Last week’s Paw Prints focused on training your dog for really reliable recall, and with patience, persistence, and consistency, you will succeed, but meanwhile, what happens if your dog bolts out an open door that is accidentally left open? Your first instinct is to race after the dog, frantically calling his name. Resist the urge!

It is frustrating (and often dangerous) when your dog takes off, but repeatedly calling him, or chasing after him is not the answer. Chasing a dog that is free will most likely provoke a flight response, or he will assume it is playtime, and will dash farther away, playing the “Catch me if you can” game. If you make your tone more commanding or angry, he will be even less likely to return to you, so it is important for you to convince him that it will be more fun if he returns to you.

If a neighbor down the street observes the interaction, and comes outside to help, the friendly dog may run right to this person, who hopefully will take hold of the collar while petting the wayward canine, but if this doesn’t happen, take a deep breath and stay calm, even if the dog is heading toward a busy road. Ideas for those scary moments:

  • Is there a word that you have used with your dog that always means something wonderful? Perhaps it’s “Cookies!” or “Treat”. Shout it out, using an upbeat, happy voice and if he comes back, be sure to give him the cookie or treat, and praise him profusely for returning!
  • Run AWAY from the dog, laughing and making wild and crazy noises. Yell “Hey, hey, hey,” or whistle or sing loudly to get his attention. When he glances in your direction, keep moving away from him. Most dogs love a good chase, and he may be curious enough about your odd behavior that he will follow along until you can get him into a building or place where it is easier to corral him.
  • Sit down and act as though you have found something valuable on the ground. It can be just about anything: a pop can, even a rock. He may be curious enough to come investigate! Another option is to curl into a ball, with your hands wrapped around your head. Stay really still, and your dog will often come back to see what you are doing.
  • If a car ride is his idea of heaven, back out of your driveway, and open the car door, as an invitation to go for a ride. This may sound too simplistic, but many dogs have been fooled into hopping into a car because they are invited for a ride and yes, now you have to take him for a ride or he might not come the next time you use this ploy!
  • Invite him to play. Grab a ball and interest him in playing fetch with you. Squeak a squeaky toy. Start playing with one of his favorite toys. Whatever games he normally loves to play with you, start playing. Become the place where he wants to be!
  • If you have more than one dog, play with your other dog to spark his interest. If he is friends with a neighbor dog, pay attention to that dog.

Although it is no guarantee, I have seen nearly every one of these techniques work. The key is to fight your instinct to chase the dog, and do something that is not instinctual. Instead, do what seems counter intuitive to both you and the dog. Maintain your composure and stay calm.

Most important of all is, NEVER scold, or punish him when he finally comes to you, no matter how aggravated you are. . If you are angry with him, when you finally get your hands on him, it will only be that much harder to get him to come to you the next time. Put on your best happy face, tell him how wonderful he is, and give him all kinds of positive reinforcement. Be thankful he is home, safe and sound!