One of the most common challenges facing many dog owners is getting their dog to come to them when off his or her leash. For this reason I am going to share an informative story with you that contains some useful dog training tips that you can easily implement immediately with your own dog.
One weekend early this summer a couple of friends and I went up north to Fenelon Falls, Ontario to do some fishing. Of course, upon entering the town our first move was to make a pit stop at the local coffee shop for a coffee. Because the coffee shop is the main focal point in the town, many people gather there.
When we pulled in with my Alpha Paws dog training van we noticed a large group of people out front with their dogs. As we were leaving Timmy’s with our coffee I observed a little black Pomeranian dog cross my path. The dog was NOT wearing a leash and while I didn’t immediately see that anything was wrong, I quickly noticed the owner following behind the dog. It became apparent that the owner was trying desperately to retrieve her wayward dog.
What was happening was the dog was in a strange place and I could tell he didn’t want to be there. It wanted to be in its owner’s arms but the owner was standing tall and taking steps toward the dog. The problem with this was that with every step the owner took toward the dog the dog would take a step or two away from its owner, and in fact, was moving dangerously close to the busy road behind it.
The owner and dog continued this dangerous dance for a few minutes, with the dog getting ever closer to the road. Meanwhile a growing crowd was gathering outside the coffee shop and watching the spectacle in horror, expecting the dog to enter the street and be hit by a car at any moment. Eventually her dog did, in fact, reach the road.
When I noticed the dog had actually stepped into the road my training took over and I had to act to save this dog, which was clearly in imminent danger. What I did was immediately crouch down. When I did this, even though the dog was turned to look at the owner and the owner took another step toward the dog, the dog noticed me and hesitated to take another step.
I quickly called out to the owner, “CROUCH DOWN – CROUCH DOWN”, with a definite note of urgency in my voice. The woman heard me and immediately crouched down at which point the dog ran directly to her.
Behind me I could hear the crowd let out a collective cheer as she picked up her dog and held it tight in her arms.
At this point she turned to me and said a very heartfelt thank you, as one could imagine, she was extremely relieved to have her dog back and to have avoided a terrible fate for her pet. I too was never more relieved that all ended well and my friends and I proceeded on with our fishing trip, now with a very interesting story to share when we returned home, and this was no ordinary fish story that’s for sure!
What we can learn from this incident is that dog’s are very in tune to their owners body language and we, as dog owners have to understand this and adjust our behaviour to meet their needs. What she didn’t understand was that by continually stepping toward her dog she was actually pushing her dog onto the road and in fact, was preventing her dog from coming to her.
Crouching, on the other hand, brings a dog to you because it brings you down to their level and you become non-threatening to them. Besides man, wolf puppies have two major predators; large cats (links, bobcats, mountain lions) and large birds (osprey and eagles) and both of these predators ambush their prey from above. Therefore, the higher you are the more threatening you are to the dog. This is why, when dogs feel threatened they will hide in a hole/den in the wild and domestic dogs will hide under a table, chair or in their crate to feel safe.
The moral of this story is two-fold; first if you are going to be in a public place put a leash on your dog! Second, if you want your dog to come to you when he is off leash, and you have never taught him/her any obedience commands before, the only way you are going to be able to get your dog to come to you is to do exactly what was done in the story, crouch down and call the dog’s name in a high voice. Yelling “COME” loudly from a standing position will only push the dog further and further away from you.