How to Train a Dog to Come to Help it Be More Obedience and Get Over Fears

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 22, 2017

Murphy (left) is a three-year-old miniature Goldendoodle who lives in Omaha with his sibling Maggie. Their guardians set up a dog behavior training session with me to stop barking, charging the front door when guests arrive and train them to come when called.

Both dogs were excited when I arrived for the session with Murphy displaying an NBA skill-level vertical leap.

Once we all took a seat in the living room, I started to see the difference in the dog’s personalities and confidence levels. Murphy was much more standoffish, gravitating towards his guardians or a space on the floor several feet away from me. When he did approach, he was stiff, moved slowly, with hesitation and often in a sort of sideways approach. These all told me he was not super confident with my arrival so I gave him space.

I learned the dogs didn’t have much structure in place and this can be part of why Murphy was so insecure. Dogs probe to determine where boundaries and limits are. If they have no rules or boundaries, they end up not being corrected consistently which can lead them to get the impression that they are peers with the humans.

I suggested a number of rules and boundaries then showed the humans how to enforce them using methods that dogs use with one another so that they would relate and immediately respond.

I also went over a way of petting their dogs with a purpose and how to pet them to reward and encourage desired actions and behaviors. This kind of positive dog training can go a long ways towards helping the dogs better understand what is and is not desired by the humans.

Another dog behavior tip was to stop petting Murphy when he is anxious or nervous. Many people pet a dog to try to comfort it when its in distress. But anything a dog is doing when we pet it is what it interprets as the reason for the attention.

A better way to deal with a scared or anxious dog is to get it moving forward. The guardians said if a new person arrived or even if something new was introduced such as a new box is set on the floor, this is upsetting for Murphy. This is most likely due to a lack of socialization as a puppy. The more experiences a puppy is exposed to in its Critical Socialization Period, the more confident they are as an adult.

I had the guardians place a box on the floor and then I tossed a treat near it. It was too close to the box so Murphy didn’t come over. No problem.  I tossed another treat halfway between Murphy and the first treat. That got Murphy moving forward. Once he got to the first treat, he decided he was close enough to the second so he took another step then leaned over for it.

We kept repeating this process until Murphy was walking over to the box to get treats dropped on top with no hesitation. His guardians should recreate this technique any time Murphy is not comfortable or upset about anything new in his environment.

Next I tackled one of the primary issues the guardians wanted help with. Training the dogs to come on command.

Not only will training your dog to come help when it is outside barking or fence fighting, it is an exercise that gets the dog moving forward. So the guardians can practice the come with Murphy when he is anxious or nervous.

It may be too much for Murphy to come to a new guest at first. But once his guardians practice training the dog to come enough, he should start responding to guests too. This will help build his confidence, help him get over a fear and develop a valuable skill all in one simple exercise / command.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Be strict with the changes introduced in the session for the next 3 weeks to establish new behaviors.
  • Introduce rules and enforce them consistently.
  • Make a point of disagreeing before the dogs break a rule or within a maximum of 3 seconds after.
  • Get into a habit of following through when giving either dog a command.
  • Use passive training to reward desired actions or behaviors like coming, sitting or laying down on their own.
  • Pet the dogs with a purpose to help them see the humans as authority figures and themselves as followers.
  • Breadcrumb Murphy towards anything new that he is leery of.
  • Whenever the dog behavior is inappropriate, recreate the situation and help the dog practice it in small steps until it can execute each step the right way. Then combine the steps together.
  • Practice establishing boundaries to the kitchen when food is being prepared, around the table when humans are eating, around the door when guests, knock, etc.
  • Have family and friends come over (at least once a day) to help the dogs practice the new door behavior.
  • Use counterconditioning while ringing the door bell to help her stop reacting to it.
  • Use counterconditioning to help Murphy get over any sounds he is fearful of.
  • Use counterconditioning to help Murphy with his fear of fireworks.
  • When using counter conditioning, make sure the dog can move away if the stimulus is too much for the dog. Remember the dog needs to feel safe and non threatened for any counterconditioning exercise.
  • Use the Martingale collars and the special twist of the leash to stop the dogs from pulling on walks.
  • Add structure to feeding time; humans eat first while food is in the dog’s bowls, then the calmer dog eats next by itself then the other dog eats after the first dog moves at least 10 feet away.
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