and feels like a betrayal. It does no good, however, to lose your temper. Your dog is not refusing to come because she doesn’t love or respect you, but because of complex factors, many of them beyond her control. Identify why she isn’t coming and work gradually with her towards success, while using external controls like barriers and long leashes to keep control of the situation and keep everyone safe.
Training your dog to come with distractions is similar to training her to come without distractions. You need to have something that can motivate her to come, like yummy treats, a favorite toy, and of course, your enthusiastic praise and affection. If she is already coming reliably without distractions, you already know what motivates your dog. Bring these same tools to the distraction training.
Some additional tools are useful in teaching your dog to come with distractions. A more distinct attention-getting device than your dog’s name, like a whistle or horn, can prove useful in cutting through distractions. Long lines, especially a lunge line with some elasticity, are extremely useful both for having ultimate control of your dog and for nudging her into paying attention. An elastic line is good because it prevents a sharp pull if your dog suddenly bolts against it. This protects both you and your dog.
Finally, for dogs that are struggling to break out of their focus on other things, the opportunity to practice every day is key. Keep the training sessions to 10 or 15 minutes, keep the sessions fun, and always end on a positive note and when the training is going well. Don't wait until your pooch has had enough and stop at that point. That gives the session a negative vibe.
My dog is extremely crazy when he comes inside. How do I get him to be calm when he comes inside. My other question is once he is calmed down all he does is sniff around for food how do I get him to stop that?
Hello Cloe, I suggest teaching him a Place command and letting him chew on a durable chew toy or dog food stuffed hollow chew toy - like a Kong. The Place command should be an automatic stay. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo I would also teach Out - which means leave the area - for boundaries: Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ For the food sniffing you will need to make sure you are stimulating him mentally - which a food stuffed hollow chew toy, Kong wobble toy, puzzle toy, or automatic treat dispenser is good for when you can't work directly with pup. Pup can even eat his meal kibble that way. Having thirty minute training sessions where pup is practicing something new or something that's a bit challenging can also help wear pup out and create a calmer mood in pup regularly. I would also work on Leave It and use Out and Leave It and Place to direct pup away from sniffing. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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