Layla really is the near-perfect little dog for her lady owner, particularly at home. She stable, confident and can be taken anywhere.
When off lead, Layla won’t come when called.
The one and only area where she is less than perfect is that, once she’s free, she may run off and she won’t come back.
The three-year-old Bichon Frise is an independent little thing. She’s not demanding. She may do her own thing but that’s no problem – not most of the time anyway.
To come when called isn’t really about training. Layla knows what ‘Come’ means, I’m sure. She just doesn’t see a sufficiently good reason to do so.
This is about two things: motivation and building up a conditioned response – so that when she hears the word ‘Come’ she reacts more or less automatically.
Where motivation is concerned, the lady needs to make herself as compelling and relevant (to Layla) as possible. Mutual love isn’t quite enough. When out, the lady is competing with the environment of wonderful smells, other dogs, birds and so on.
What can she do?
She can work on getting and holding Layla’s attention at home to begin with. To make herself motivating she can get Layla to work for some of her food – Layla loves her food fortunately.
The lady could also use fun if she could find something they mutually enjoyed. Although it may not be appropriate in this case, here is a nice video showing how play can be used to make the person really desirable to be with and to come back to.
Over the past two years at least, Layla has learnt that ‘Come’ is optional. She comes back when she wants. She has also learnt that the word come will probably be repeated many times “Layla, Layla, Come, Come, Come…”.
This selective hearing now has to be replaced with a new, automatic, response to the word ‘Come’.
There is no quick fix for a dog that ignores being called. The only way to achieve good recall, particularly if one is unable to run about oneself, is through lots of repetition where the dog is only set up to succeed.
When someone says ‘Catch’ we put your hands out without thinking. When the lady says ‘Layla – Come’, Layla needs to run to her almost without thinking.
Frequent short sessions, stopping while it’s still fun.
‘Come’ meaning ‘come’ will be best absorbed by Layla if done in graded steps, over a period of time. It will be a good while before ‘off lead’ is reached.
So, I have created a plan where they start in the house with frequent sessions of walking around. Copying what I did, the lady walks away from her calling “Layla – Come!”. Layla catches up and is rewarded. The lady can then call her from room to room. She can then call her when she’s out of sight. Eventually they can graduate to having Layla on a 30-foot long line, outside where there are more distractions, tied to something like a tree.
Bit by bit you they will be building up an automatic response.
The lady will be motivating Layla: ‘I’ve been called, I will come right away. It will be worth it!”.
She can also reinforce ‘Come’ by calling Layla for anything she likes, like meals, putting her lead on for a walk or going to the car.
When Layla is running on the beach on her long line, the lady should only call “Layla – Come” when she is coming anyway. The competition from the environment makes it too likely that ‘Come’ will be ignored and devalued.
How long will it take? Who knows. It will depend upon how patient the lady is and how many short sessions she can manage – sufficiently short that Layla remains motivated and doesn’t become bored.
Two or more years of freelancing won’t be overturned in just a few weeks.