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Coming When Called ... Or Not

Updated on October 30, 2016
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The Newfoundland Club of America - responsible for the preservation, protection and welfare of the Newfoundland Dog in America since 1930.

When you call your Newf, does he drop everything and head for you at a dead run and sit down as soon as he gets to you ... every time, no matter where you are and what he is doing when you call? No? Well, it could be a matter of life or death some day, or, at the very least, annoying when he doesn't. If you have resorted to begging, bribing or "counting to three" with your dog, he is:

Pulling your chain

Showing you who is boss

Telling you that you have to catch him before the two of you will meet again

Telling you that he doesn't have to come when he is called unless he feels like it.

All four of these answers may, in fact, be correct. It may be time to get back to basics. What 1 am talking about is restriction of freedom until he is convinced that new rules not only apply right now; but always. Unless the dog has really established bad habits in this regard, he should be redeemable.

Get Back To Basics

When I first work with a puppy other than in the house, he is always on leash. We practice coming when called and he receives a reward for coming in quickly and sitting. We then take that off the property and work on this until he is really good at it. We add teaching the word "close" to get him thinking about his responsibility in keeping track of me so that he doesn't take my presence for granted. Then we start going out for exercise with the older dogs and letting him drag a 50 foot line attached to his buckle collar. This gives him the illusion of being loose. When I call him to me, I call one of the older dogs first; then his name quickly after. He is coming back because the older dogs are coming to see what I want, they all get a bit of treat or a pat and praise (I try not to be too predictable at this stage), and he gets his also. I then release them and we all proceed through the field or park. We repeat these steps in various time frames, because it's good for the older dogs to drop everything and come running after they have been left to their own devices for a while, also. The puppy isn't let off the leash until he is flawless at this in the back yard and demonstrates real proficiency in the group with a lot of distraction like trees, children, bikes, etc.

When Can a Dog be Off Leash?

I'm nervous about letting my half grown puppies off leash until I trust them, because I don't want anything to happen to them. It's not just that I don't want them to think they can run off; it's that bad things can happen to a loose dog that doesn't come back immediately. So, when people are telling me that their nine-month-old Newf runs away when off the leash and ask when I let mine off leash, I usually tell them that my puppies are more than a year old before I relinquish this control. Sometimes it is more a matter of my dogs just being used to coming in, rather than there having been some big confrontation where I chased the dog down and corrected him/her. Instead, they have been doing it right for so long that this is the only way they know to operate.

Get the Right Gear

Water Train on leash safely with floating long lines

Apply These Rules to Water Training

The same rules apply to water training. My puppies, half grown Newfs and some adults drag a line attached to them most of the time. It's easier to teach a Newf to come in with his bumper pulling him in with his line and praising him than it is to beg, yell, scold and bribe him to come to you when he would rather run down the beach or swim away with his toys.

I take Lacey to agility class. There are several dogs there who have to be chased down, even in a training building; staying with their owner or coming when they are called isn't in their vocabulary. It is not only annoying for the rest of us to have to wait our turns to work on the equipment while the dogs are chased after by their owners, but it is also very unsafe. I wonder what will stop these dogs from leaving the county or being hit by a car the first time they are entered in an open air agility trial.

So, if you have a Newfoundland who doesn't come running when you call, put him back on restricted freedom and help him relearn good habits. Don't be too eager to "test" him to see how he will act. If he has run off or ignored you more than a few times already, you probably have a bad habit that will take a few months on restricted freedom to make a believer out of your Newf; not just a couple of times. A dog under control is a dog who understands his place in the big scheme of things, respects you as his pack leader and also is safe to enjoy many more adventures and experiences with those who love him.


This training article was written by Cheryl Dondino and first appeared in Newf Tide in 1999

Recall photos feature Ron Horn and Oliver at the 2008 National Specialty Draft Test

© 2011 Newfoundland Club of America

Let Us Know What You Think - please add your training tips for teaching a reliable recall

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      Newfmomma 4 years ago

      Practice, practice, practice! And add in incentive. Newfs love having a job to do, so before taking the leash off get their focus on you. With the leash on have them "heel", then a quick "stop and sit", throw in "fast", "slow", "around", turns, "down", etc to keep them guessing what command you'll add. Once off leash, don't let them get too far before "come". Give lots of treats and praise, then release again. Then another "come", and release, and so on. They are paying attention to you whether they seem like it or not, but are they really focused on you is the question? We may be paying attention too, but are we really focused on them? If you've had several good recalls, and can see that their focus is beginning to lag, end the session on the good note. Our 19 month old Newf went from immediate recall to no recall when I started getting lazy about the consistency and job practice. Back to basics, and applying these principles got us back up to speed again. And now I not only pay attention but focus on the behaviors that say she is losing her focus on slowing her response time, seemingly looking out further than the boundary of the area I'm in, ears pricked up and nose is air with a stance ready to bolt. That's when I know it's time to have some fun together but on the leash.

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      deewilliams1949 4 years ago

      Great reminder for me. My older need needs a refresher (and so do I !)

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      My yearling had a great recall until we acquired a piece of property (fenced) with lots of running and roaming room. With this new freedom, the word "come" became ignored and I think over used. Am now going back to the basics with a new word, only using it once and if ignored,calmly walking to him,holding to the collar and returning to the original location. I think the same is true when any word is repeated too many times and the "selective" hearing kicks in.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have never had a dog who came every time that he is called. Some dogs will come 90% of the time but it is that 10% of the time when they don't come that they are most likely to get into trouble. My advice to dog owners is don't let your dog off leash unless they are in a super safe area!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This advice is sound, however, after owning 2 newfs, I do not believe that this breed is easily taught to "come" b/c of their intense need to "chase" anything & everything they see. We have deer, squirrels, chimpmunks in our yard and our newf would never return if he were off leash when a deer appeared and took off into the woods. Impulse control in the two newfs I have owned have been our biggest issue. Whether its outside in the yard, or in the house, where they continually attempt to raid our kitchen counter/cabinets, newfs seem to harbor a need to do whatever they want. We worked with a trainer on these issues but the instinct to chase seems to outweigh common sense - but we love them none the less.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 7 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      nice one - thumbs up and Angel blessed

    • yuliss lm profile image

      yuliss lm 7 years ago

      Great training tips for young dogs and new owners. I agree with keeping the puppies on leash until the rules are established. If they experience freedom before the bond is properly established, you're in for trouble! I don't have a newf myself, but whats great about your post is the general themes apply to all basic dog training:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is great, thank you so very much for sharing with us. Great ideas for our 11 month old who is just now testing the 'rules' in our home. Nana thanks you !! Blessings, Lisa Catherine


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