Teaching Duke its Good to Come When Called

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 23, 2013


Duke a nine-month-old Lab Beagle mix. His owners had contacted me for help getting Duke to listen and respond to them as well as end his habit of over drinking water.

Recently Duke had started to hesitate or outright refuse to come in when he was called in. He would walk close to the front door then hesitate, shutdown or sometimes only come inside when pulled in.

When I arrived for the appointment, Duke greeted me with an enthusiastic, playful energy. He got in my business sniffing a little bit, but aside from that was well mannered.

As I often do, I asked his owners what rules and boundaries he was expected to follow. As is also usually the case, Duke didn’t really have any rules. When you combine a puppy with a lax living arrangement, sometimes the result are preventable problems. After observing him for a while, I could see that his behavior was pretty good and only needed minor refinement. To cement things properly, I suggested a few simple rules to help remind Duke of his position in the pack.

To further enhance his perceived rank in the pack, I demonstrated a leadership exercise I frequently share with my clients. It involves placing a tasty treat on the floor, then communicating to the dog that its not allowed to have it. When done properly the exercise elevates the human’s authority and leadership in the dog’s eyes while also teaching the dog to focus and learn how to restrain himself. 

Duke got the experiment right away which showed me he was an intelligent dog. I coached his owners through it with equal success and gave them instructions on how to raise the level of difficulty to help increase his focus, restraint and respect for his owners.

Next we worked on a recall exercise inside so that Duke understood the desired action and reward for his participation. As soon as he was happily bounding to whomever called him, we went outside to repeat the exercise in a real life situation. Within a few reps, Duke was running over to his owner at their front door without any of his former hesitation.

By practicing this exercise daily, Duke will build up a positive memory of the reward he gets for following his owner’s commands which should eliminate his hesitation when he is called to come inside in the future. After that, the daily repetitions will reinforce the habit of coming when called.

Next we tackled Duke’s problem of drinking water to excess. His owners had started to pull his water bowl away as he would simply continue to drink until the bowl was empty, then usually throw it up a minute later. But taking the bowl away doesnt teach the dog to stop over drinking.

I showed his owners how to interrupt him from drinking after he had lapped up a reasonable amount. At first Duke attempted to bypass and ignore our corrections so he could return to the water bowl. But after a few repetitions he simply laid down on the floor a few feet away from his bowl after being told he had had enough water.

It will take some consistent monitoring and corrections when he over drinks, but he was so quick to surrender that I expect the over drinking will stop very quickly.

By the end of the session Duke was laying on the floor relaxing even though a bowl of water sat only a few feet away. Practicing the recall exercise daily for a week or two should completely eliminate any hesitation when he is called in. Repeating the leadership exercise and interrupting him from over drinking should help him respond to and respect his owner’s commands better in the future.

Considering his level of intelligence and wonderful personality, I’m guessing Duke’s problems will quickly become a thing of the past.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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