It’s frustrating to see dogs get punished, scolded or admonished by well-meaning owners for an act or behaviour when they have not been taught any differently.
For example, if you visit any dog park on a regular basis you’ll witness the following events unfold…
A person arrives at the park with their dog and lets him go to romp, play and get exercise (which is a good thing). Now it is time to go home. The ritual begins of the owner trying to get the dog to willingly come back to them on command. It starts off with calling the dog’s name, to no avail. The next step by the human is to repeat the command several times. Then they proceed to call the dog’s name while increasing the volume again, no with success in getting the dog to come back.
Now the human’s frustration level is increasing rapidly and alternate strategies are employed, such as shaming the dog by saying something like “stupid dog” (which by the way, this effort to shame is completely lost on the dog).
Other common desperation tactics include telling the dog “OK, fine…I’m leaving without you” or a loud and clear voice, the human yells “TREAT!!!” Somewhere along the line of yelling at and berating the dog, the human might walk towards the dog, speeding up as the gap between dog and owner closes and human reaches for the dog only to have the dog scamper away in an effort avoid their human. This might result in more frustration until finally the dog gets tired, relents and lets the owner put the leash on and exit the park in a huff possibly yanking on the leash in an effort to send the dog a message. (Again, this is lost on the dog.)
I often ask owners who participate in this ritual on an almost daily basis, how they you practice recall with their dog. The response is usually a blank stare.
To get your dog to come to you nine times out of ten, or better, practice is required. Practice must happen often. Mastering any command takes time, practice and consistency from the dog owner and/or their family. It must be the same command everytime with the same voice tone, signal and body language. If time is not invested in your dog mastering basic commands, there no grounds to complain when your dog fails to obey a command they haven’t been taught.
Imagine being asked by a friend, spouse or boss to do something you have never done before and you get yelled time and time again when you fail or don’t do it at all? How would that feel? Giving a command to a dog that he doesn’t know and then getting upset about his failure to perform is not fair to the dog. It gives the dog a reason to not want to be around you. As a dog owner, we want the opposite of that. We want out dog(s) to think that the best place in the world is with their human. Master the commands. Practice the commands often. Be patient. Make it fun. Over time, your dog will understand and comply. It will be well worth it!