Inside Out vs. Outside In
Getting dogs to go outside is usually not a problem. Getting them to come back in can be challenging. You probably already know that reaching out to grab the collar just starts a game of Keep Away. Instead of nagging, pleading, or getting angry (which doesn’t make it any easier for your dog to come to you), here are four new ways to get your dog to come inside when called. Let me know which one works for you!
1. New cue paired with a new, high-value reinforcer. If you find yourself repeating Come! . . . Come! . . . Come On! . . . Come HERE!, it’s time to abandon that cue and introduce a brand-new one just for this purpose, like Inside! and pair it with a super-special treat such as cheese, meat, or a Spot Farms turkey meatball (for instance). Don’t try this with Milkbones or kibble and then complain it doesn’t work! It has to be something your dog goes Crazy over, which depends on the individual.
—Start indoors, with your dog in front of you, and say Inside! (or whatever new cue you’ve chosen) in a happy, excited tone, then present the special treat. Repeat several times. Disengage and wait for your dog to focus on something else, like a toy or another person. Say [his name] Inside! and see how fast he comes to you. Present that same special treat every single time your dog responds to the new cue.
—Use other types of distractions indoors. Then practice the cue when your dog is in a different room. When this works several times in a row, you are ready to take it outside. Start with no distractions.
—Always reward after your dog has come through the door. Never show the food to lure him into coming. Luring creates dependency, and soon it won’t work unless you show the food first. Rewards come after behavior, not before.
—Keep it up until your dog is really reliable, even with major distractions, then gradually fade it to occasional use. Always praise generously.
2. Find It! Play a new game. Start this when you don’t need your dog to come inside, so you won’t feel any pressure. You’re both outside, you have your dog’s attention. Standing sideways to the door, say Find It! and drop a treat on the ground. Your dog pounces, eats, and looks up at you happily. Toss one toward the door. Then away. Repeat several times before you ever toss one inside. But when you do get to that point, don’t stop or else your dog will catch on to your end game! Toss another treat outside, then inside a few more times, ending inside. You could then run together to get a favorite toy. Bonus! Practice this game about five times before you actually need to use it for real.
3. Reframe. Give him a good reason to come in. One that always work with my dogs—but I only use it when it happens to be mealtime—is Time to Eat! At other times, I usually have success with Where’s Antonio?! (my husband). Other dogs will respond to Let’s play tug or Want to go for a ride? or Cookies! Use whatever your dog knows and LOVES. Of course, your offer must be a phrase that’s understood AND you must always deliver!
4. Oh Never Mind. Reverse psychology can be effective. Here, you teach your dog that not responding has consequences. You call her one time. Perhaps a second time. She either ignores you or looks up and goes back to her more important activity. Say Never Mind (cheerfully) and shut the door. Watch and wait until your dog really does want to come in. You could let her wait at the door a minute or two. As you open it, you may be tempted to scold for not coming sooner, but praise her for making a good choice. What might happen sooner or later is that when your dog hears Never Mind, she races to the door before you can close it!
Copyright Lisa Benshoff 2018