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Adding Distractions to Your Dog's Come-When-Called Training

Teaching your dog to come to you when you call her begins with in-home training — and the help of a friend. The next step is to add distraction by taking your pet outside to a confined area — such as a fenced yard, tennis court, park, or school yard — where you'll find other dogs, children, joggers, food, or friendly strangers.

Put a 12-foot leash on your dog (you can tie two six-foot leashes together. After she spots a distraction, let her become thoroughly engrossed, either by watching or straining at her leash, and then call her. More than likely, she’ll ignore you.

Give a sharp tug on the leash, and guide her back to you. Praise and pet her enthusiastically. Repeat three times per session until the dog turns and comes to you immediately when you call. If she doesn’t, you may have to use the live ring of the training collar or switch to a pinch or prong collar.

Some dogs quickly learn to avoid the distraction by staying close to you. Tell her what a clever doggie she is, and then try with a different distraction at another time.

Repeat in different locations with as many different distractions as you can find. Try it with someone offering your dog a tidbit as a distraction (don’t let the dog get the treat), someone petting the dog, and anything else that may distract her. Use your imagination. Your goal is to make sure that your pup responds reliably every time you call. Until she’s steady on leash, she most certainly won’t come when she’s off leash.

How you approach adding off-leash distractions depends on your individual circumstances. For example, take your dog to an area where you aren’t likely to encounter distractions in the form of other dogs or people. Let her off leash, and allow her to become involved in a smell in the grass or a tree. Keep the distance between you and her about ten feet.

Call her, and if she responds, praise enthusiastically and reward. If she doesn’t, avoid the temptation to call her again. Don’t worry; she heard you but chose to ignore you. Instead, slowly walk up to her, firmly take her by her collar, and trot backwards to the spot where you called her. Then praise and reward.

After she’s reliable with this exercise, try her in an area with other distractions. If she doesn’t respond, practice for the correct response with the 12-foot leash before you try her off leash again.

Understanding your dog and what interests her helps you know when she’s likely to not respond to the Come command.

Let common sense be your guide. For example, when you’re traveling and have to let her out to relieve herself at a busy interstate rest stop, you’d be foolhardy to let her run loose. When in doubt, keep her on leash.

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