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My dog won’t come when called: what should I do?

Author: Alexandra Wrigley

Have you experienced the following scenario before:

You are inside your home, waiting for your dog to come inside. You call your dog’s name to save you from walking, but there’s no response.

So you try a few times, and there’s still no response!

We’ve all been there, whether it’s in your home or somewhere else. Whether it’s a puppy or an adult dog, don’t worry; this can be easily resolved with practice.

But before we provide you with any valuable tips, let’s look at why your dog won’t come in.

Why doesn’t your dog come when called?

Generally, when dogs don’t come when their name has been called, it could be down to the following:

  • Your dog is unfamiliar with the command

The most obvious reason your dog won’t come when called is that they don’t recognize the command. Similarly, they could be getting the command mixed up with something else.

  • Lack of practice

To get your dog familiarised with the command, you have to practice it consistently. A major reason it’s not coming to you is that it’s not been given a chance to become familiar with the command. Similarly, if you practice little in a distracting environment, they won’t come to you at all.

  • Fear of getting into trouble

Your dog may have gotten into trouble previously, and they could be apprehensive about being told off again. Unknowingly the tone you use to call your dog could match the tone of voice you used to scold it.

Therefore it may be too scared to come to you out of fear it’s in trouble. The best way to tackle this is to use an upbeat and high-pitched voice when calling them. If they do come to you, use a reward to praise them.

  • They could find it irrelevant

When you call your dog and it comes to you but you don’t offer it anything good in return like a stroke or a treat, it will lose motivation. After some time of doing this with no incentive, they will choose not to acknowledge the command.

  • They could be actively disobeying you

Sometimes, dogs can often feel like their fun is being stopped when called to ‘come.’ Therefore they choose to run away when called to prevent their fun and games from being stopped.

Our tips to get your dog to come when called

my dog won't come to me anymore

1.   Use positive reinforcement

For all tricks for dogs to learn, they work best if there is a treat or a toy involved. You can practice by calling your dog, and when it comes to you, reward them. Then, move away from your dog and repeat the process.

This is known as the Premack Principle, which states high probability behaviors will reinforce low probability actions. Automatically through consistent practice, your dog will become associated with a high-value reward. Sometimes they will naturally come to you or respond when you call in anticipation of a treat.

2. Make eye contact

When you call your dog to come, you will want to make eye contact with it and say the command in a cheerful voice. Doing this will allow your puppy to feel like you’re excited for it to come over, and there could be something good waiting at the end of the command.

3. Limit the distractions

The best way to practice this technique is when there’s no noise around. So, if you have children, do it at a time they’re asleep or out of the house. Similarly, if you have other pets, do it when they are sleeping or not in a place where they could disturb your dog. Make sure there’s no outside noise, just you and your dog. Then practice the command.

4. Turn it into a game

Some dog breeds are highly intelligent and can become bored very quickly. Hence why they require a lot of mental stimulation. One great way of stimulating your dog’s brain is by turning this into a game.

Once you’ve got your dog to come, immediately run in the opposite direction. What this does is encourage your dog to engage in the form of social play.

Make sure you let your dog catch you and reward it. Play this game a few times and when it gets tired, practice the come command. Do this a couple of times a day for a week, and notice the difference.

Then, after a week, do this technique and call your puppy while standing still.

Final Thoughts

Many dogs go through periods where they don’t respond to their name or the ‘come’ command. Sometimes this can be because they don’t know the command or choose to ignore it. They could also be scared of getting into trouble or they could be actively disobeying you.

To rectify this, you can practice through positive reinforcement, use a leash, make eye contact, limit your distractions or turn it into a game.

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