Call your dog - go on, call him now. Did he look up with pleasurable anticipation? Did he come to you? If not, try again - and listen to yourself. Would you come if you were him?
Dogs are simple creatures. They do what works. And they learn fast.
How many times did you have to put your hand on your cooker’s hotplate before you decided it wasn’t a good idea? Just the once, I’d guess!
So if you call your dog and when he arrives you lean over him and say, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU HORRIBLE DOG I’VE TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE,” how likely is it that he’s going to come next time?
9 Rules for a Perfect Recall
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I know a boy with learning difficulties called Jonathan. When his mother was happy with him, she’d call “Johnny!”. When there was trouble looming, it would be “JonaTHAN!” Result: this uncomplicated child would only style himself ‘Johnny’. He’d say “I hate ‘Jonathan’”. Out of the mouths of babes and little dogs ...
So while we need the patience of a saint not to over-react sometimes in the stress of daily living, there is one thing we can change so that we aren’t blitzing our dog’s recall.
And it’s this:
Your dog’s name is precious
To his ears it should be the best sound in the world - especially coming from your mouth.
- Only use your dog’s name when you can pair it with good things. That means, “Fido!” — “here’s a treat for you”, or “Fido!” — “what a lovely doggiewoggie you are”, or “Fido!” — “let’s put your lead on for a walk”, or “Fido!” -- “here’s your dinner”, or “Fido!” — “grab this toy!” … you get the picture.
- When you’re frustrated or short-tempered, you find your new shoes have acquired decorative toothmarks, you need to interrupt barking in a hurry - you DON’T use his name. What do you use instead? Absolutely anything you like. From “Dog!” to “Sausages!”, from “Woowoohoo!” to “&**$^**£*!!”. Whatever you call, don’t call his name.
If, upon sober and honest reflection, you realise that you have been colouring your dog’s perception of his name - and I know how easily this can happen, especially when you’re running a busy family - fear not: you can change it all.
As I said above, dogs are simple creatures. They do what works. And they learn fast.
Simply ensure that you follow 1) and 2) above. Focus on it religiously for three days and see where you are.
I’d like to hear your results!
By the way, often all you need to do to prevent your dog doing something you don’t like is to distract him by calling his lovely name. No need to stress yourself out by remonstrating with him. There’s no place for Victorian morality in working with your pet! Get the result you want and move on.
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