Teaching a Dog to Come Inside When His Guardian Rings a Bell

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 1, 2021

For this Omaha dog training session we were called in to help an Emotional Support Animal named Jack, a 6 year-old Great Pyrenees mix who has stopping coming in from the back yard when his guardian calls him.

In addition to being an emotional support animal for his guardian, Jack also helps out people with disabilities at a local behavior center. I always love helping dogs who help humans like our friend Jack does.

We started up by discussing his chasing after motorcycle issue. I wish the Guardian would’ve contacted me when this was going on so that we could practice a little counter conditioning. This is an approach that dog behaviorists often use to help a dog build a positive association with something they’re normally unhappy with or reactive to.

Jack’s desire to chase after motorcycles stems from a lack of impulse control. This is a bit of a conundrum as Jack does such a great job working as an ESA and helping out at the behavior center. But at home, at times, Jack has difficulty restraining himself.

I suspected impulse control was part of the problem when Jack got a little bit aroused during the session after I offered a few treats. I have pretty good treats so it’s not unusual for dogs to perk up and pay close attention but Jack was taking things up several notches so I dropped down to a lower value treat and started to offer them less frequently.

I blocked  Jack using my arms and occasionally stood up when he tried to give me a hug. I tried to avoid making a big deal out of it and specifically did not chastise him or offer big corrections. I did this because for dogs, good attention and bad attention is very similar. If a dog starts demonstrating a new unwanted behavior and it provokes a response, this often causes the dog to continue offering that behavior because they like the attention it generates.

At times Jack was a little distracted and his guardian repeated commands to him multiple times. This is a very common mistake that many people make with their dogs. But if we repetitively say a Cue word over and over again, and the dog does not respond, it can actually condition the dog to stop listening for that command Cue.

One of my recommendations was for her to start using a marker word to communicate to the dog that it did the action that she wanted. Some people like to use a clicker for this, but if you’re consistent, a marker word works just as well. This simple addition from humans often has a profound impact on my dog behavior clients because the dog now is dialed into exactly what the human wants.

Another dog behavior tip that I shared was suggesting that the guardian start to incorporate Premacks. The Premack principle states that a less desirable behavior will earn you a more desirable behavior. So if the dog wants to go outside, the guardian should tell him to sit first. If Jack sits within two seconds of the first and only time that she gives him the command Cue, she opens the door. If he does not sit within that two second window, she should go back to doing what she was doing and wait a minute before trying again.

At first this is going to be difficult for the guardian because she is in the habit of repeating command words when Jack doesnt respond. It will also take Jack a little bit of practice to figure out that the days of being able to respond in a more casual time are over. When he does what his guardian requests in a timely fashion, he gets rewarded. If he doesn’t do it, she moves on to whatever she was doing before and Jack is the one missing out. No punishment, but no repeating the command Cue over and over anymore.

I also recommended the guardian start practicing my petting with a purpose approach. This involves asking the dog to sit or lay down before giving it attention. Just like the Premacks, she should only give the Cue once. If Jack complies then she can pet him and if he does not, no pets will follow. This will probbaly be more difficult for the human than the dog at first. But this small change, if done consistently, will motivate Jack to not only listen better, but respond quicker and more consistnetly too.

It will be very important for the guardian to mark the things she wants while practicing Premacks and petting with a purpose to help Jack understand what she wants. These simple exercises will also help him practice a little bit of self-control and understanding that listening and responding to his human is rewarded.

Both of these exercises will set Jack up for success to address on of the main problems his guardian wanted me to help with; refusing to come in from the yard when called.

I made sure to stress that the more that the guardian marks and rewards Jack’s voluntary coming to her in the house will have a strong impact on his coming inside when out in the yard. Think of it as a baby step that helps the dog practice listening to his human.

Another great way to condition a dog to come when called is to create a scenario where the dog does the action repetitively in small stages, while being rewarded for each success. I pulled out my camera and set it up on the tripod so that I could demonstrate to the guardian how she can teach the dog to come in from the yard hen she rings a bell. Or in this case, dings a metal bowl.

You can learn how to easily teach a dog to come inside when ringing a bell by watching the free positive dog training video below.

I would like to see the guardian practice this way to train the dog to come when the bell is rung at least 3 times a day with around 20 treats. By practicing in the stages outlined in the above tutorial video, Jack’s progress will build from one success to the next; first in the kitchen, then from the dining room, then from the sunroom then from beyond the dog door and then progressively further and further into the yard. The more the guardian practices this trick to get a dog to come, the better his response will be.

Because of a mobility issue I recommended that the guardian enlist the help of her young helper who likes to come by to play with Jack. This will be very helpful when she transitions to calling Jack from outside, beyond the dog door.

But will also be important for her to mark and reward Jack for coming to her on his own accord in the home. This is a super small thing to do that can I have a huge benefit if done consistently. IN fact, not petting a dog who comes on its one is one of the primary reasons why dogs dont come inside when called.

There are a number of other impulse control exercises that I would love to show Jack. Some of them will be a challenge for his guardian to practice due to her mobility, but if she can enlist the help of her young helper or other people, we would love to share additional tips to help him learn to restrain himself. This is a skill that he will need to master in order to fully give up his desire to want to chase after the motorcycles.

In an ideal situation, Id love to see the guardiaan set up a follow up session in the spring back when the motorcycles are on the road again so that we can do a little counter conditioning as well as some more impulse control work.

To help the guardian remember everything we covered in this in-home Omaha dog training session, I recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below

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This post was written by: David Codr

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