Timid with "Come" Command

Posted by Crystal-Becker
Feb 13, 2008
My 5 month old Sheltie, Baxter and I took the puppy training course at PetSmart and I have studied your books. I think I'm following the correct ways of showing me as the Alpha Dog. We're mostly, having trouble with the "Come" command. When I'm working with him on all of the training, he does fine and comes to me, as long as I have a treat in my hand. Then when I randomly throughout the day call him, he either runs the other way or comes close, then runs the other direction with his ears laid back and cowering, acting like he's scared. He'll come to my husband or me to play, but when we reach toward him up, he runs. He sometimes listens after much coaxing. Baxter acts very timid at times (I'm sure this is partly characteristic of a Sheltie.) and then at other times, plays pretty aggressively. When Baxter is excited, he barks, which we are trying to stop but we can't catch him to hold his mouth shut. He listens most, to commands from me, but seldom from my husband. Could it be my husband's voice being different from mine, since I do the training? It, at times, gets to where he's just begging for the treats during our training session and has little attention span. It's hard to get him to do much, when he runs away. We never hit him, and have found out yelling only scares him. He watches our hands very closely and runs when we reach out for him.
Posted by Blue
Feb 14, 2008
It sounds like Baxter has learned at some point along the way that the "come" command - when not in training mode - means he's being stopped from doing something more fun.

I say this because he shies away from you when you reach out to him after a recall - this is a clear sign of him not wanting to be 'caught'.

I would suggest taking a few steps backwards and start recall training again (you can even use a different word to really freshen it up) using a leash.

Start by doing recalls from close distances and don't reward until you have him seated and grasped by the collar. As soon as he's had his reward use a command like Free! and release him to let him continue playing. The idea here is to gain his trust that the fun doesn't end upon recall. If you have to call him to come away from something fun, make sure the reward is worth it... a quick and vigorous play session or a high reward treat, kongs are great for this (because they can be stuffed full of treats!) or favourite toy.

Once he gets comfortable with recalls and restraint on a short leash, try recalls from further and further away - to the full extent of the leash.

Continue recalls on longer and longer leashes until the recalls are reliable on the leash at all times - reliable is when he comes sits and you can hold his collar.

For best results practice every day or at least every other day, recalls are one of the hardest to train dogs with - especially with all the outside fun to be had!! So it is imperative to practice all the time, even when he becomes reliable!

The key is to make coming and staying with you more fun then anything else! Or make coming lead to more fun... like more play time!

On Baxter not listening to your husband - by working with Baxter less, you husband has not asserted his place as alpha in the pack - so Baxter feels he can choose when and when not to listen, especially if your husband doesn't reinforce the behaviour he asks Baxter to perform. Like if your husband tells him to sit, and Baxter doesn't, your husband should reinforce the behaviour by ensuring that Baxter sits and then reward him.

Training should be a family affair, so that when you're not around, Baxter listens to other family members as much as yourself. Shared family training also helps to avoid dominance issues further down the road if Baxter decides to start challenging your husband (or other family members) for a higher ranking in the pack. Many times when both partners aren't involved in a dogs obedience/alpha training the dog will become one owner possessive, and this can lead to nasty aggression issues - Shelties are well known for nippiness because they are from herding dog origins.

Hope this helps! For further information on recall training - review the recall section of the Kingdom of Pets books