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Dog Training/come command


We recently rescued an adult dog. They say he is 4 but he looks older to me than that, possibly 7. He is a neutered mix, he looks like some kind of water spaniel and acts like a hound (nose to the ground, focused only on that). Sweet natured, gets along with out other rescued dog and the 2 cats, loves kids, perfect dog. He came to us with basic obedience training, very good dog. We could tell he had been abused. He was a bit hand shy and trembled in the corner when I got the broom out the first time. We refuse to hit our animals, I cannot stress that enough, it is not an option. Our other dog, Maggie, is a Malinois who is, typical of the breed, super smart, high energy, easily bored. She knows basic obedience and a few "tricks" but she never ever would learn to come. We cannot get her to do it, the trainer could not get her to do it and we all finally gave up. Now the new dog, who used to come when called even if he was out of eyeshot. I think he has learned from Maggie that he does not have to come when called. For some reason he will not obey the "come" command any more though he still obeys the rest. I have no idea what to do. Like I said, physical punishment is out of the question, we don't have to teach him what it means like we did Maggie who was a small puppy when we got her, so how do you teach an old dog an old trick? I got so frustrated today I grabbed his collar and kept saying "Come" as I dragged him over to the door but I doubt that is the right method. Have you heard of this and can I do something about it? It used to be that when I yelled "come" he came and then Maggie would sometimes follow. Now they just both look at me like I am crazy. Thank you for your time.


Hi Diana. You are absolutely correct - saying "come" and dragging him isn't the way to get the dog to cooperate. You always have to make it worth his while to come to you. He always has a choice when he's off leash, so YOU have to be the better choice. Find out what he really loves and make that his reward. Then, as a bonus, let him go back to do what he was doing before you called him. The problem that dog owners create is that when they call the dog to "come", they are usually ending the dog's fun. They usually have to come in the house, go in the crate, go to bed, etc. They learn pretty quickly that when they are off leash, they don't have to comply.

You must spend time training the recall making it fun and exciting. Rewards can be food, chasing a ball, playing tug, the opportunity to sniff out a treat - whatever the dog finds appealing. Remember the DOG determines what is reinforcing to him. Don't assume it will always be a treat. I would also stop using the word "come" since they are both ignoring it. Create a new word while during your training sessions and they are already on their way to you.

If you want to create a great recall for both dogs, check out Leslie Nelson's "Really Reliable Recall" DVD.  You could also check out Susan Garrett's online Recallers Course that she offers once a year. Both very worthwhile.

Please let me know if you have any further questions. Good luck!

Dog Training

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Barb Gadola, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP


I can answer questions related to problem dog behaviors, teaching polite manners, puppy raising, and any type of training-related issues. My website page, offers a wealth of information on training and behavior issues as well.


I've been training dogs since 1989 and own and operate Distinctive Dog Training LLC in Keller TX. I specialize in providing practical and positive solutions for families through personalized training in their home.

Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Victoria Stilwell Positively! Licensed Trainer
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
Truly Dog Friendly Coalition

BS in Education
Graduate work in Behavioral Psychology
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Training Program
Certified Professional Dog Trainer

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