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An Antidote to “Come”, Part I

Everybody wants a dog that comes when called like Lassie. Remember the old TV show? She’s delicately drinking from a pond when little Timmy calls her and she bounds away on the double, even leaping over a fence to obediently make her way to her beloved boy.

But what do we actually do with the very important word – “come”?

“Come here boy, time to go in your kennel.  See you in 8 hours.”

“Come on, lets get your nails trimmed.”

“Come – COME.  Bath time.”

“Fido, come! Time to leave the dog park.”

“Darn dog got out the door… COME! Why aren’t you coming? You KNOW what it means.  BAD DOG! GET OVER HERE!”

Darn right she knows what it means. “Come” means that she could earn a treat… OR that something awful is going to happen. Doesn’t it make sense that this mental conflict is going to have an impact on her response?

So here’s the thing. If you train a cue positively and then sometimes follow it with an aversive, aka Something Bad For Dogs, you turn the WORD ITSELF into Something Bad For Dogs. A “poisoned cue“. The negative emotional association hinders the dog’s trained response to the word. And that is the last thing you need when Fido is running down the street toward traffic, right?  Right.

Luckily, the antidote is not too hard to swallow – change the word, and re-train.

So with Ranger the crossover dog, I’m just going to proactively do this. We’ll start from scratch and use a Something Good For Dogs word instead. “Here, boy!” will do just fine.

Later today I will publish Part Two of this post because it is way more fun and includes adorable dog and boy photos and video. But now you know why my son will be calling out “Here, boy!” rather than the traditional lingo.

Readers –  Have you ever thought your dog was just being stubborn? Have you unintentionally poisoned a cue? Not sure how to avoid or fix it? Leave a comment and I’ll provide a little more thought on the subject!

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