Can you expect compliance without training for it?
Do you demand more “obedience” from your dog than you would from a spouse, a child, a friend or even yourself? Other than in an emergency situation, can you think of a time that you called out to someone, asking them to come to you and got an instantaneous response?
Do your children immediately turn off their phones and rush to the table when called to dinner? (Dinner being the one time you can almost always count on your dog’s immediate response!) What about telling the kids to get ready for bed? Do they respond instantly? Does your spouse drop everything to go grocery shopping or take out the trash? Do you stop whatever you’re doing in similar situations?
The obvious answer is that we don’t respond immediately most of the time. If we’re in the middle of a good book, a computer game or a TV show when someone calls to us in a calm tone of voice, we may either ignore them completely, or at best call out, “Just a minute!”
I clearly remember the difference in my response to my mom’s call versus my dad’s. Perhaps it was his tone of voice when he called, but more likely it was because he called for my attention infrequently and there was always a reason for his summons, so it had more significance. My mother, on the other hand, called to me if she didn’t hear me up and getting ready for school, if I didn’t appear for breakfast in time to catch the bus, when it was time to set the dinner table, when the garbage needed to be taken out, when it was time to get ready for bed. My mom called me if I left my coat on a chair, a book on the couch, or a mess in the kitchen.
But even more than the frequency with which either of my parents called me was the implied consequence if I ignored the call. I wasn’t an abused child by any means. I don’t recall either parent lifting a finger to hit me. Yet there was an implied consequence to ignoring my dad. I have no idea what it might have been – I never tested it. On the other hand I regularly put off my mother – “Wait just a minute!” or “In the next commercial!” or “Three more pages till the end of the chapter!” And wait, she did. She accepted the negotiation, the procrastination.
But we don’t give our dogs the same leeway. We get angry and upset if our dogs don’t respond the first time and every time we call. The truth is, in most cases the dog hasn’t been taught what is expected of him. We often expect our dogs to understand what we want without investing the time to teach him or her.
Have you taught your dog to come when called? Really taught him, not just do it sometimes and have him respond because there’s nothing better to do. Have you taught your dog to come if there’s something else going on? Have you invested the time to train your dog to come even if he has to leave a really fun activity? There’s a difference – a big difference. Having trained your dog to do a short recall with nothing else going on does not automatically translate to a 50 yarder away from a group of playmates.
Most of us haven’t invested the effort, yet we expect total obedience and responsiveness under all circumstances when the dog is simply being a dog. The doggy equivalent to our TV program, computer game, and exciting chapter of a book is the smell of the dog next door, the squirrel running across the lawn, or the kids playing ball in the yard.
We expect our dogs to give us unflinching and unquestioning obedience under all circumstances, and may even get angry when they don’t respond. Yet we would never hold ourselves to the same standard. That doesn’t really seem fair, does it?
But you can get an improved response from your dog with training. Students in our four-week “focus” classes (such as Focus on Recalls) tell us that it really makes a difference when you a train for the responses you want. So rather than simply expecting compliance, you can create it through training. And it can be fun for both of you!