Improve Your Dog's Recall

Doggie Web
Fido used to come when you called him and now he doesn't - what's with that?

Here's a  suggestion for when your dog starts to ignore your "come" command. While it may not work overnight, you will see results in a short time and it will be well worth the little effort it takes.
Here's what you do: While you are in the yard or in a situation that doesn't really warrant calling him - call him anyway, and give him a snack or do something fun like tossing a Frisbee a few times. Just keep practicing and rewarding when he comes. The most common mistake made with the "come" command, is once they learn it, we only use it when it really counts to you and by then they may have gotten out of the habit. So if you practice, seriously - only about 3-4 times a week, twice a day for 2 -3 weeks you should see a difference. Always have a couple of snacks in your pocket, and for no reason at all and totally unexpected, ask him to come, give him a snack or some play time. There is bound to be a day in the future you will thank yourself for taking this extra time to keep your dog's skills polished.

Why Bobbie Won’t Come

It's time to leave for work, yet Bobbie the border collie is ignoring your pleas to come into the house. As you reach for his collar, he dashes away with a "catch me if you can" gleam in his eyes. Is there anything more frustrating than a dog who doesn't come when called?

Wishful Thinking
In an ideal world, when the dog hears, "Bobbie, come!" he should drop what he is doing and fly toward his caretaker, being careful to rein in his speed just enough to execute the perfect toe-to-toe sit with his commander in chief. Sadly, many dogs think the command to come is an invitation for a game of canine keep-away. How did your dog's skills go from perfectpuppy "recall"—the standard dog-training
term for coming when called—at three months of age to this frustrating and dangerous behavior as an adult? In order to figure out the answer to this question, consider what "come" now means to your dog.
Does it mean that you are about to do something unpleasant but necessary to the dog? This includes trimming his nails, giving him a pill, popping him in the bath, or restricting his freedom so you can go off to work. Don't color the come command with negative connotations—just go get the dog without a command if what follows isn't particularly rewarding. There is no need to warn him that he won't like what follows. 
Does "come" mean the end of a good time? If you only call your dog to come into the house or to leave the dog run, why would he want to comply? However, if you begin to call him a half-dozen times or so during an outing, pop a treat in his mouth, and send him back for more play, he'll learn that obeying the command most likely will be beneficial to him.
Does "come" mean the dog must come each and every time he is called? Most dog owners think that is what they are teaching, when in
fact they are not consistent about making the dog comply. Until the dog proves reliable under many circumstances, regardless of environment, level of distraction, and distance from the handler, he should not be off-leash and expected to come when called. If the dog is not on a leash or long line and cannot be reeled in (made to comply), the recall command should not be used. Why let the dog think that "come" is a multiple-choice request?

Teaching "Come"
Begin with the dog on a six-foot lead. Let him get interested in something and then call, "Bobbie, come," in an upbeat voice while running backward, away from the dog. As you are running, hold a treat at the dog's nose level to serve as a lure. When the dog is a few steps away, raise the treat up a bit while telling the dog to sit.
After the dog sits, reach out, grab his collar, and reward him with the treat. When the dog has achieved perfection at this level in a variety of environments, graduate to using a 15-to-30-foot line or retractable leash. (Do not use retractable leads on crowded sidewalks or busy streets.) Increase the difficulty quotient by employing an assistant to distract the dog with food, toys, or another dog.

As the recall improves, there will be no need to run backward or give a treat every time, but the command itself always should sound upbeat and welcoming to the dog. When you get unhesitating compliance 100 percent of the time when using a long line, begin off-leash training in confined areas. If the dog begins to tune you out, take a step
backward and begin using light lines like light nylon cord until you get compliance.
One of the crucial components to a great recall is a strong bond with your dog. Have you encouraged your dog to frequently check in with you whether he's on leash or off? Reward eye contact—even if it's with little more than a smile. Disappear from your dog behind the garage or a tree and make him seek you out. Insist he request permission before he is allowed to bound off leash, and end the fun when he chooses to forget you're there. Be persistent when teaching this command. The perfect recall will not only get you to work on time, but it may also one day save your dog's life.

Information adapted from Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

What is Coprophagia, and How to Stop It


An explanation of why a dog may eat feces, and how to curb the problem.

Coprophagia is the ingestion of feces.  It was first believed that this behavior was caused by poor diet or poor health, but current research has discounted this.  Dogs are historically scavengers, and coprophagia may be a scavenger behavior or they may learn this behavior from other dogs.  In some dogs coprophagia is a way to get your attention, or it could be caused by anxiety or boredom.

  •  The best way to correct coprophagia is to prevent access to fecal material.  Keep the dog's yard and kennel clean.  
  • When walking your dog, keep him/her on a leash.  
  • Some dogs are attracted to cat litter boxes.  For this, make the litterbox inaccessible by using a covered litterbox or place the box on an elevated surface. (Just be sure the cat can still get to it!)  
  • Above all, do not punish your dog. There are some products available which will deter a dog from eating their own feces.  For more information, contact your veterinarian.  

Food Aggression

Does your sudden appearance in the kitchen at your dog's mealtime elicit a glare and a growl? Does a gift of rawhide or marrow bone send your usually mild-mannered canine diving under the nearest
coffee table while snarling, "Grrr, mine!"? If these scenarios sound familiar to you, your dog is suffering from canine possession aggression (CPA), also known as food or object guarding.

The Trouble with Kibbles

In most cases of CPA, the dog no longer views you as the provider of good things, but rather as the scoundrel who might relieve him or her of hard-earned treasures such as meals, treats, chew toys, or, in some instances, forbidden objects such as shoes and gloves. If you remove these items as a punishment when he growls, it will only serve to further convince your dog that his suspicions about you were right all along.

Make a Date with Your Dog — for Dinner

How often have you heard people say, "Leave the dog alone while he eats"? Although it probably makes sense to keep toddlers away from Shep at mealtime, a dog can get an inflated sense of himself if left alone while he eats from puppyhood on. After all, in a dog or wolf pack, the alpha or top dog gets to eat his fill first, uninterrupted.
Instead, family members should be present while the dog  eats — starting when he or she is a puppy. From time to time, it is a wise idea to approach the bowl and add a little something extra — some scrambled egg, a brokenup biscuit, a bite of turkey hotdog, or some string cheese.

Bowling Him Over

If you have an older dog who has already perfected his "Cujo Eats" imitation and it isn't safe to approach his bowl, a different strategy is needed.

Step one is to do away with his food bowl entirely for a week or two. Shep will be dining out of your hand, just a few kibbles at a time.

Step two marks the return of the food bowl, but it should remain empty until the handler passes by and drops a few kibbles in it. After those are eaten up, drop small handfuls into your dog's bowl at intervals of one to three minutes until the whole meal has been consumed.

By now your dog should be practically begging you to approach his bowl.

In step three, put a semi-filled bowl on the floor and, as you pass by, drop in a few betterthan-kibbles tidbits. On your next pass by the bowl, add the remaining kibbles.

Step four is to put a full food bowl on the floor as your dog holds a sit and stay. Release him with a cheery "OK." Then, once or twice a week, call your dog away from his bowl during mealtime and reward him with a tasty tidbit for coming to you. Using your sit-and-stay, wait, and take-it commands with the dog will make it absolutely clear to Shep who owns the kitchen and the tasty morsels in it.

Each of these steps should be undertaken for 10 to 14 days at each meal before going to the next step. While you are grappling with a food guarding problem, your dog should wear a leash at mealtimes as a safety measure, but don't use it to control your dog unless you are in jeopardy of being hurt. Since guarding behaviors seldom happen in a vacuum and can often signal other problems in the dog-and-handler relationship, a basic obedience course is highly recommended to underscore handler leadership to the dog.

Finally, if you experience any backsliding, return to step one. If you do not succeed or your dog is severely aggressive around all food products and paraphernalia, hire a certified dog trainer or applied animal behaviorist to help bring this conflict to resolution.

Information adapted from Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

Separation Anxiety

The shelter receives many calls related to a pet's unacceptable or disruptive behaviors. Separation anxiety is a common reaction of pets, especially dogs, when left alone for long periods of time. Owners are plagued by the disruptive behaviors that result from separation anxiety and will often want to surrender the pet to us.
Being alone is an unnatural condition for a dog. Boredom and loneliness could lead to destructive behavior. For those of you who own a dog that shows disruptive behavior when left alone, you can turn the behavior around with effort and understanding. It may be difficult to break ingrained behavioral patterns in both the dog and yourself, but it is possible.
For those of you who may be contemplating acquiring a dog who will be left alone on a regular basis, we ask that you consider two things:
1. What are your motives in adopting a dog?
2. Are you willing to put in the time and effort required to meet the dog's needs?
Honest answers to these question may save you and the dog much grief and aggravation.
In itself, leaving your dog alone may not constitute inhumane treatment of the animal. It does, however, border on inhumane when the owner is not willing to minimize the stress experienced by the dog and share responsibility for the dog's misbehavior.
Please feel free to contact the shelter if you have questions regarding animal behavior. We have an extensive file of literature available at no charge.

How to stop 'home alone' barking

  • On a day free of work commitments, go through your normal morning routine, but don't go far from the door once you've left home.
  • If your dog is quiet for a predetermined portion of time (10 to 30 seconds), enter your home and reward the dog with a treat. If the dog barks, set the timer back to zero.
  • A sharp rap on the door with a metal object after a bark may improve things. Don't shout though - most dogs prefer negative attention to no attention at all and may consider your yelling a reward.
  • Once you have your first success, re-enter the home, tell the dog "yes" or "good," reward him, and go about your business. Keep all comings and goings low key so he isn't excessively revved up each time.
  • Repeat the exercise numerous times, lengthening the time away with each success. If you have to restart the count more than a couple of times, you may be moving too far, too fast.
  • If the dog figures out you're on the other side of the door, increase your distance to replicate departure.
  • Let your neighbors know you are aware of the problem and are working on it.

Source: Information adapted from Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT


Keep 'Em Working

There was a time when every dog had a job. The border collie herded sheep, and the komondor guarded them. The Siberian husky moved the men of the North, while the Alaskan malamute hauled freight.
Depending on geography and game, any number of breeds helped bring home dinner. Meanwhile, back at the homestead, terriers kept busy chasing the fox out of the henhouse and exterminating any vermin that crossed their path.

Today, unemployment has hit the dog world hard. And without work, all too many of our canine companions occupy themselves with destructive chewing and digging. They liven up their days with choruses of barks and howls, and generally worry themselves into a dither. In other words, they are bored and underexercised! The
solution is increased exercise and structured play.


A walk around the block or a ten-minute romp in the backyard several times a day is minimal exercise, and is not enough to meet the average dog's needs. Active breeds (dogs from the sporting, herding, hound, and terrier groups, northern breeds, or any mixtures of these)
and virtually all adolescents (dogs who are six to 18 months old) require much, much more.

Brisk on-leash jogging, race walking, or strolling several miles can tire out Bonkers. Playing Frisbee or retrieving a tennis ball in a fenced-in enclosure is wonderful aerobic exercise. Road working your dog by bicycle or in-line skates can tire out the likes of just about any boxer or Doberman.

Make sure you have veterinary approval for any of these high-level activities, especially if your dog has been the neighborhood couch potato lately. Start slowly to build up your dog's stamina, strengthen his muscles, and toughen the pads of his feet. If your canine is dog friendly, the neighborhood dog run is the urban owner's best friend. What could be better than a safe, fenced-in area where your dog can run offleash with his own kind? But it is important to be sure that you are able to call your dog out of the play group (and
that your dog will respond appropriately) in case there is an emergency and everyone needs to swiftly get hold of his or her own dog.

Structured Play

Base your play on the jobs your dog's forefathers used to perform. Most golden and Labrador retrievers, for example, are naturals at water retrieving tennis balls or nubby rubber bumpers. Corgis and border collies are in seventh heaven when herding a giant boomer ball. Bichons frises and Maltese delight in trick training. Beagles will excel at biscuit hunts around your property.

Many dogs enjoy a rousing game of tug-of-war, but beware: teaching a dog that he is stronger than you can be hazardous to your health! If the dog growls in a menacing manner (as opposed to a play growl) or stiffly stands over the tug toy and snarls, abort the game. This activity is not appropriate for your dog. Perhaps he'll do better with one of the many food-dispensing toys on the market. Make him work for his breakfast kibbles!

Remember that as the leader you must always be in control of these games — when, where, and for how long Bonkers gets to play. Increasing your exercise time together may just add a sparkle to the eye and a spring to the step for both of you!

Information adapted from Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

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