Do You Know Why Your Dog Will Not Come to You

If I asked you, “Do you know why your dog will not come to you?” would you really know why?

I asked a recent client with a Bassett Hound the same question because she was frustrated that her dog wouldn’t come to her. She understood part of the “reasons why” but when I finished explaining she had a much better understanding of the work she had ahead of her – better yet, how to do it.

I remember questions in one of my obedience classes, one of which was, “Why do some dogs do better in obedience than others?” Here is something to think about when it comes time to train your own dog to come when called.

Some of the reasons can lie in the dog breed.

Some breeds are just easier to train. Plus, the traits for which dogs were originally bred may influence the ease or difficulty of dog training. By that I mean how readily the obedience training will generalize – plus – how often a command has to be reinforced can be influenced by what the dog was bred for.


Dog Will Not Come To You

For example, it may be easier to teach a retriever, who would more likely have one task in mind, to come when called in comparison to a scent hound – like a Bassett – whose natural trait is to keep his nose to the ground and possibly get distracted halfway back to you. That could be very frustrating.

But, just because a dog has a difficult time maintaining focus, does not mean he can’t learn – he may just get momentarily sidetracked. Just remember, the ease of training your dog on some commands will be largely determined by the extent to which the task is in harmony with his natural born instincts. Remember the example above of the Lab and the Bassett Hound.

When our lab mix Sammy was just a puppy, Leila and I would call him back and forth between the two of us. He always got a “good puppy” and a high value treat. We weaned him off the treats and just praised. He thought it was the best game in the world. Now, 9 years later Sammy will turn on a time and come to us with a huge grin on his face. It’s awesome!

So what’s the answer to, “Do you know why your dog will not come to you?”  The answers are better understood if you first understand these rules.


Here’s your check list of things you should have already considered and done if your dog will not come to you when called.

Rule #1. Your dog must know the command to begin with.

And he must be able to do this command– around distractions that are relevant to you. By relevant to you I mean distractions that are part of your life i.e. kids etc. Then you will gradually add more distractions in locations in which you will need your dog to come.

Rule #2. Never call your dog to you to do anything negative to the dog.

If they perceive coming to you as a negative why would you expect them to come to you? This would include crating up, corrections, and coming in from the back yard. Yep. They could be having fun and you just interrupted it. Bummer!

Rule #3. Work the laws of probability to your favor.

If 7 out of 10 times your dog comes to you, gets a treat and gets to go back and play in the back yard, meaning, there’s a higher probability than not, your dog won’t have to go in (and associate a negative with the come command) then he doesn’t mind coming to you. Practiced daily this rule can do wonders for your come command.

Rule #4. Be a strong leader to your dog.

If your dog has, in his mind, taken charge of the relationship because of your weak leadership; that is, you haven’t provided him a strong role model, he’s less likely to come when called given the choice of staying with something more interesting.

Rule #5. Incentivize your dog (make it worth his while) to come to you.

Use extremely high value food treats he only gets when you call him to you. Make darn sure they are more attractive than the “latest distraction!”

To find the answer to the question, “Do You Know Why Your Dog Won’t Come?” simply go through the rules and make sure you are complying with all of the rules. If not, then do.

Also remember this,

“It takes approximately 4-6 weeks of daily work to get a command in a dog’s memory as a permanent behavior – and it must be practiced around the distractions and in the location in which you need your dog to comply!”

So, grab your dog and start training – and always make it fun!

I’m always curious about your input – it’s important to me.  

We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from.  

I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions 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.