My Dog Runs Away When I Tell Him to Come!

There is often a moment of despair in training when your dog runs away yet again and you wonder:

“What was I thinking?”

It’s usually right about when your puppy slides out the back of her collar because she will not under any circumstances walk with you on lead. Or you ask your dog to come and he takes off in the other direction.

You can yell, but what good does that do? It only cements that if your dog runs away, he is getting away from trouble.

And if you do nothing, you are training your dog that it’s okay to run away.

You are out of luck either way.

Or are you?

There are a series of steps that can really help.

1. Teach him “TOUCH.” In working with my dogs, I depend for my knowledge on many excellent trainers who taught me the ropes.

But there is a command I have developed myself, adapting it from my other profession in working with kids.

The theory is this: life consists of an effort to reach or withdraw. In training, your dog needs to “reach” for you to be an effective partner in training. Not because they must but they want to. Often this is done with food. Many dogs naturally reach for food. But some don’t.

Forceful training has limited effectiveness; you’ll have a slave, not a partner.

If you want training that lasts for life, you need a willing partner. In other words, you need him reaching.

My dogs often reach for food, if they are comfortable. But when I am training them, they are learning something new. They often aren’t comfortable and won’t reach for food, or even for a favorite toy.

So I learned this the hard way. If your dog runs away, or even if he's simply not paying a lot of attention, this is a great training routine. This isn’t a command like “come” or “heel”. It’s more an invitation to play. If learned well, it will make your later training much easier.

Put your hand out. Say “TOUCH!”

Leave your hand there briefly. If your dog reaches for it or touches it, tell him how wonderful he is, and invite him to do it again. If he doesn’t reach, YOU withdraw your hand. Chat with him briefly, or if he is especially nervous, ignore him a bit. Then invite him to TOUCH again. It’s almost like an invitation to play.

Done right, this is magic and will give courage to the shyest of animals. A confident dog is easy to train and makes a great partner; your dog won't run away when you reach for him but will run TO you!

2. Then teach him “WATCH ME”. I often do this in the kitchen with the puppies, using bits of hot dog. The kitchen is comfortable and they love to get the bits when they quiet down and pay proper attention. Do this in two steps:

a. Give him the command. 
b. When he quiets down and watches, give him the hot dog.

Your dog might run away when he doesn't know to watch you for a clue to the next exciting game.

3. Then train on the command. Some good commands for a run-away dog:

SIT. This is helpful if your dog likes to take off through a door. Ask him to sit in front of the door. Then invite him to HEEL.

COME. This is easy when your dog is eager to see what you are up to!

WAIT. It’s important to be able to control your dog on his way back to you. If he is, for example, coming across a busy street, you must be able to get him to wait for you.

Teaching the commands using this method is a simple last touch rather than an arduous battle.

When you have a willing partner that knows that it is fun and worthwhile to “play” with you, you won't have a problem with a dog that runs away.

Wouldn't that be great?

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