Q: We have had a male lab for a year and a half that we got from the pound. We have a fenced-in yard, but we live near busy roads. He knows what “come” means, but he is not obeying. He thinks it is a game. We cannot trust him off the leash and fear if he gets off, he will just run and not stay or come if told. Treats motivate him. Any suggestions?
— Amy Davis, Tallmadge
A: Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest problems most dog owners have, but this is the one exercise that can save a dog’s life.
First of all, coming to me is the best thing in my dogs’ lives. One should never call the dog to them and then correct them for anything. This happens often when the dog has gotten away and one finally catches the dog and out of frustration, the dog is corrected. You bet the dog is thinking “You’ll never catch me again!”
To begin to teach a reliable come when called, the dog must be on a leash or long line during the training exercise. You must take away the option to refuse. I will start with an informal game in my house with treats, saying “Fido Come!” and if the dog does not come, I calmly get the leash, bringing the dog to me sounding happy, even if the dog does not want to come.
I then put my hand in the collar and give the dog a treat. Getting the collar is an important part since the object is to get control of the dog.
Yes, I am training the dog that whenever he hears “Fido come” he will get a cookie. The day will come when he gets loose and I do not have a cookie but he will still come. Dogs need the behavior to carry over to all places, not just home. I often keep my young Labs on a long line until they have had a year of solid recall training.
Each session we have people come in and tell us how this exercise has saved their dog. Remember, coming to you is the best thing in your dog’s life .
— Susan Jenkins, owner of Papp’s Dog Services in Akron and a member of the National Association of Obedience Instructors and the International Association of Canine Professionals
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.