I am a dog lover, and have enjoyed dogs in my life since I was a child. I purchased my first dog, Winnie, the moment I had purchased my first home. A yellow lab, who was going to be my buddy and hunting companion. I wanted to train her myself, so I went about studying how to train an obedient hunting dog. I soaked in the info, because I wanted to be proud of my accomplishment! I would have a dog who would excel in the field, and in the duck pond. I didn't really know it at the time, but Winnie was training me too. Some lessons she taught were for her own comfort, many were for my growth as a person, dog trainer, and human helper. Winnie was a fine hunting dog, followed direction and eager to please. But, she was a much better 'best friend' to this man than hunter. You see, I had all the information on dog training, but I did not yet have the patience, understanding, empathy, and wisdom to perform the dog training with a calm & centered spirit. Knowing how & ability to do are two different things. I spanked her behind and jerked her leash more times than I should. We never could learn how to walk on a leash together - it seems my demanding for her to follow my lead didn't diminish her enthusiasm to lead or inspire a desire to follow.
Training a dog to come on command:
Encourage the dog to want to come to you
Praise the dog for all movements toward you & Repeat & Repeat…
Use a long leash to prompt and help the dog to come
Winnie was fantastic at coming to me on command! But, as mentioned, not good about walking at heel or side by side. My mistake, I believe in largest part, was how I used the two leashes differently. A good hunting dog needs to come on command, and learn an acceptable distance to maintain from it's handler. I followed the training book instruction. I made it fun for my dog to come to my command. Whenever she came to me as a puppy, I made a big deal about it. As hunting training began, a long leash (called a check cord, 25 ft long) was used while Winnie was free to run and drag the leash behind. When the dog is not coming on command, you gently use the check cord to prompt the dog in the right direction. This allows you to praise the positive behavior you want - turn the dog to you and praise – help the dog do what you can praise! Make it fun to come. The check cord and approach worked wonderfully! Winnie would always come on command. Unfortunately, I was not so wise or intuitive in using a walking leash. Instead of prompting for praise, I scolded for "doing it wrong." Over and over tug at the leash, "she needs to learn to walk back here, by my side!" Nope, never did work, and 15 years later, I know why. I never really taught what heel meant, never really made it fun to heel, and never inspired her to follow my lead in walking side by side. Scolding "wrong" does not teach, reinforce, or grow the positive behavior.
Things to consider in training a dog to come on command…
Would scolding the dog running around in the yard get the dog to come to you?
If you scold the dog when it finally gets to you, or for any attempts to come closer to you, what are you teaching the dog?
I have witnessed many frustrated dog owners calling for their dog to come, anger in their voice. When the dog gets to them after a short adventure, the dog is scolded or worse. Unfortunate, to punish the dog, when it finally decided to do as asked.
I have another lab, Cookie, this time black. She is a sweetheart, and I am certain, desperately
wishes I still hunted. Cookie has greatly benefited from the work Winnie did in allowing me, with unconditional regard, to find my way without "scolding me," as I had done to her too many times. I am more patient, understanding, empathic, and wise because of all the love Winnie offered me. You can meet Cookie in the office, she will be excited to greet you! Please wait for her to sit before you pet her, because this is the behavior I want reinforced & repeated by Cookie!
Do you know how they train the killer whales at Sea World to jump over the pole way above the water? They start by placing the pole, or a rope, on the bottom of the pool! They make it impossible not to succeed, impossible not to have opportunity to praise what they want repeated. Slowly they raise the pole and praise success. Repeat, repeat, repeat,… until the whale is jumping out of the water and over the pole.
Positive behaviors grow out of Positive experiences!