Nala ignores Come when called when she sees another dog to run up to and jump on! That’s their only problem really apart from some jumping up due to over-excitement.
Nala is an unusual-looking dog. Stunning, large and fluffy. She is a very friendly mix of Leonberger and Giant Poodle.
They have worked hard with training the two–year-old. The problem isn’t severe – yet. She has good recall mostly but she ignores Come when she’s called when they most need it. They are doing the right thing getting help before it escalates into anything more.
The family lives in a country area where they seldom would encounter people or dogs on walks. They are doing just the right thing by taking Nala to places with people, dogs and action to keep her habituated to these things. However, they may be flooding her. Too much too quickly and overload.
They will take it more gradually now and limit the number and intensity of encounters on walks bearing in mind ‘trigger stacking’. As soon as Nala gets excitably jumpy – leaping about – it indicates that she is over threshold. They will retreat and call it a day. They can find areas that are quieter for now. Over time, as she relaxes more, they can push ahead with busier places.
I suspect that what looks like excitement has an element of anxiety as well. For this reason, she should associate encountering dogs in particular with only good things and comfortable equipment.
On seeing another dog, she ignores Come
Because Nala ignores Come when she’s called, after a worrying incident the lady is reluctant to let her off lead.
She is a big dog to control and they use a Gentle Leader. She will no doubt feel trapped on a head halter with a retractable lead. They will change to a harness where the lead can double up at her chest as well. This should give them just as much physical control whilst at the same time be a lot nicer for Nala. A long loose line will replace the retractable, sprung lead when not by the road.
What she should Nala do?
Now Nala needs to know what she should do when she spots another dog. This isn’t to immediately rush over and jump onto it. This is to come back to the lady as a default instead! It’s not like the well-trained dog doesn’t understand coming when called, but when fired up she simply ignores Come.
They will classically condition her to come to a whistle. She will hear the whistle and it will no longer be ‘shall I come now or later’! She should come without thinking. This will simply take lots of preparation at home with repetition and rewards.
With Nala beside her, the lady can reinforce every time she looks at the other dog. I suggest instead of making her sit and holding her tight as the dog approaches (which must build up anticipation, frustration and possible anxiety) that she keeps moving.
The worst Nala has ever done is intimidate a scared dog to the point of bullying and to annoy people by jumping all over their dogs. Some people can be scared when rushed by such a large dog.
So, with Nala beside her, each time she looks at a dog the lady will say ‘Good’ and feed her.
She gives her ‘Good’ and food for two reasons. As a thank you reward to make walking beside her nice, and to build positive associations with other dogs whilst being calm.
For now they should keep Nala on the long line even when walking with friends and their dogs. They can still play. They can drop the line so that they can get her back immediately if necessary if she ignores Come. They can save the whistle until it’s properly ‘charged’ – like a battery – with lots of repetition.
They will eventually have Nala under remote control with really reliable recall so she no longer ignores Come. In addition, with a behaviour in place that is incompatible with Nala rushing other dogs, the lady will relax and really enjoy their walks.