Coming When Called ... Or Not
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.
Training Aids for Recalls
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