The number-one most important thing for pet owners is having a dog that comes when called. Nothing is more maddening to most people than a dog that ignores them and only comes when she feels like it. In many cases, a frustrated owner will reprimand a dog after she does return. Dogs live in a world of cause and effect, so that pet has no clue why she is being yelled at. Now you have taught her that there is a negative association with coming in to your call. Next time she’ll be even more likely to play “keep away” when you call her to you. Catching a dog you’ve lost your temper with is not easy and makes you even madder, which further damages the bond between you and your dog. Thus, owners get caught in a downward spiral.
A dog that won’t come can be a danger as well. If you call your dog in a dangerous public situation near a road or other potential accident area, your panic, fear, anger, or other negative emotions may spill out through your voice, and you will give your dog more good reasons not to want to come to you, even when you know you’re calling your dog for her own good.
“There are many reasons a dog wants to come back to you,” says Martin Deeley. “This can be broken down into two basic emotions. The first, because she wants to, and the second, because she feels she has to. She hears the leash being taken from the hook for a walk, the food going into her bowl, and abracadabra—the magic recall with tail wagging. Or she hears you call and knows, ‘I had better go because if I don’t there will be consequences.’ Sometimes it is a little bit of both.”
Consistent recall is built on the relationship you have with your dog, the leadership qualities you possess, the pleasures and rewards you provide, the limits and boundaries you have set, the consequences for your dog of not doing as asked, and, most important of all, your dog’s innate desire to be with you—to be part of your team and your pack.