I never thought I'd say this, but after 15 years of training dogs, I finally met one that can't, or better said, "won't" come when called. His name is Hatch and he's a mini Golden Doodle. He's 9 months old, did two basic obedience classes and he quite literally will not come when called. I have had him for 10 days and have worked with him tirelessly day in and day out doing recall exercises, using a long lead and trying every trick I know.
Last night, I had a few friends over to watch the Oscars. As one came in the front door, Hatch dodged out before we could do anything to stop him. I know many of you have dealt with this panic stricken situation, but when it happens to a professional dog trainer, well, it's another thing altogether. And, to add insult to injury, this is the main reason I decided to get into this work. I actually lost a dog who was a runner and did exactly what Hatch did - ran out into traffic and was killed. So, the panic I feel is based on real life experience.
Back to Hatch! He does a thing I'm not used to. Most dogs get out and they run in the opposite direction, which is also scary and very problematic. Hatch just plays with you. He sits and waits for you to get close and then dodges around you playing with your mind - playing "keep away" and "catch me". It's infuriating! I try all the things I tell people to do to get a dog to come. I use a high happy voice, I back up or run in the opposite direction to inspire him. I get out really high value food treats and get really animated. None of this works with Hatch. He comes when he's good and ready and not a minute sooner.
After he ran out the front door last night he seemed to be contained in the front of house, which is unfenced. Then he saw a dog across the street and down the block and he took off barking. He does seem to have a bit of fear-based reactivity. At nine months old he came with very unrefined social skills and we did some remedial socializing to get him to a point where we could safely co-mingle him at our daycare. With the help of my well-trained daycare staff and some very patient daycare dogs, we were able to do this with great success. I was also able to get him (at 9 months of age) to start consistently "go potty" outside instead of in. The recall - a work in progress!
Last night, I was able to get him back before my heart gave out and didn't miss any important Oscar presentations. The evening was saved, but we've got a ways to go before Hatch has a decent recall.
A piece of good news though! Hatch only tore up a couple of tissues during his stay with me, unlike the pictures of him above from one day at home just before his stay with me. His owner wanted me to know exactly what I was getting myself into by letting me know what Hatch got into.