Off Leash Obedience

Charli Saltzman

It is tradition for my family to spend Saturday evenings at my grandparents’ house. That tradition has taken place since I was five. All of us, including my dog, come along. One evening, someone headed out the back door and, forgetting that a dog was there, left it wide open. Their yard is not fenced in, and Joba took it upon himself to walk out that door. Thankfully, we saw him walk out the door, but he kept walking out toward the street. I kept calling him to come. I tried several different ways to get his attention, but he would stop and stare defiantly back at me. I tried to use a warning tone, a happy tone, and a forceful tone, but nothing would turn that dog around. Finally, my dad ran outside, and when Joba saw him, he started running faster. My dad caught him by the collar and brought him back inside. This incident happened about a year ago.

Now, if Joba was to wander outside, I have confidence that he will come back when I call him. Part of his lack of obedience had to do with the fact that he was still a new dog in a new area at the time. He loved me, but he saw no reason to listen to me when he thought that there was something better to do. I decided then that Joba and I had to do something. This is when I began practicing him to come to me.

I would start out by telling Joba to sit and rest. Then, I would make the leash longer and back away from him. Finally I said: “Joba, come”. At first, Joba would get up and start walking, but he would walk past me, looking away from me, instead of approaching me. When he did this, I would correct him and do it over again until he got the clue that I want him to come either directly on my left side and sit down or come right in front of me. After doing this a few times, he got the hang of it. This is when I began the off-leash part of the training.

I would take Joba in the back yard, practice a couple times with him coming to me while on leash, and then I would let him loose. I told Joba again to sit and rest, and I would walk a few feet away. If he came to me when I told him to, I praised him a lot. And, if he didn’t, I put the leash back on to start over. I would eventually start walking further and further away, calling him to come. Now, when I let Joba outside in the fenced-in back yard to play, I will call him to come inside a little later, and he will come running happily and willingly to the house.

Some dogs have a mind of their own and will not come running no matter how many times you call them, so this process may take a while. Another technique could be to use one of those retractable leashes that extend far. This type of leash is good for training a dog to obey even when he or she is off leash. Another crucial point to remember is the way you react when your dog comes to you. The worst possible thing you can do is yell at the dog when he or she finally comes back. Sometimes it is easy to get angry when your dog chases after a car, a person, or another dog, but it is important to remember to be patient. Yelling at the dog will only make him or her run further away. Always, even when your dog was naughty, praise your dog when he or she comes back to you. You don’t want to correct a dog for doing the right thing which is return to you. If you consistently do that, your dog will refuse to come back if he or she knows they will be in trouble. For me, this is easier said than done. I don’t like when my dog runs off, and it is easy to think that I should correct him when he comes back, but correcting him for this would reinforce a behavior I don’t want. My dog would be scared to come back to me. As a dog owner, I should be the safe and secure place my dog can always come back to. Even when Joba knows he is being disobedient by running off, he should know that I will still love him when he comes back. After all, these dogs show us so much unconditional love. Shouldn’t our love for them also be unconditional?

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