Dog Behavior: My Dog Plays Keep-Away

She really was beside herself with her dog behavior problem. “My dog plays keep-away at all the wrong times. He only seems to want to come when it’s convenient or I have a great treat.” It’s so exasperating and I’m afraid one of these times he might get hurt if he doesn’t come to me.

Sound familiar?

Much like kids, if you wait to train thinking they will grow out of it, or it will get better, more bad habits develop and become deeply ingrained in your dog. Why waste time trying to teach kids or dogs what is wrong, until they eventually figure out what is right?

My Dog Plays Keep-Away

If you find yourself guilty of this, maybe it’s time to go to “Plan B.”

After all, we all want a well behaved, well-mannered dog. A dog that knows obedience commands but more importantly a dog that will do what you want when you want it – not because he has to but because he wants to!

Before we go to Plan B, let’s take a look at why your dog may not want to come to you. In other words, I want to help you discover why your dog has chosen not to listen to you when you use one of the most important commands.

Reasons why your dog may choose not to come

There are many reasons why your dog may choose to ignore your command to come. Let’s take a look at a few important reasons for this:

• Your dog may be using the keep-away game as an attention-seeking behavior to get you to play with him.
• He has learned that coming to you means the end of having fun – chasing squirrels in the back yard or playing with the neighbor dog across the street is much, much more fun than going home.
• Bad things happen when he comes to you. He gets punished or crated for not coming.
• It could also be that he hasn’t been taught the come command – around distractions.

Plan B: Understanding why

Let’s take a look at each one of these reasons and make some sense out of them. It will help you to plan a new course of action. Making changes is easy – just keep it fun.

Using keep-away to get your attention. Usually good long walks with you plus working on good house manners – is a great start. That would be exercise and training. Did you know that consistent and repetitive sits and downs can eventually foster discipline in the come command? Creating a daily ritual of obedience training 3 times daily for only 2 minutes – that’s just 6 minutes daily can have a profound influence on your dog’s attitude.

Coming means the end of having fun. Kids tend to put off homework or the drudgery of chores to continue computer gaming because it’s more fun. If every time you called your dog in from the back yard, praised him and gave him a high value food treat – then sent him back to play, he’d think this is great. Think of it. If 7 out of 10 times he gets a treat and returns to play. Who wouldn’t come?

Bad things happen when he comes to you. Getting punished or crated is not fun and it begins to give your dog cause to second guess coming to you. Stop immediately. Chances are your dog is not going to connect the punishment with the crime.

Hasn’t been taught the come command. It’s probably one of the most important commands to teach your dog. It’s also really important to recognize that you must train your dog around distractions that are relevant to your specific needs. This includes calling him in from playing with kids in the back yard or working him on a long line to come in from the distractions out in the front yard. Practice makes pawfection!

Relationship is the key

I also can’t stress enough the benefits and values of creating a great partnership with your dog. Changing your dog’s mindset to “I want to” instead of “I have to” or worse “I would rather do something else!” will take a huge attitude shift in your dog’s mind.

Think about that for a minute. Your dog is now thinking, “I want to ignore all the distractions and come to you.” That’s powerful. Part of achieving that goal is in creating that new attitude in your dog’s mind.

Setting rules, boundaries and expectations is critical. So is joining your dog in the daily ritual of predictable pack activities like:

• Eating together: Preparing great nutritional and tasty meals for him he can’t wait to enjoy.
• Resting and massage time together: Remember to ask for a sit then down before giving your dog his massage.
• Training together: Creating a daily ritual of obedience training 3 times daily for only 2 minutes – that’s just 6 minutes daily and can have a profound influence on your dog’s attitude.
• Game time and exercise together: Nothing like a great game of fetch or tug. Also exploring new places to take walks like the beach, parks, etc. on the weekends.

Doing all of these things regularly will create a mind shift in your dog. You now care to him and he wants to “belong” so he starts seeking your approval to do more things with you by coming when called. Approval seeking behavior now surfaces and the attention-seeking behavior goes away. He now gladly comes to you! No more bad dog behavior. No more “my dog won’t come.”

So tell me.  Have you successfully taught your dog NOT to come when called?  I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinion on this. – I’m here to help.

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog. 

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.

2 replies
  1. Catherine Knapp
    Catherine Knapp says:

    Thanks for the tips Jim. We are in beginner agility and I find that my one year old miniature schnauzer works great on leash, but now that we are trying the course off lease, she takes the first jump then runs off. The instructor told me to work on the come command.

  2. Charisse
    Charisse says:

    I’m giving this to my husband. He always gets made when our dog won’t come and then when he finally does my husband smacks him. I keep telling him to stop doing that. Maybe he’ll listen to you

    Thanks

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