Behavioral problems

Why Does My Dog Not Come Back When Called?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 2, 2018
Why Does My Dog Not Come Back When Called?

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One of the most important exercises in basic dog training is getting your dog to come when called. The reasons for this are not just because you may be impatient to get somewhere. It promotes good communication between dog and guardian, it helps them to coexist with you and other animals and it is fundamental for their safety. It is essential we practice this call before we take them out into situations where this safety may be compromised.

Your dog may never have learned this skill. They may also have been happy to come to when you call, but then for some reason has stopped. In this AnimalWised article, we answer why does my dog not come back when called? Once we answer this question, we also show you 7 ways to stop this from happening.

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  1. Why does my dog ignore me when I call them?
  2. Why does my dog not obey me on the street?
  3. 7 tricks to make your dog come when called

Why does my dog ignore me when I call them?

Some animal tutors wonder why their dogs ignore them when called or don't even look at them when you say their name. To help answer this question, let's imagine a situation. If your name is ‘Magdalena’, yet someone on the street calls out ‘Maria’ or ‘Julia’, you probably wouldn't turn around.

The same happens with our dogs. It may seem strange, but many dogs don't come when called because they do not associate their name properly (when used with the words ‘come here’ or similar). Like any person, dogs need to learn to recognize their name so they can properly pay attention when they are being addressed.

On the other hand, if you say your dog's name when you scold them for inappropriate behavior, the dog may associate this name with punishment and be scared to come when called. The dog may not recognize their name as their name, instead they associate it with a negative experience and will not want to come voluntarily. This is why it is important not to scold your dog using their name. In fact, there are very few instances when you should scold your dog at all.

Why does my dog not obey me on the street?

It sometimes happens your dog will come when called at home, but not do the same when out on the street or in the park. There are many causes which may explain this behavior. One is a lack of or poor socialization when young. In these cases, the dog has not yet learned to relate properly to the stimuli and individuals which inhabit their environment. These include other dogs, people, cars, busy terraces, animals in the field, etc. You will find the dog will not obey when they see other dogs, people or animals in certain places, especially the park. If a dog is lacking socialization, fear or inappropriate reaction to stimuli is often observed.

Dogs which are especially nervous or hyperactive can also stop responding when called on the street. Some may simply just get over-excited. In this state, it is very difficult for the dog to concentrate on calls or other orders given by their guardian. This is partly because they are being lead more by their instinct than their relation to the owner. In these cases, it is also important to ask if the dog suffers from stress or anxiety. If they do, then this can affect their ability to pay attention to you.

Although their training should generally prevent it, it is possible that some dogs will become too distracted when in new environments. There is often simply too much stimuli and they get overexcited. This can represent a risk to their safety as they may run off or go in the wrong direction, without changing course when called. It is important to take this into account and habituate them to different environments on a regular basis. This means parks, terraces and any place you could expect the to be overstimulated.

7 tricks to make your dog come when called

If your dog does not come when you call them, the first thing you will need is patience. Losing it and shouting at your dog to come will be counterproductive, as easy as it can be to do when frustrated with your pet. It is much better to use positive reinforcement. Dogs are very intelligent animals which can easily learn when they are given the right stimuli to develop their cognitive skills and ability.

Below we offer 7 key tips to ensure your dog comes when they are called:

1. Choose the ideal name for your dog

When adopting a dog and choosing their name, it is important to know it is not a frivolous detail of pet ownership. The choice is name is a fundamental aspect of your relationship and will be very important when it comes to canine education. You will use this name to call your furry friend to attention before indicating a particular command. This is why both dog and guardian should identify with the chosen name as it will be a major part of the bond they will share throughout life.

Obviously, there are no standards when it comes to names. However, it is important to make certain considerations which will be very useful for your day to day. For example, if you give them a name with words we use regularly such as ‘hello’ or ‘tomorrow’. This can confuse them and may contribute to their not coming when called. There are other considerations to make so make sure you choose the right name for your dog.

If the name is too long or difficult, then the dog may also become confused when called. If you want to give them a funny long name you can and use this when speaking with your friends. However, when you call the dog directly you can give them a short related nickname which they can better understand.

2. Choose one distinct word for each call

Before starting to teach a new command to your dog, you will need an appropriate short word designate it. The shortness facilitates the understanding of your best friend as they need to connect their word with the command in order to execute it successfully.

To call your dog, use words like ‘come’, ‘here’ or ‘back’. Remember to always use the same word when teaching these skills during training exercises.

3. Teach your dog to come with rewards

If you want your dog to come when you call them, you will need to work hard for them to assimilate the words you choose to use as a call with the action you want them to enact. In this case, we mean the word and the action to come when you call. The ideal is to start this as early as possible when they are a puppy and you begin their education.

In order for your dog to understand this new command, the ideal thing is to offer them a treat or reward every time they successfully respond to your call. Positive reinforcement is the best way to teach your best friend, prevent misconduct and stimulate their learning. The prizes do not necessarily have to be treats. You can use petting, phrases such as ‘good boy/girl’ or even a go on their favorite toy. The important thing is to ensure your furry pal knows it is being rewarded for the specific action.

On the other side, physical and emotional abuse is both counterproductive and dangerous. In a negative or humiliating situation, your best friend will not be able to develop their cognitive abilities or understand what positive behaviors you expect from them. But, if you reward their good behavior and recognize their efforts on a daily basis, you will stimulate their minds as well as improve the bond between each other. These are essential aspects for your dog to learn.

4. Do not use the call to scold them

Of course, we have already affirmed that scolding your dog is counterproductive in canine education. Scolding is a situation of high stress which causes very negative feelings in dogs such as fear and anxiety. If you use the word chosen for the call to express anger and point out inappropriate attitude, the dog is likely to associate this word with negative feelings. This will make it even more difficult to use the call successfully in future.

If you want to point out inappropriate behavior, use a simple ‘no’ instead. Use a balanced and firm tone rather than shouting. Additionally, your body language should represent what you are trying to convey. When you call out with your firm ‘no’, you should also ignore the dog momentarily with a calm yet indifferent posture. Don't express anger or increase their level of stress.

In this way, your furry friend can understand that this behavior has not earned a good reception since it has not generated your approval or called your attention.

5. Improve the bond with your dog

The bond you have with your dog is a key aspect of their education. Dogs obey their guardians with respect and affection, not out of fear or submission. When your best friend feels trust in you and perceives that their love is rewarded, your bond together is improved. In turn, this provides the optimal environment and conditions to develop their cognitive, social and emotional skills.

Therefore, take your time to create quality moments with your best friend in your free time. During the week, try to reserve at least 45 minutes for you and your dog to train. The physical activity and recreational time will be good for you both. If you like to exercise, you can incorporate this education into another physical activity such as canicross. Also, when at home, you can keep it going with intelligence games or teaching some basic obedience commands.

6. Teach them to walk with you correctly

While dogs will learn naturally how to walk and run on their own, it is essential you teach them how to behave positively during your walks together outside the home. In doing this, in addition to learning how to socialize properly, it is essential you teach your pooch to walk beside you properly. This means they walk calmly by your side without pulling on the leash when they see something they want to engage with or simply walking quickly ahead of you. They also shouldn't bark excessively at other dogs.

7. Seek help from a professional

If you notice your dog continues to ignore you or show behavioral problems during walks or even at home, we recommend you seek help from an expert in canine ethology or dog training. These professionals can help you establish specific guidelines and practices for the education of your canine pal according to their individual needs and specific characteristics.

Why Does My Dog Not Come Back When Called? - 7 tricks to make your dog come when called

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Not Come Back When Called?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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