Grrr…how to train a smart dog who doesn't listen?

posted 3 years ago in Pets
Post # 3
752 posts
Busy bee

@MadTownGirl:  The place where we took our 2 year old cattle dog mix to classes offers a “Recall” class: all you focus on in the class is coming on command and variations of it.  Something like that would help immensely, I would think.

Also, we had the same problem with our pup, and on the urging of the behaviorist we were working with we bought an e-collar training system.  It’s a collar and remote system that was about 300 bucks (but totally worth it).  Basically, it has as a buzzer and/or electrical stimulation, and you begin using it with a long lead, like 30 feet.  Let the dog run as far as it wants, and when you want it to come back, give your command.  If the dog doesn’t respond, you buzz slightly or use the electrical stimulation –  once the dog STOPS running away and turns around to listen to you, then you praise it (even though he’s 30 feet away) and over time, he will begin returning to you more reliably.  We attended a 3-day class in order to really get the hang of it, and it’s not that hard.    

We used this system with our dog for about a month or so and she is AMAZING now – I take her to potty off-leash and we finally decided we didn’t even need to fence in our whole backyard now, because she comes so reliably when I call her.  Sometimes she gets excited by something, and if her “skills” seem to slip, so to speak, I use the collar again for a couple days.  She loves it, because she knows she gets to go outside when I bring it out.  I also take her hiking off-leash with the collar and we have great fun.    

Good luck!  It can be frustrating, but hang in there, it will get better as he grows up and you do more training with him.   🙂

Post # 4
819 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2009

@MadTownGirl:  To teach our blue heeler the “come” command, we spent about 20 minutes for a few days focusing only on that command. We would keep little Bil-Jac treats in our pocket and each time she would get some distance from us, we would tell her to come and reward her with a treat. Maybe spend some time REALLY focusing on “come”.. there’s a few YouTube videos I found helpful!

Post # 5
2419 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

This may sound a tad elementary but if you tell your dog off when it finally allows itself to be caught it has little incentive to be caught.

I’m not saying I don’t know how frustrating this is because my older JRT went through a terrible phase of this too but ultimately, you have to praise the good and prevent the bad. So basically you have to ensure he cannot sneak out of the house or yard and if necessary walk him on the leash again while you work on recall. It may well be that he isn’t totally reliable off leash in all circumstances either. 

Please don’t use an e-collar though. Especially on a dog that’s already got anxiety issues. They are considered cruel enough to be banned in parts of the UK. 

Post # 7
2565 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: October 2014

How does he keep getting out of the house?  Is there something that can be done to prevent that?

I do think it is important for every dog to have good recall, so if you can find a recall specific training class as PP mentioned that would probably be the most helpful.  In addition to the class, having lots of practice at home would also benefit.

Stop using the crate as “punishment”.  He doesn’t associate that he escaped from the house, wouldn’t come back, and now he has to “time out” in the crate.  A crate should be a dogs safe place, and never used for punishment.

Post # 8
511 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@MadTownGirl:  I would look for a specific “Recall” class, as a PP mentioned (I know of several in my area (DC) but not sure how common they are elsewhere?) or a private trainer who can do a few one-on-one sessions with you focused on the specific issues you’re interested in working on.  Please, PLEASE do not use an e-collar on a dog with underlying fear issues; really, the odds are 50-50 at best that it will work as intended versus causing even larger problems (I mean really, would YOU be inclined to return to people who have the power to hurt you?!). 

In the meantime, practice makes perfect: start with small distances (15′ or 20′ leashes are great for this), be consistent in offering high-value rewards for coming when called (a favorite toy, a game of tug, an avalanche of treats), and consider using an alternate command instead of “Come” – it sounds silly, but your dog may already have fear-based associations with “come here” (or anything said in a certain tone).  I have a friend whose dog RACES to her when she says “Soup’s On!” in a cheery voice.  Sounds ridiculous, but it works like a charm, and has gotten them out of trouble (off-leash dogs approaching, etc.) several times!

Post # 9
8387 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: April 2013

@MadTownGirl:  If I were you, I’d focus on positive reinforcement and less on punishment for bad behavior.  My dog is extremely smart and used to dart out of the house every chance he got.  A little bacon to convince him to stay in the house when the door was opened was all it took for me.

Post # 11
511 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@MadTownGirl:  yeah, for my dog it’s all about tone of voice – the few times he’s door-dashed, if I seemed angry/frustrated when I called him back, forget it – but if I sat down and acted calm, he came running right over.  Dogs are such intuitive creatures!

Post # 12
114 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

I have a 14 month Pomapoo and let me say, SAME ISSUES. What I find helps is because he is a food driven pup, spending so long a day getting him to come with treats. That way, if I ever need him to come asap, he does on the off chance I have a treat on me. Best investment I even made is a clip on treat bag.

Post # 13
1421 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2009

Recall classes are great! Sign up for one. 

The best thing I got out of dog training class was how to teach “come” commands effectively.  You might want to use a different term than “come,” though, since it seems like you use that command frequently to no avail.  Recall commands should be used sparingly, and always associated with an AWESOME reward.  It has to be a reward that is SO GOOD that it is better than whateve it is they would otherwise want to chase or do.  We practice recall commands about once a week, always when our dog is somewhere far away in the house, and always give him a great treat (a scrap of meat or egg or cheese that he otherwise never gets).  We scream in a frantic voice “COME!!” It’s now fairly hardwired in him to drop whatever it is that he is doing and run to us as fast as he can.  He actually tries to run so fast that he runs in place on the hardwood floors before he can get moving.   The frantic voice works for us, because it is a command to be used in emergency situations (i.e. a dog running out into traffic), where we are likely to frantically scream.  It works, too.  He once got loose and almost ran into the busy street, and the tone of our voices screaming “NO!” was enough to get him to stop dead in his tracks. 

Never, ever punish a dog for coming to you when you call him.  Never call a dog over to you to punish.  The lesson there is “don’t come” because when you do, bad things will happen.  When you do get your dog to come to you after escaping, you need to reward him — he finally did what you wanted!!  He doesn’t associate the punishment with escaping the house unless you manage to catch him in the act. 

Post # 14
1631 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

@MadTownGirl:  Look up the ‘touch’ command and how to train for it.

I own a *very* smart yet very stubborn Korean Jindo and this was the onlyt hing that worked. I can now call it out and he will return even if he is acres away.

Post # 15
6959 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

Your dog is really young to expect a solid recall yet. But a few things:

Never punish your dog when you finally catch him – why would he come the next time?

Never chase your dog if possible – he thinks it’s a game. Bend down and pretend to be really interested in something in the grass. Roll on your back, act like an idiot. I bet he’ll come to find out why you’re having so much fun.

Never say the word “come” unless you can physically pull him to you on a lead if he decides he doesn’t feel like it. Repeating commands over and over will just cause them to become background noise to a dog, as you’ve seen. You may even want to pick a different word at this point. I would not expect a solid recall on a dog until at least a year old, and that’s being generous IMO.

Do NOT use a shock collar on a dog with anxiety issues. Just no.

Post # 16
752 posts
Busy bee

@Steampunkbride:  Well, actually, at first I didn’t want to use anything electrical at all on our dog.  She did have anxiety issues, but moreover she was (and still sort of is by way of personality/breed) a very dominant, independent dog.  I’m not saying that the first thing one should try is an e-collar (or shock collar, whatever you want to call it).  But believe you me, we were nearly ready to give up our dog because she was so hard to train (and initially out of our league, truthfully – cattle dogs can be difficult for first-time dog owners, which we learned the hard way!).  Our dog is a shelter rescue who we took to hundreds of dollars’ worth of basic training and obedience classes, and then on top of that we worked personally with a (humane, thoughtful, wonderful) dog behaviorist.  Who finally changed my mind about the e-collar system.  

The key is to be trained properly as to how to use it, so you DO NOT FRIGHTEN OR HURT THE ANIMAL.  This is absolutely drilled into your head when you attend the class.  If you use the system properly, the animal isn’t scared or hurt whatsoever, contrary to what some may think.  (Also I used the collar on my arm so I knew what I was dealing with – the level I used on my dog I could barely feel, actually).  

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you have no business using the system, period, and they tell you this.  We were around the trainer’s own dogs who had been trained with the system, and saw how happy and well-adjusted they are (the trainer adopted them – GSD mixes – knowing full well few other people would potentially adopt them as they both were often aggressive) and we were sold.  And as I stated in my earlier post, my dog loves when I bring the collar out and I rarely, if ever, actually use it: whenever I do need to reinforce a behavior, it’s usually the “buzz” sound (a soft high-pitched sound only).

Just wanted to put some information out there; some dogs need a little above and beyond treat-based positive reinforcement training only.  Didn’t hurt our dog, is now a wonderful companion when DH and I (and also the trainer) bascially knew if she went back to the shelter….no one would have adopted her.  Now she is always at my feet.  I don’t mean to sound defensive, but I am the HUGEST animal lover as anyone who knows me well would say – she is my best friend, and I did what I thought was best given our circumstances.

Again, good luck to you OP!  Flynn sounds like a lucky dog.         🙂

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