Won’t Come When Called. She Freelances.

Lily won’t come when called.

The word here is Won’t. Lily hears. Lily understands. Lily decides not to.

She has been taken to special recall classes and was a star pupil in that environment.

She won't come when calledEighteen month old cream German Shepherd Lily and was a joy to meet. She had the ideal start in life. Her mother and father were both friendly family pets so she has inherited great genes temperamentally.

I don’t see a fair example of dogs, particularly German Shepherds, because I go to help sort out problems. It’s was real treat to be welcomed so happily.

The problem with Lily is that she won’t come when called.

Lily has got out of the front door. She then ran from garden to garden as the lady called her frantically. She sat in the middle of the road and just looked at her. Eventually a neighbour caught her.

Chasing cows.

What brought this to a head is that recently Lily got into a field full of cows and was chasing and barking at them. What a nightmare! She had run off, out of the field they were in and into a cow field. The lady, uselessly, was running after her, shouting for her to come back.

The lady loves to see her beautiful young dog running freely but that can no longer be possible if she won’t come when called. People with children can be intimidated as can someone with a small or nervous dog when a large dog runs up to them, barking.

So long as she’s off lead she loves other dogs. On lead, she will lunge and bark.

The fact Lily won’t come when called on walks will be part of a bigger picture. I did a bit of digging (something Lily likes to do but that’s another story!).

Lily won’t come when called in from the garden.

When out in the garden, particularly at bed time, young Lily won’t come in until she is ready. She may even enjoy refusing – playing games, teasing.

If she won’t come in from the garden when called, then there is little hope that she will come away from a rabbit running towards a road when they are out.

That Lily often won’t come when called isn’t due to lack of ‘training’. Good recall is about motivation and habit. Lily is constantly rehearsing not coming when called. She understands what is wanted and then decides to comply when she is ready.

When off lead, Lily may sometimes chase off people on bikes, people with dogs on lead or children – or cows. She is rehearsing this same behaviour at home by barking at people passing her garden fence. It works and the people go.

Despite training classes, Lily is such a puller that the lady can’t cope without using a Gentle Leader head halter.

She showed me what Lily does when she picks it up. The dog runs away from it. She hates it. This in itself is an eye-opener. It’s like she is being called for punishment.

Lily doesn’t display the usual doggy joy preceding a walk.

She walks down the street, restrained by something that is uncomfortable and makes her feel trapped. Stress builds in both her and the lady. Now she may react to a dog, something she never does if off lead and the dog is free too. She is held tight by the nose. More stress.

Then….off lead at last…she has freedom!

She runs. She plays with other dogs.

Then lady calls her. She won’t come back.

If I were Lily I wouldn’t want to come back to have the leash attached to that head halter again.

Lily will be introduced to a Perfect Fit harness and learn to walk nicely on a loose and longish lead – in total comfort. With a little work, both will enjoy walks a lot more.

At home Lily must lose her freedom in the garden. No more rehearsing the unwanted behaviour. She can be out on a long line (or retractable lead to avoid tangling) so recall is no longer optional. The lady will call her in immediately each time she barks.

Lily will be paid for coming. She will always be rewarded with food as she steps over the threshold.

Lily simply must lose opportunity to rehearse chasing dogs away and ignoring being called in – for a some time.

Indoors the lady has work to do too. She will repeatedly call Lily and reward her, ‘Lily Come’. Lily can earn some of her food. She can be ‘programmed’ to come to a whistle which hasn’t a history of being ignored, with constant repetition and reward.

In open spaces the long line will be attached to the harness so she can have partial freedom. Now the recall work can really begin – building on what they are already doing at home. Lots of repetition and lots of reinforcement.

To come back when called must be worthwhile to Lily.

Being called should never herald ‘time to go home’, or ‘I see another dog’. It must be random as can the reward. It need not always be food.

Lily will lose the option to decide ‘no, I won’t come when called’, because she will be on the line.

Importantly, her brain and her life will be enriched in every way possible with stimulating activities to compensate for what she lacks in off-lead freedom.

Dogs that freelance can cause real problems for other people, dogs, and other animals. We do things the wrong way around. We give our puppies freedom (puppies tend to stay close), and as they become teenagers, too late we then try to rein them in!

It’s so much better to give puppy very little freedom and gradually introduce more distance in a controlled way, reinforcing recall constantly. We are prepared for some teenage rebellion and having to reintroduce temporary restrictions! Lily is still an adolescent too.

Recall is recall. Recall is not ‘come when you are ready’.

Reliable recall is the key to freedom.

Come When Called. Ignores. Henry is a Scream

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 pogress and taking the dogs out has become really enjoyable again.

Labrador Barks Till They Get Up

Chocolate Labrador Tilly posing on the turquoise rugThere was no barking when I rang the doorbell. Was I at the right house? I was greeted politely by beautiful 16-month-old Chocolate Labrador, Tilly. Here she is, posing on the turquose rug!

By 6am every morning Tilly wakes up and starts to bark. She barks and she barks. This happens in the weekends also which is annoying. Because they get up at 6.30 anyway Tilly obviously feels that her barking is rewarded if she keeps it up for long enough. Then she is usually given her breakfast straight away.

The only possible external cause we could think of for the early wake up is the boiler coming on at about 6am. Neighbours may routinely be going to work, but not at weekends. She is, however, rewarded for barking in a big way. Either the lady or the gentleman comes down. LOVELY. She is probably given a bit of fuss. LOVELY. Then she has breakfast. LOVELY. All these lovely things happening at the beginning of the day under her own terms (or so she believes).

Upon examination many of the other things in Tilly’s life are regulated by her if she is sufficiently persistent, including when she is touched (she mouths when she hasn’t initiated the contact), she is played with when she chooses, if she whines and barks at food time she is fed, when they are out she will only come back when called when and if she chooses. A typical teenager, one might say!  In order to help the morning problem, Tilly needs to start to realise that she’s not the main decision-maker in other areas either.

She needs to be offered plenty of attention and lovely stuff, perhaps even more than she has now – but when they choose and not when Tilly chooses! Our plan for the mornings is, for a start, to try setting the boiler for later. When they come down, to take no notice of her at all for a good ten minutes so their entry into the kitchen is no longer particularly lovely. They will feed her later and do other things first. In order to reinforce that feeding only happens if she has been quiet before they enter the room, they will try leaving the room for a minute or so before coming back in and feeding her.

She is wary of young children but, being so friendly with people and other dogs, that should be easily solvable, as should the mouthing and the recall.

So, today I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful dog with some issues that could be worrying if they get worse, and they are wisely nipping them in the bud.

A week later: “Just wanted to give you a little update on Tilly. She barked at 6.30 BUT after a couple of barks stopped! started a little again at 7.00am then stopped and we went down when she wasnt barking at 7.15am progress!!”

Little Patterdale is a Law Unto Himself

Patterdale is used to being obeyedBertie is a big dog in a little dog’s body!

These pictures tell a story. When I arrived he was jumping at me. We all sat down with the idea of waiting until he was calm before I would greet him, but he barked at me and tried to jump on me, and then at his lady and gentleman, in order to get attention. Even to be told to stop or shouted at would have constituted attention, and he wasn’t getting it. Bertie barked. Bertie barked.

Their usual method of say ‘No Bark’ didn’t work (seldom does apparently). He had brief breaks and then came back and started again. After an hour or so of ear-piercing noise, having tried different tactics, we tried putting him calmly in the crate in which he slept at night and covering it. Quiet at last! We repeated this many times letting him out, barking started, and putting him back in. Soon he was welcoming his new behaviour boundaries and some meaningful leadership. Then, eventually, he went to his bed and relaxed, a happy dog.

Bertie simply isnTime out in his crate‘t accustomed to not being obeyed. One of the main reasons I was called was that he wouldn’t come in from the garden. Why should he? He runs them a merry dance, ducking and diving and hiding under the car while they try to fish him out. Not so funny at midnight in dressing gowns and wanting to go to bed! Bertie is very good at demanding attention when he wants it, but not good at doing what they want! So – leadership/dog ‘parenting’ skills are needed.

He is well trained so far as understanding commands is concerned, but understanding is one thing, obeying is another. A little tiny dog can so easily run rings around tall humans!

Most people with the best will in the world are trying to do right by their dog by ‘training’ it; however, using traditional trainingBertie settles at last methods or ideas may not work because they are approaching training from a human perspective and human values which mean diddly squat to any intelligent dog. They need to learn to think like a dog and approach training from a dog’s perspective, and then eventually they will have a wonderful animal that chooses to work with them of its own free will.

Basically, if Bertie knows they want him to do something, that is his reason for not doing it!

 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.