Friday, January 6, 2012

• January is Train Your Dog Month

Guess who wouldn't come to me?
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers has declared January National Train Your Dog Month. I don't own a dog, so I hesitated to say anything on the topic. But as a pet sitter, there's one thing I wish every dog owner would do:

Train your dog to "Come."

If your dog escapes I want him to come when I call. I don't want him to run into the street or scare a child. If we go to the dog park I want him to come even when he's distracted. If I let him out in your back yard and he grabs something suspicious in his mouth, I want him to drop it and come to me.

I want to keep your dog safe.

Training an adult dog or an independent breed may not be easy. Daily practice and consistency are key. It's best to involve the entire family in the training. Coming on command is one of Four Behaviors That Take Forever to Train, according to Eryka Kahunanui, owner of Kahuna's K9s, in Prince Frederick, Maryland.

"Any dog, young or old, can be taught to come on cue," says Eryka. "But if you've been using a cue such as 'come,' and it hasn't worked 100 percent of the time, you need a new cue."

She suggests using an interim command. When a dog is in the process of coming toward her, Eryka loudly calls out—three times—a shortened version of its name. (For example, for Rudy, "Roo! Roo! Roo!") When the dog arrives at Eryka's side, the payoff is huge: chicken, ham, something it loves but rarely gets. Once a dog responds to the shortened version of its name, Eryka expands the command: "Roo! Roo! Roo! By me."

"Chances are, because the dog has been successful a million times before with the interim cue, he will succeed with the new 'By me' cue," says Eryka.

So, if you want to teach your dog one thing, this pet sitter votes you teach him to come. Mmm, do I smell chicken?

Many thanks to dog trainer Eryka Kahunania for her invaluable input.


  1. Fantastic write up! Thanks for letting us take part! I love that you emphasize the work that it takes to get a good recall. While every desired behavior will take work, this one could save a life!!

    Sharing this with our friends!

  2. Great advice...nothing more frustrating than trying to catch a dog that won't respond!