won't come when calledHenry is a wonderful two-year-old Springer with a mind of his own.

Catch me if you can

If the call him in from the garden, he knows when it’s important and when it’s not.

If they need to go to work or if it’s bedtime, He won’t come when called. He stands just out of reach and stares – catch me if you can!

They can’t leave him out barking in the garden at night, so they now entice him, bribe him or chase him.

Henry is just the same on walks. He simply won’t come when called.

The aim of my visit seemed simple. They need Henry to come when called straight away – but it’s really a lot more complicated.

Ignoring them gives Henry fun

The real problem is one of Henry finding his owners insufficiently relevant. The fun he gets out of winding them up is a lot more rewarding than anything else they have to offer.

They’ve not taught him to be respectful. He jumps all over his people like they are stepping stones to somewhere else. Everything lavished on Henry and their other Springer Eddie is unearned, so it’s not surprising that when they want something from him he just gives them ‘that look’! See the picture on the left.

On walks Henry can accurately judge the place where they will want to put him on lead, even when they think they are varying it. He’s always one step ahead.

Walks are ruined by his non-stop barking for the ball (which of course he gets to keep him quiet). He is obsessed with all plastic ball chuckers. No other dog owner playing ball with their dog is safe from his attentions! He will leap around to grab their ball-thrower.

Last weekend on the beach, with lots of dogs, balls and ball-throwers, was the final straw. He barked non-stop. His arousal levels were out of control. They called me.

Getting Henry’s attention

I demonstrated in a few minutes how I could get his full attention on me, and get him to do anything I asked straight away – including coming in from outside.

This isn’t about training as such – he knows basic commands. It’s psychology. I started by rationing my attention, by only giving it when his feet were on the ground and when he was polite so that he would respect me. I ignored some (not all) of his friendly advances.  Anything too freely available loses it’s value and the same applies to attention.

I also used tiny treats to thank him when he did as I asked. I first called the other dog Eddie and rewarded him for coming. I ignored Henry (who of course then came straight away).

Henry will come when called

Then I called Henry. Of course he came! Speaking quietly and giving commands just once, I put him through all the ‘tricks’ he’d been taught. He really enjoyed working for me. He needs some brain work not created by himself.

I predict that Henry will up his game now that his current ploys are thwarted – and he’ll think up other things!

He will probably become frustrated and try harder, so they will need to work patiently through this and keep on their toes. For now, if they need him in from the garden promptly, he should only go out on a long lead.

On walks it’s the same. He should have no opportunity to play them up so they will keep him on a long line – working on recall – using rewards.

At the end of the walk, when they put his short lead back on again, his reward can be the ball to carry. That way a ball now will be associated only with coming home.

Three weeks later: I am enjoying seeing Henry progress and taking the dogs out has become really enjoyable again.