Every time a dog fails to obey, its disobedience is reinforced. The more it fails to come back, the more it will continue to do so. Obedience training should start in the house, then on the lead, and only finally should the dog be left off the lead. Dogs that run off and will not come back risk being shot by farmers, run over in traffic, poisoned by illegal bait or simply lost. (Incidentally all dogs should be on a lead when near livestock always.)
Many dogs will become disobedient, unless they are carefully and properly trained. A dog training class will be helpful. Find a warm and friendly dog trainer, not a martinet. Both you and your dog must like the trainer. Read How to Find a Good Dog Trainer on this website.
NEVER punish when the dog returns. No dog will return, if it is going to be clipped round the ear for doing so, because the owner thought it was late in returning. If you have punished it, you have trained your dog not to return. You will now have to work hard to remedy this. You dog has to WANT to return, and a dog will only want to return to an owner who is being rewarding and kind. A handful of treats is more effective than words of praise.
If your dog starts chasing moving objects while on the lead, get a Gentle Leader collar for more control. Also make sure your dog has enough exercise. Sometimes dogs won’t come when called because they get so little exercise, they are desperate for more.
Whistle train your dog. This will improve recall and probably make your dog generally more attentive and disciplined. Blow the whistle before all meals. Also take him into the room with you, blow a dog whistle and feed him a treat. Do this several times. When he has got the connection, go into another room and do the same thing when he is not expecting it. After about a week of doing this several times a day in the house, when you blow the whistle he will streak towards you.
Then put your dog on a long 15 foot line, and start doing this in the garden. Get neighbours to help with distractions — a human bouncing a ball, other dogs, etc. The aim is to get your dog focussed on you, the whistle, and the forthcoming treat! Finally take him on a walk, still on the long line, and start doing this there. Use the whistle when he’s stopped concentrating on you. Whenever he stops focussing on you, turn round and go in an unpredictable direction. This way he will have to keep his eyes on you.” If you are consistent about this, after three weeks or so your dog should start coming back. Do not let him off the long lead, until his behaviour is reliable.
Once he is trained be careful NOT just to call him back when the walk is ending. Call him back, attach his lead and reward him. Then take off the lead and let him go again – do this several times during a walk. That way he won’t associate being called back with the end of the walk. You may need to cut down on his food if you are feeding him lots of treats!
Collies and some other dogs are toy, rather than food orientated. Choose a special toy, Never leave it down for the dog, But play with it, with the dog, for short periods. Really stoke up the dog’s excitement about this toy. Then take it with you on walks. At recall times, when she comes back to you, she gets a game with it.
A male dog that refuses to return because he is chasing bitches, or spends a lot of time sniffing their urine, will benefit from being neutered. This won’t make him obedient, but will remove one distraction.
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All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.
General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.